Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Children of the Dawn - Old Tales of Greece
Author: Buckley, Elsie Finnimore
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Children of the Dawn - Old Tales of Greece" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Public Library (Rawlins, Wyoming) and the Online Distributed


    CHILDREN OF THE DAWN

    OLD TALES OF GREECE


    [Illustration: Each night Hero lighted her torch; each night Leander
                   swam across the narrow sea. _Page 117._]



    CHILDREN OF THE DAWN OLD TALES OF GREECE

    WRITTEN BY

    ELSIE FINNIMORE BUCKLEY


    INTRODUCTION BY      ILLUSTRATIONS BY
    ARTHUR SIDGWICK      FRANK C PAPÉ

    NEW YORK
    FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS



INTRODUCTION:


The aim of this volume is to present, in a form suitable for young
readers, a small selection from the almost inexhaustible
treasure-house of the ancient Greek tales, which abound (it is
needless to say) in all Greek poetry, and are constantly referred to
by the prose-writers. These stories are found, whether narrated at
length, or sometimes only mentioned in a cursory and tantalising
reference, from the earliest poets, Homer and Hesiod, through the
lyric age, and the Attic renaissance of the fifth century, when they
form the material of the tragic drama, down to the second century
B.C., when Apollodorus, the Athenian grammarian, made a prose
collection of them, which is invaluable. They reappear at Rome in the
Augustan age (and later), in the poems of Vergil, Ovid, and
Statius--particularly in Ovid's "Metamorphoses." Many more are
supplied by Greek or Roman travellers, scholars, geographers, or
historians, of the first three centuries of our era, such as
Strabo, Pausanias, Athenæus, Apuleius and Ælian. The tales are
various--stories of love, adventure, heroism, skill, endurance,
achievement or defeat. The gods take active part, often in conflict
with each other. The heroes or victims are men and women; and behind
all, inscrutable and inexorable, sits the dark figure of Fate. The
Greeks had a rare genius for storytelling of all sorts. Whether the
tales were of native growth, or imported from the East or
elsewhere--and both sources are doubtless represented--once they had
passed through the Greek hands, the Greek spirit, "finely touched to
fine issues," marked them for its own with the beauty, vivacity,
dramatic interest, and imaginative outline and detail, which were
never absent from the best Greek work, least of all during the
centuries that lie between Homer and Plato.

The eleven tales here presented from this vast store are (as will be
seen) very various both in date, character, and detail; and they seem
well chosen for their purpose. The writer of these English versions of
ancient stories has clearly aimed at a terse simplicity of style,
while giving full details, with occasional descriptive passages where
required to make the scene more vivid; and, for the same end, she has
rightly made free use of dialogue or soliloquy wherever the story
could thus be more pointedly or dramatically told.

The first story, called "The Riddle of the Sphinx," gives us in brief
the whole Theban tale, from King Laius and the magical building of the
city, to the incomparable scene from Sophocles' last play, describing
the "Passing of OEdipus." It even includes the heroic action of
Antigone, in burying with due rites her dead brother, in spite of the
tyrant's threats, and at the cost of her own life. No tale was more
often treated in ancient poetry than this tragedy of Thebes. Homer and
Hesiod both refer to it, Æschylus wrote a whole trilogy, and
Sophocles three separate dramas, on this theme. Euripides dealt with
it in his "Phoenissæ," which survives, and in his "OEdipus and
Antigone," of which a few fragments remain. And several other poets
whose works are lost are known by the titles of their plays to have
dealt with the same subject.

One other tale in this selection rests in large measure on the Attic
drama--namely, the story of Alcestis, the fourth in this series. As
far as we know, Euripides alone of the ancients treated this theme, in
his beautiful and interesting play "Alcestis," which is here closely
followed by our author. The past history of Admetus, the king, which
Euripides briefly summarises in the prologue, is here dramatized, and
adds much interest to the story, including as it does the Argonauts'
visit to Pelias, and the romantic imaginary scene of the king's first
meeting with Alcestis.

The two charming love-stories which come second and third in this
series, though unquestionably Greek in origin, reach us from Roman
sources, and bear clear evidence in their form and spirit of belonging
to a later age. The character of the love romance in "Hero and
Leander" and the transparent allegory of "Eros and Psyche" (Love and
the Soul), leave little doubt on this point. The former tale is
ascribed to a late Greek epic poet, Musæus, of whom nothing else is
known; and the latter we owe to Apuleius, a Roman philosopher and man
of letters in the second century A.D.

The fifth and tenth stories (in both of which Atalanta appears) rest
in their present shape on the authority of Apollodorus; but the
incidents of the Calydonian boar-hunt, and the race for the hand of
the princess, won by the suitor's clever trick of the golden apples,
are found as local traditions connected with two different parts of
Greece, Arcadia and Boeotia, and may be in their earliest form of
great antiquity.

The two fanciful stories of Echo and Narcissus, and Alpheus and
Arethusa, which form the sixth and ninth in this series, are among the
prettiest of Nature myths, and are characteristic Greek inventions.
The chase of Arethusa under the sea by the river-god Alpheus was to a
Greek the most natural of fancies, for to him all water was protected
by, or identified with, some god, nymph, or spirit; and the fancy was
especially easy to a dweller in the limestone district of Arcadia,
where streams may run underground for long distances, and reappear as
full-grown rivers from a cavern at the foot of the hills. The tale of
Echo in its present form comes only from Latin poetry (Ovid); but the
fancy that Echo was a spirit or nymph, which is the heart of the
story, may well be of unknown antiquity, especially among the most
imaginative of races, living in a land of rocky hills, the native home
of echoes.

Of the remaining stories (Pygmalion, Orpheus, and OEnone), the
briefest comment will suffice. The beautiful and pathetic tale of
Orpheus and Eurydice, which is best known to us from the incomparable
version of it at the close of Vergil's fourth "Georgic," we know on
good evidence to have been extant at least as early as Æschylus (fifth
century B.C.), and possibly much earlier. The touching story of
OEnone is post-Homeric, and is known to us only from Ovid and
Apollodorus. It is familiar to all Englishmen from the two beautiful
poems of Tennyson, which are respectively among the earliest and
latest of his works. The strange yet striking tale of Pygmalion also
comes to us from Apollodorus; and though it may be much older, it is
perhaps not likely to belong to an earlier time than the fourth
century B.C., a date which seems to be suggested both by the character
of the story, and the development of the art of sculpture implied in
it.

It only remains to commend these beautiful old stories, in their
English dress, to the favour of those for whom they are intended.

    A. SIDGWICK.

    OXFORD,
    _September 9, 1908_.



    CONTENTS


    THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX
    EROS AND PSYCHE
    HERO AND LEANDER
    THE SACRIFICE OF ALCESTIS
    HUNTING THE CALYDONIAN BOAR
    THE CURSE OF ECHO
    THE SCULPTOR AND THE IMAGE
    THE DIVINE MUSICIAN
    THE FLIGHT OF ARETHUSA
    THE WINNING OF ATALANTA
    PARIS AND OENONE



    LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


    FRONTISPIECE--Each night Hero lighted her torch; each night
                  Leander swam across the narrow sea
    TITLE-PAGE
    Heading to Introduction
    Heading to Contents
    Heading to List of Illustrations
    She put out her cruel claws and lashed her tail from side to
        side like an angry lion waiting for his prey
    With firm, unfaltering steps he led the way once more, and
        Theseus followed after
    On the bed, wrapped in slumber, lay the youngest and fairest of
        the Immortals
    Faster and faster he went, and up and down, and round and round
    She unloosed the rope, and pushed out into the stream
    "Help, help! I drown in this foul stream!"
    She lowered her eyes in confusion, and her limbs trembled
        beneath her, so that she leant back against the pillar for
        support
    From the shadow of the trees came the strange herdsman, playing
        on his lyre
    Admetus heeded neither shepherd nor shrine.... Without a thought
        he passed the altar by
    And the children crept silently to her
    She answered him never a word, but held out both her hands and
        raised him from his knees
    As he spoke, he took her by the hand, and set her in a place of
        honour between his father and himself
    As the brute bore down, Meleager buried the spear deep in his
        shoulder
    For the last time he leaned forward
    On the breath of the night wind Aphrodite came in, and she
        kissed the statue on the lips
    From the shadow of the cave crept a wood-nymph, and lay upon the
        grass
    "Orpheus," she cried in her despair, "thy hand!"
    On and on she fled, with the swiftness and strength of despair
    "Oh, my father!" she cried
    Out of the corner of his eye he could see the gleam of her tunic
    Out of the stream beside him there rose a wondrous form of a
        maiden clad all in misty white
    Menelaus was bearing him in triumph towards the Achæan host
    Cast herself upon the body of Paris, and put her arms about his
        neck
    Initials, Tail-pieces, etc.



Children of the Dawn



The Riddle of the Sphinx


Far away towards the east and the regions of the rising sun lies the
fair land of Hellas, a land famous from of old for mighty deeds of
mighty men, and famous to this day among the nations of the earth; for
though the mighty men, her heroes, have long since passed away, their
names live on for ever in the pages of her grand old poets, who sing
of their deeds in strains which still kindle the hearts of men, and
stir them up to be heroes too, and fight life's battle bravely.

Long ago, in the city of Thebes, there ruled a king named Laius and
his queen Iocasta. They were children of the gods, and Thebes itself,
men said, had been built by hands more than mortal; for Apollo had led
Cadmus the Phoenician, the son of Zeus, to the sacred spot where he
was to raise the citadel of Thebes, and Pallas Athene had helped him
to slay the monstrous dragon that guarded the sacred spring of Ares.
The teeth of the dragon, Cadmus took and planted in the plain of
Thebes, and from this seed there sprang up a great host of armed men,
who would have slain him; but he took a stone and cast it in their
midst, whereupon the serpent-men turned their arms one against
another, fighting up and down the plain till only five were left. With
the help of these five, Cadmus built the citadel of Thebes, and round
it made a wall so wide that a dozen men and more might walk upon it,
and so huge were the stones and so strong was the masonry that parts
of it are standing to this day. As for the city itself, the tale goes
that Amphion, the mightiest of all musicians, came with his lyre, and
so sweetly did he play that the hearts of the very stones were stirred
within them, so that of their own free-will they fell into their
places, and the town of Thebes rose up beneath the shadow of the
citadel.

For many a long day did Laius and Iocasta rule over the people of
Thebes, and all that time they had no children; for a dreadful curse
lay on the head of Laius that, if ever he had a son, by that son's
hand he should die. At last a boy was born to them, and Laius,
remembering the curse, swore that the child should never grow to
manhood, and he bade Iocasta slay him forthwith. But she, being his
mother, was filled with a great love and pity for the helpless child.
When it nestled in her arms and clung to her breast she could not find
it in her heart to slay it, and she wept over it many a bitter salt
tear, and pressed it closer to her bosom. As the tiny fingers closed
round hers, and the soft head pressed against her, she murmured,

"Surely, so little a thing can do no harm? Sweet babe, they say that I
must kill thee, but they know not a mother's love. Rather than that, I
will put thee away out of my sight, and never see thee more, though
the gods know I had sooner die than lose thee, my little one, my own
sweet babe."

So she called a trusty house-slave, who knew the king's decree, and
placing the child in his arms, she said,

"Go, take it away, and hide it in the hills. Perchance the gods will
have pity on it, and put it in the heart of some shepherd, who feeds
his flocks on distant pastures, to take the child home to his cot and
rear it. Farewell, my pretty babe. The green grass must be thy cradle,
and the mountain breezes must lull thee to sleep. May the gods in
their mercy bless thy childhood's hours, and make thy name famous
among men; for thou art a king's son, and a child of the Immortals,
and the Immortals forget not those that are born of their blood."

So the man took the child from Iocasta; but, because he feared the
king's decree, he pierced its ankles and bound them together, for he
thought,

"Surely, even if some shepherd wandering on the mountain-side should
light upon the child, he will never rear one so maimed; and if the
king should ask, I will say that he is dead."

But because the child wept for the pain in its ankles, he took it home
first to his wife to be fed and comforted, and when she gave it back
into his arms, it smiled up into his face. Then all the hardness died
out of his heart, for the gods had shed about it a grace to kindle
love in the coldest breast.

Now Cithæron lies midway between Thebes and Corinth, and in
winter-time the snow lies deep upon the summit, and the wild winds
shriek through the rocks and clefts, and the pine trees pitch and bend
beneath the fury of the blast, so that men called it the home of the
Furies, the Awful Goddesses, who track out sin and murder. And there,
too, in the streams and caverns, dwell the naiads and the nymphs, wild
spirits of the rocks and waters; and if any mortal trespass on their
haunts, they drive him to madness in their echoing grottoes and gloomy
caves. Yet, for all that, though men called it dark Cithæron, the
grass about its feet grew fine and green, so that the shepherds came
from all the neighbouring towns to pasture their flocks on its
well-watered slopes. Here it was that Laius's herdsman fell in with a
herdsman of Polybus, king of Corinth, and, seeing that he was a kindly
man, and likely to have compassion on the child, he gave it him to
rear.

Now, it had not pleased the gods to grant any children to Polybus,
king of Corinth, and Merope, his wife, though they wreathed their
altars with garlands and burnt sweet savour of incense; and at last
all hope died out of their hearts, and they said,

"The gods are angry, and will destroy our race, and the kingdom shall
pass into the hands of a stranger."

But one day it chanced that the queen saw in the arms of one of her
women a child she had not seen before, and she questioned her, and
asked if it were hers. And the woman confessed that her husband, the
king's herdsman, had found it on dim Cithæron, and had taken pity on
it, and brought it home. Then the queen looked at the child, and
seeing that it was passing fair, she said,

"Surely this is no common babe, but a child of the Immortals. His hair
is golden as the summer corn, and his eyes like the stars in heaven.
What if the gods have sent him to comfort our old age, and rule the
kingdom when we are dead? I will rear him in the palace as my own son,
and he shall be a prince in the land of Corinth."

So the child lived in the palace, and became a son to Polybus and
Merope, and heir to the kingdom. For want of a name they called him
OEdipus, because his ankles, when they found him, were all swollen
by the pin that the herdsman had put through them. As he grew up, he
found favour in all men's eyes, for he was tall and comely and cunning
withal.

"The gods are gracious," men said, "to grant the king such a son, and
the people of Corinth so mighty a prince, to rule over them in days to
come."

For as yet they knew not that he was a foundling, and no true heir to
the throne.

Now, while the child was still young, he played about the courts of
the palace, and in running and leaping and in feats of strength and
hardihood of heart there was none to beat him among his playmates, or
even to stand up against him, save one. But so well matched were these
two, that the other children would gather round them in a ring to
watch them box and wrestle, and the victor they would carry on their
shoulders round the echoing galleries with shouting and clapping of
hands; and sometimes it was OEdipus, and sometimes the other lad.
But at length there came a time when again and again OEdipus was
proved the stronger, and again and again the other slunk home beaten,
like a cur that has been whipped: and he brooded over his defeat, and
nourished hatred in his heart against OEdipus, and vowed that one
day he would have his revenge by fair means or by foul.

But when Merope the queen saw OEdipus growing tall and fair, and
surpassing all his comrades in strength, she took him up one day on to
the citadel, and showed him all the lovely land of Hellas lying at his
feet. Below them spread the shining city, with its colonnades and
fountains and stately temples of the gods, like some jewel in the
golden sands, and far away to the westward stretched the blue
Corinthian Gulf, till the mountains of Ætolia seemed to join hands
with their sisters in Peloponnese. And she showed him the hills of
Arcadia, the land of song and shepherds, where Pan plays his pipe
beneath the oak-trees, and nymphs and satyrs dance all the day long.
Away to the bleak north-west stood out the snowy peaks of Mount
Parnassus and Helicon, the home of the Muses, who fill men's minds
with wisdom and their hearts with the love of all things beautiful.
Here the first narcissus blooms, and the olive and the myrtle and rosy
almond-blossom gently kiss the laughing rivulets and the shining,
dancing cascades. For Helicon was a fair and gentle youth whom his
cruel brother Cithæron slew in his mad jealousy. Whereupon the gods
changed them both into mountains, and Helicon is mild and fair to this
day, and the home of all good things; but Cithæron is bleak and
barren, because his hard heart had no pity, and the Furies haunt it
unceasingly. Then Merope turned him to the eastward and the land of
the Dawning Day, and showed him the purple peaks of Ægina and the
gleaming Attic shore. And she said to him,

"OEdipus, my son, seest thou how Corinth lies midway 'twixt north
and south and east and west, a link to join the lands together and a
barrier to separate the seas?"

And OEdipus answered,

"Of a truth, mother, he who rules in Corinth hath need of a lion's
heart, for he must stand ever sword in hand and guard the passage from
north to south."

"Courage is a mighty thing, my son, but wisdom is mightier. The sword
layeth low, but wisdom buildeth up. Seest thou the harbours on either
side, facing east and west, and the masts of the ships, like a forest
in winter, and the traffic of sailors and merchants on the shore? From
all lands they come and bring their wares and merchandise, and men of
every nation meet together. Think not, my son, that a lion's heart and
a fool's head therewith can ever be a match for the wisdom of Egypt or
the cunning of Phoenicia."

Then OEdipus understood, and said,

"Till now I have wrestled and boxed and run races with my fellows on
the sands the livelong day, and none can beat me. Henceforth I will
sit in the market-place and discourse with foreigners and learned men,
so that, when I come to rule in my father's place, I may be the wisest
in all the land."

And Merope was pleased at his answer, but in her heart she was sad
that his simple childish days were past; and she prayed that if the
gods granted him wisdom they would keep his heart pure and free from
all uncleanness.

So OEdipus sat in the market-place and talked with merchants and
travellers, and he went down to the ships in the harbour and learned
many strange things of strange lands--the wisdom of the Egyptians,
who were the wisest of all men in the south, and the cunning of the
Phoenicians, who were the greatest merchants and sailors in all the
world. But in the evening, when the sun was low in the west, and the
hills all turned to amethyst and sapphire, and the snow-mountains
blushed ruby red beneath his parting kiss, then along the smooth, gold
sands of the Isthmus, by the side of the sounding sea, he would box
and wrestle and run, till all the ways were darkened and the stars
stood out in the sky. For he was a true son of Hellas, and knew that
nine times out of every ten a slack body and a slack mind go together.

So he grew up in his beauty, a very god for wisdom and might, and
there was no question he could not answer nor riddle he could not
solve, so that all the land looked up to him, and the king and queen
loved him as their own son.

Now one day there was a great banquet in the palace, to which all the
noblest of the land were bidden, and the minstrels played and the
tumblers danced and the wine flowed freely round the board, so that
men's hearts were opened, and they talked of great deeds and heroes,
and boasted what they themselves could do. And OEdipus boasted as
loud as any, and challenged one and all to meet him in fair fight. But
the youth who had grown up with him in rivalry, and nourished jealousy
and hatred in his heart, taunted him to his face, and said,

"Base born that thou art, and son of slave, thinkest thou that free
men will fight with thee? Lions fight not with curs, and though thou
clothe thyself with purple and gold, all men know that thou art no
true son to him thou callest thy sire."

And this he said being flushed with wine, and because myriad-mouthed
Rumour had spread abroad the tale that OEdipus was a foundling,
though he himself knew nought thereof.

Then OEdipus flushed red with rage, and swift as a gale that sweeps
down from the mountains he fell upon the other, and seizing him by the
throat, he shook him till he had not breath to beg for mercy.

"What sayest thou now, thou whelp? Begone with thy lying taunt, now
that thou hast licked the dust for thy falsehood."

And he flung him out from the hall. But Merope leant pale and sad
against a pillar, and veiled her face in her mantle to hide her tears.
And when they were alone, OEdipus took her hand and stroked it, and
said,

"Grieve not for my fiery spirit, mother, but call me thine own son,
and say that I was right to silence the liar who would cast dishonour
upon my father's name and upon thee."

But she looked at him sadly and longingly through her tears, and spoke
in riddling words,

"The gods, my child, sent thee to thy father and to me in answer to
our prayers. A gift of God thou art, and a gift of God thou shalt be,
living and dead, to them that love thee. The flesh groweth old and
withereth away as a leaf, but the spirit liveth on for ever, and those
are the truest of kin who are kin in the spirit of goodness and of
love."

But OEdipus was troubled, for she would say no more, but only held
his hand, and when he drew it away it was wet with her tears. Then he
thought in his heart,

"Verily, my mother would not weep for nought. What if, after all,
there be something in the tale? I will go to the central shrine of
Hellas and ask the god of Truth, golden-haired Apollo. If he say it is
a lie, verily I will thrust it back down that coward's throat, and the
whole land shall ring with his infamy. And if it be true--the gods
will guide me how to act."

So he set forth alone upon his pilgrimage. And he took the road that
runs by the side of the sea and up past Mount Gerania, with its
pine-clad slopes, where Megarus, the son of Zeus, took refuge, when
the floods covered all the land and only the mountain-tops stood out
like islands in the sea. For he followed the cry of the cranes as they
sought refuge from the waters, and was saved, and founded the city of
Megara, which is called by his name to this day. Right past
Ægosthena--the home of the black-footed goats--went OEdipus to
Creusis, along the narrow rocky path between the mountains and the
sea, where a man must needs be sure of foot and steady of head, if he
is to stand against the storms that sweep down from bleak Cithæron.
For the winds rush shrieking down the hills like Furies in their
wrath, and they sweep all that stands in their way over the beetling
cliffs into the yawning, seething gulf below, and those that fall into
her ravening jaws she devours like some wild beast, and they are seen
no more. Then he went through fertile Thisbe past the little port of
Tipha, the home of Tiphys, helmsman of the famous Argonauts, who
sailed to nameless lands and unknown seas in their search for the
Golden Fleece. And many a roaring torrent did he cross, as it rushed
foaming down from the steep white cliffs of Helicon, and over
pathless mountains, past rocky Anticyra and the hills of hellebore,
and through the barren plain of Cirrha, till he came to rock-built
Crisa and the fair Crisean plain, the land of cornfields and vineyards
and the grey-green olive-groves, where in spring-time the pomegranate
and oleander flowers shine out red as beacon-fires by night.

There he had well-nigh reached his journey's end, and his heart beat
fast as he mingled with the band of pilgrims, each bound on his
different quest to the god of Light and Truth, golden-haired Apollo,
the mightiest of the sons of Zeus and the slayer of Pytho, the famous
dragon. At Delphi is his shrine and dwelling-place, and there within
his temple stands the sacred stone which fell from heaven and marks
the centre of the earth. A great gulf yawns beneath, a mighty fissure
going deep down into the bowels of the earth to the regions of the
dead and the land of endless night; and deadly fumes rise up and
noxious mists and vapours, so that the Pythian priestess, who sits
above on her brazen tripod, is driven to frenzy by their power. Then
it is that she hears the voice of Apollo, and her eyes are opened to
see what no mortal can see, and her ears to hear the secrets of the
gods and Fate. Those things which Apollo bids her she chants to the
pilgrims in mystic verse, which only the wise can interpret aright. So
from north and south and east and west men flocked to hear her
prophecies, and the fame of Apollo's shrine went out through every
land--from Ocean's stream and the Pillars of Heracles to the far
Ionian shore and Euphrates, the mighty river of the East.

OEdipus drew near to the sacred place and made due sacrifice, and
washed in the great stone basin, and put away all uncleanness from his
heart, and went through the portals of rock to the awful shrine
within, where the undying fire burns night and day and the sacred
laurel stands. And he put his question to the god and waited for an
answer. Through the dim darkness of the shrine he saw the priestess on
her tripod, veiled in a mist of incense and vapour, and as the power
of the god came upon her she beheld the things of the future and the
hidden secrets of Fate. And she raised her hand towards OEdipus, and
with pale lips spoke the words of doom,

"OEdipus, ill-fated, thine own sire shalt thou slay."

As she spoke the words his head swam round like a whirlpool, and his
heart seemed turned to stone; then, with a loud and bitter cry, he
rushed from the temple, through the thronging crowd of pilgrims down
into the Sacred Way, and the people moved out of his path like
shadows. Blindly he sped along the stony road, down through the pass
to a place where three roads meet, and he shuddered as he crossed
them; for Fear laid her cold hand upon his heart and filled it with a
wild, unreasoning dread, and branded the image of that awful spot upon
his brain so that he could never forget it. On every side the
mountains frowned down upon him, and seemed to echo to and fro the
doom which the priestess had spoken. Straight forward he went like
some hunted thing, turning neither to right nor left, till he came to
a narrow path, where he met an old man in a chariot drawn by mules,
with his trusty servants round him.

"Ho! there, thou madman!" they shouted; "stand by and let the chariot
pass."

"Madmen yourselves," he cried, for his sore heart could not brook the
taunt. "I am a king's son, and will stand aside for no man."

So he tried to push past them by force, though he was one against
many. And the old man stretched out his hand as though to stop him,
but as well might a child hope to stand up against a wild bull. For he
thrust him aside and felled him from his seat, and turned upon his
followers, and, striking out to right and left, he stunned one and
slew another, and forced his way through in blind fury. But the old
man lay stiff and still upon the road. The fall from the chariot had
quenched the feeble spark of life within him, and his spirit fled away
to the house of Hades and the kingdom of the Dead. One trusty servant
lay slain by his side, and the other senseless and stunned, and when
he awoke, to find his master and his comrades slain, OEdipus was far
upon his way.

On and on he went, over hill and dale and mountain-stream, till at
length his strength gave way, and he sank down exhausted. And black
despair laid hold of his heart, and he said within himself,

"Better to die here on the bare hill-side and be food for the kites
and crows than return to my father's house to bring death to him and
sorrow to my mother's heart."

But sweet sleep fell upon him, and when he awoke hope and the love of
life put other thoughts in his breast. And he remembered the words
which Merope the queen had spoken to him one day when he was boasting
of his strength and skill.

"Strength and skill, my son, are the gifts of the gods, as the rain
which falleth from heaven and giveth life and increase to the fruits
of the earth. But man's pride is an angry flood that bringeth
destruction on field and city. Remember that great gifts may work
great good or great evil, and he who has them must answer to the gods
below if he use them well or ill."

And he thought within himself,

"'Twere ill to die if, even in the uttermost parts of the earth, men
need a strong man's arm and a wise man's cunning. Never more will I
return to far-famed Corinth and my home by the sounding sea, but to
far-distant lands will I go and bring blessing to those who are not of
my kin, since to mine own folk I must be a curse if ever I return."

So he went along the road from Delphi till he came to seven-gated
Thebes. There he found all the people in deep distress and mourning,
for their king Laius was dead, slain by robbers on the high road, and
they had buried him far from his native land at a place where three
roads meet. And, worse still, their city was beset by a terrible
monster, the Sphinx, part eagle and part lion, with the face of a
woman, who every day devoured a man because they could not answer the
riddle she set them. All this OEdipus heard as he stood in the
market-place and talked with the people.

"What is this famous riddle that none can solve?" he asked.

"Alas! young man, that none can say. For he that would solve the
riddle must go up alone to the rock where she sits. Then and there she
chants the riddle, and if he answer it not forthwith she tears him
limb from limb. And if none go up to try the riddle, then she swoops
down upon the city and carries off her victims, and spares not woman
or child. Our wisest and bravest have gone up and our eyes have seen
them no more. Now there is no man left who dare face the terrible
beast."

Then OEdipus said,

"I will go up and face this monster. It must be a hard riddle indeed
if I cannot answer it."

"Oh, overbold and rash," they cried, "thinkest thou to succeed where
so many have failed?"

"Better to try, and fail, than never to try at all."

"Yet, where failure is death, surely a man should think twice?"

"A man can die but once, and how better than in trying to save his
fellows?"

As they looked at his strong young limbs and his fair young face they
pitied him.

"Stranger," they said, "who art thou to throw away thy life thus
heedlessly? Are there none at home to mourn thee and no kingdom thou
shouldst rule? For, of a truth, thou art a king's son and no common
man."

"Nay, were I to return, my home would be plunged in mourning and woe,
and the people would drive me from my father's house."

They marvelled at his answer, but dared question him no further; and,
seeing that nothing would turn him from his purpose, they showed him
the path to the Sphinx's rock, and all the people went out with him to
the gate with prayers and blessings. At the gate they left him, for he
who goes up to face the Sphinx must go alone, and none can stand by
and help him. So he went through the Crenean gate and across the
stream of Dirce into the wide plain, and the mountain of the Sphinx
stood out dark and clear on the other side. Then he prayed to Pallas
Athene, the grey-eyed goddess of Wisdom, and she took all fear from
his heart. So he went up boldly to the rock, where the monster sat
waiting to spring upon her prey; yet for all his courage his heart
beat fast as he looked on her. For at first she appeared like a mighty
bird, with great wings of bronze and gold, and the glancing sunbeams
played about them, casting a halo of light around, and in the midst of
the halo her face shone out pale and beautiful as a star at dawn. But
when she saw him coming near, a greedy fire lit up her eyes, and she
put out her cruel claws and lashed her tail from side to side like an
angry lion waiting for his prey. Nevertheless, OEdipus spoke to her
fair and softly,

"Oh, lady, I am come to hear thy famous riddle and answer it or die."

"Foolhardy manling, a dainty morsel the gods have sent this day, with
thy fair young face and fresh young limbs."

And she licked her cruel lips.

Then OEdipus felt his blood boil within him, and he wished to slay
her then and there; for she who had been the fairest of women was now
the foulest of beasts, and he saw that by her cruelty and lust she had
killed the woman's soul within her, and the soul of a beast had taken
its place.

"Come, tell me thy famous riddle, foul Fury that thou art, that I may
answer it and rid the land of this curse."

"At dawn it creeps on four legs; at noon it strides on two; at sunset
and evening it totters on three. What is this thing, never the same,
yet not many, but one?"

[Illustration: "She put out her cruel claws and lashed her tail from
side to side like an angry lion waiting for his prey."]

So she chanted slowly, and her eyes gleamed cruel and cold.

Then thought OEdipus within himself,

"Now or never must my learning and wit stand me in good stead, or in
vain have I talked with the wisest of men and learnt the secrets of
Phoenicia and Egypt."

And the gods who had given him understanding sent light into his
heart, and boldly he answered,

"What can this creature be but man, O Sphinx? For, a helpless babe at
the dawn of life, he crawls on his hands and feet; at noontide he
walks erect in the strength of his manhood; and at evening he supports
his tottering limbs with a staff, the prop and stay of old age. Have I
not answered aright and guessed thy famous riddle?"

Then with a loud cry of despair, and answering him never a word, the
great beast sprang up from her seat on the rock and hurled herself
over the precipice into the yawning gulf beneath. Far away across the
plain the people heard her cry, and they saw the flash of the sun on
her brazen wings like a gleam of lightning in the summer sky.
Thereupon they sent up a great shout of joy to heaven, and poured out
from every gate into the open plain, and some raised OEdipus upon
their shoulders, and with shouts and songs of triumph bore him to the
city. Then and there they made him king with one accord, for the old
king had left no son behind him, and who more fitted to rule over them
than the slayer of the Sphinx and the saviour of their city?

So OEdipus became king of Thebes, and wisely and well did he rule,
and for many a long year the land prospered both in peace and war. But
the day came when a terrible pestilence broke out, and the people died
by hundreds, so that at last OEdipus sent messengers to Delphi to
ask why the gods were angry and had sent a plague upon the land. And
this was the answer they brought back,

"There is an unclean thing in Thebes. Never has the murderer of Laius
been found, and he dwells a pollution in the land. Though the
vengeance of the gods is slow, yet it cometh without fail, and the
shedding of blood shall not pass unpunished."

Then OEdipus made proclamation through the land that if any man knew
who the murderer was, they should give him up to his doom and appease
the anger of Heaven. And he laid a terrible curse on any who dared to
give so much as a crust of bread or a draught of water to him who had
brought such suffering on the land. So throughout the country far and
wide a search was made to track out the stain of blood and cleanse the
city from pollution, but day after day the quest was fruitless, and
the pestilence raged unceasingly, and darkness fell upon the soul of
the people, as their prayers remained unanswered and their
burnt-offerings smoked in vain upon the altars of the gods. Then at
last OEdipus sent for the blind seer Teiresias, who had lived
through six generations of mortal men, and was the wisest of all
prophets on earth. He knew the language of the birds, and, though his
eyes were closed in darkness, his ears were opened to hear the secrets
of the universe, and he knew the hidden things of the past and of the
future. But at first when he came before the king he would tell him
nothing, but begged him to question no further.

"For the things of the future will come of themselves," he cried,
"though I shroud them in silence, and evil will it be for thee, O
king, and evil for thine house if I speak out the knowledge that is
hidden in my heart."

At last OEdipus grew angry at his silence, and taunted him,

"Verily, me thinks thou thyself didst aid in the plotting of this
deed, seeing that thou carest nought for the people bowed down beneath
the pestilence and the dark days that are fallen on the land, so be it
thou canst shield the murderer and escape thyself from the curse of
the gods."

Then Teiresias was stung past bearing, and would hold his tongue no
longer. "By thine own doom shalt thou be judged, O king," he said.
"Thou thyself art the murderer, thyself the pollution that staineth
the land with the blood of innocent men."

Then OEdipus laughed aloud,

"Verily, old man, thou pratest. What rival hath urged thee to this
lie, hoping to drive me from the throne of Thebes? Of a truth, not
thine eyes only, but thy heart, is shrouded in a mist of darkness."

"Woe to thee, OEdipus, woe to thee! Thou hast sight, yet seest not
who thou art, nor knowest the deed of thine hand. Soon shalt thou
wander sightless and blind, a stranger in a strange land, feeling the
ground with a staff, and men shall shrink back from thee in horror
when they hear thy name and the deed that thou hast done."

And the people were hushed by the words of the old man, and knew not
what to think. But the wife of OEdipus, who stood by his side, said,

"Hearken not to him, my lord. For verily no mortal can search the
secrets of Fate, as I can prove full well by the words of this same
man that he spoke in prophecy. For he it was who said that Laius, the
king who is dead, should be slain by the hand of his own son. However,
that poor innocent never grew to manhood, but was exposed on the
trackless mountain-side to die of cold and hunger; and Laius, men say,
was slain by robber bands at a place where three roads meet. So
hearken not to seer-craft, ye people, nor trust in the words of one
who is proved a false prophet."

But her words brought no comfort to OEdipus, and a dreadful fear
came into his heart, like a cold, creeping snake, as he listened. For
he thought of his journey from Delphi, and of how in his frenzy he had
struck down an old man and his followers at a place where three roads
meet. When he questioned her further, the time and the place and the
company all tallied, save only that rumour had it that Laius had been
slain by robber bands, whilst he had been single-handed against many.

"Was there none left," he asked, "who saw the deed and lived to tell
the tale?"

"Yea, one faithful follower returned to bear the news, but so soon as
the Sphinx was slain and the people had made thee king he went into
distant pastures with his flocks, for he could not brook to see a
stranger in his master's place, albeit he had saved the land from
woe."

"Go, summon him," said OEdipus. "If the murderers were many, as
rumour saith, with his aid we may track them out; but if he was one
man single-handed--yea, though that man were myself--of a truth he
shall be an outcast from the land, that the plague may be stayed from
the people. Verily, my queen, my heart misgives me when I remember my
wrath and the deed that I wrought at the cross-roads."

In vain she tried to comfort him, for a nameless fear had laid hold of
his heart.

Now, while they were waiting for the herdsman to come, a messenger
arrived in haste from Corinth to say that Polybus was dead, and that
OEdipus was chosen king of the land, for his fame had gone out far
and wide as the slayer of the Sphinx and the wisest of the kings of
Hellas. When OEdipus heard the news, he bowed his head in sorrow to
hear of the death of the father he had loved, and turning to the
messenger, he said,

"For many a long year my heart hath yearned toward him who is dead,
and verily my soul is grieved that I shall see him no more in the
pleasant light of the sun. But for the oracle's sake I stayed in
exile, that my hand might not be red with a father's blood. And now I
thank the gods that he has passed away in a green old age, in the
fulness of years and of honour."

But the messenger wondered at his words.

"Knewest thou not, then, that Polybus was no father to thee in the
flesh, but that for thy beauty and thy strength he chose thee out of
all the land to be a son to him and heir to the kingdom of Corinth?"

"What sayest thou, bearer of ill news that thou art?" cried OEdipus.
"To prove that same tale of thine a slanderous lie I went to Delphi,
and there the priestess prophesied that I should slay mine own sire.
Wherefore I went not back to my native land, but have lived in exile
all my days."

"Then in darkness of soul hast thou lived, O king. For with mine own
hands I received thee as a babe from a shepherd on dim Cithæron, from
one of the herdsmen of Laius, who was king before thee in this land."

"Woe is me, then! The curse of the gods is over me yet. I know not my
sire, and unwittingly I may slay him and rue the evil day. And a cloud
of darkness hangeth over me for the slaying of King Laius. But lo!
they bring the herdsman who saw the deed done, and pray Heaven he may
clear me from all guilt. Bring him forward that I may question him."

Then they brought the man forward before the king, though he shrank
back and tried to hide himself. When the messenger from Corinth saw
him he started back in surprise, for it was the very man from whose
hands he had taken OEdipus on the mountain-side. And he said to the
king,

"Behold the man who will tell thee the secret of thy birth. From his
hands did I take thee as a babe on dim Cithæron."

Then OEdipus questioned the man, and at first he denied it from
fear, but at last he was fain to confess.

"And who gave me to thee to slay on the barren mountain-side?"

"I pray thee, my king, ask no more. Some things there are that are
better unsaid."

"Nay, tell me, and fear not. I care not if I am a child of shame and
slavery stains my birth. A son of Fortune the gods have made me, and
have given me good days with the evil. Speak out, I pray thee. Though
I be the son of a slave, I can bear it."

"No son of a slave art thou, but seed of a royal house. Ask me no
more, my king."

"Speak, speak, man. Thou drivest me to anger, and I will make thee
tell, though it be by force."

"Ah! lay not cruel hands upon me. For thine own sake I would hide it.
From the queen thy mother I had thee, and thy father was--Laius the
king. At the cross-roads from Delphi didst thou meet him in his
chariot, and slew him unwittingly in thy wrath. Ah, woe is me! For the
gods have chosen me out to be an unwilling witness to the truth of
their oracles."

Then a great hush fell upon all the people like the lull before a
storm. For the words of the herdsman were so strange and terrible that
at first they could scarce take in their meaning. But when they
understood that OEdipus was Laius's own son, and that he had
fulfilled the dreadful prophecy and slain his sire, a great tumult
arose, some saying one thing and some another; but the voice of
OEdipus was heard above the uproar,

"Ah, woe is me, woe is me! The curse of the gods is upon me, and none
can escape their wrath. Blindly have I done this evil, and when I was
striving to escape Fate caught me in her hidden meshes. Oh, foolish
hearts of men, to think that ye can flee from the doom of the gods;
for lo! ye strive in the dark, and your very struggles bind you but
closer in the snare of your fate. Cast me from the land, ye people; do
with me what ye will. For the gods have made me a curse and a
pollution, and by my death alone will the land have rest from the
pestilence."

And the people would have taken him at his word; for fickle is the
heart of the multitude, and swayed this way and that by every breath
of calamity. They were sore stricken, too, by the pestilence, and in
their wrath against the cause of it they forgot the slaying of the
Sphinx and the long days of peace and prosperity. But the blind seer
Teiresias rose up in their midst, and at his voice the people were
silent.

"Citizens of Cadmus, foolish and blind of heart! Will ye slay the
saviour of your city? Have ye forgotten the man-devouring Sphinx and
the days of darkness? Verily prosperity blunteth the edge of
gratitude. And thou, OEdipus, curse not the gods for thine evil
fate. He that putteth his finger in the fire is burnt, whether he do
it knowingly or not. As to thy sire, him indeed didst thou slay in
ignorance; but the shedding of man's blood be upon thine own head, for
that was the fruit of thy wrathful spirit, which, through lack of
curbing, broke forth like an angry beast. Hadst thou never slain a
man, never wouldst thou have slain thy sire. But now thou art a
pollution to the land of thy birth, and by long exile and wandering
must thou expiate thy sin and die a stranger in a strange land. Yet
methinks that in the dark mirror of prophecy I see thy form, as it
were, a guardian to the land of thy last resting-place, and in a grove
of sacred trees thy spirit's lasting habitation, when thy feet have
accomplished the ways of expiation and the days of thy wandering are
done."

So the people were silenced. But OEdipus would not be comforted,
and in his shame and misery he put out his own eyes because they had
looked on unspeakable things. Then he clothed himself in rags and took
a pilgrim's staff, to go forth alone upon his wanderings. And the
people were glad at his going, because the plague had hardened their
hearts, and they cared nothing for his grey hairs and sightless eyes,
nor remembered all he had done for them, but thought only how the
plague might be stayed. Even Eteocles and Polyneices, his own sons,
showed no pity, but would have let him go forth alone, that they might
live on the fatness of the land. For their hardness of heart they were
punished long after, when they quarrelled as to which should be king,
and brought down the flood of war upon Thebes, and fell each by the
other's hand in deadly strife. Of all his children, Antigone alone
refused to let him go forth a solitary wanderer, and would listen to
none of his entreaties when he spoke of the hardness of the way that
would lie before them.

"Nay, father," she cried; "thinkest thou that I could suffer thee to
wander sightless and blind in thine old age with none to stay thy
feeble steps or lend thee the light of their eyes?"

"The road before us is hard and long, my child, and no man can say
when my soul shall find rest. The ways of the world are cruel, and men
love not the cursed of the gods. As for thee, Heaven bless thee for
thy love; but thou art too frail and tender a thing to eat of the
bread and drink of the waters of sorrow."

"Ah, father, thinkest thou that aught could be more bitter than to sit
in the seat of kings whilst thou wanderest a beggar on the face of
the earth? Nay, suffer me to go with thee, and stay thy steps in the
days of thy trial."

Nothing he could say would dissuade her. So they two set out alone
upon their wanderings, the old man bowed down beneath the weight of
sorrow, and the young girl in the freshness of youth and beauty, with
a great love in her heart--a bright, burning love which was the light
by which she lived, and a light which never led her astray. For love
guided her into desolate places and through many a pathless
wilderness, and at length brought her in the flower of her maidenhood
to the very gates of death; yet when the cloud of earthly sorrow hung
darkest over her head, love it was that lifted the veil of doubt, and
cast about her name a halo of glory that will never fade. And all the
story of her love and how she buried her brother Polyneices, though
she knew it was death to cast so much as a handful of dust upon his
body, you may read in one of the noblest plays that has ever been
written.

So she and OEdipus set out upon their wanderings. At first OEdipus
was filled with shame and bitterness, and cursed the day of his birth
and his evil fate; but as time went on he remembered the words of
Teiresias--how at his death he should be a blessing to the land of his
last resting-place; and the hope sprang up in his heart that the gods
had not forsaken him, but would wipe out the stain of his sin, and
make his name once more glorious among men. Daily this hope grew
stronger and brighter, and he felt that the days of wandering and
expiation were drawing to a close, and a mysterious power guided his
steps he knew not whither, except that it was towards the goal of his
release. So they wandered on across the Theban plain and over dim
Cithæron, till they came to the torch-lit strand of Eleusis and
Demeter's sacred shrine, and the broad plain of Rarus, where
Triptolemus first taught men to drive a furrow and sow the golden
grain. And they went along the Sacred Way which leads to Athens, with
the circling mountains on their left, and to the right the blue
Saronic Gulf and the peaks of sea-girt Salamis. And many a hero's
grave did they pass and many a sacred shrine, for all along that road
men of old raised monuments to the undying glory of the dead and the
heritage of honour which they left to unborn generations. And always
Antigone tended the old man's feeble steps, and lent him the light of
her young eyes, till at length they came to white Colonus and the
grove of the Eumenides. There she set him on a rock to rest his weary
limbs. And the soft spring breezes played about them, and the clear
waters of Cephisus flowed sparkling at their feet to the fertile plain
below. In the dark coverts and green glades the nightingale trilled
her sweet song, and the grass was bright with many a golden crocus and
white narcissus bloom. As he sat there a great calm filled the old
man's heart, for he felt that the days of his wandering were done. But
while they were resting a man from the village happened to pass, and
when he saw them he shouted out,

"Ho! there, impious wanderers, know ye not that ye sit on sacred land
and trespass on hallowed ground?"

Then OEdipus knew more surely than ever that the day of his release
had come.

"Oh, stranger!" he cried, "welcome is that which thou sayest. For
here shall the words of the prophet be fulfilled, when he said that in
a grove of sacred trees my spirit should find rest."

But the man was not satisfied, and he called to a band of his
countrymen who were in the fields close by. And they came up and spoke
roughly to OEdipus, and asked his name and business. When he told
them they were filled with horror, for all men had heard of the
slaying of Laius, and they would have turned him out by force. But
OEdipus raised himself from the rock on which he was seated, and in
spite of his beggar's rags and sightless eyes, there was a majesty
about his face and form that marked him as no common man.

"Men of Colonus," he said, "ye judge by the evil I have done, and not
by the good. Have ye forgotten the days when the name of OEdipus was
honoured throughout the land? Of a truth the days of darkness came,
and the stain of my sin found me out. But now is my wrathful spirit
curbed, and the gods will make me once more a blessing to men. Go,
tell your king Theseus, who rules in Athena's sacred citadel, that
OEdipus is here, and bid him come with all speed if he would win a
guardian for this land, an everlasting safeguard for his city in days
of storm and stress."

So they sent off a messenger in hot haste, for there was a mysterious
power about the aged wanderer that none could withstand. And soon
Theseus arrived, himself a mighty hero, who had made Athens a great
city and rid the country of many a foul pestilence. And he greeted
OEdipus courteously and kindly, as befitted a great prince, and
offered him hospitality. But OEdipus said,

"The hospitality I crave, O king, is for no brief sojourn in this
land. Nay, 'tis an everlasting home I ask. For the hand of Heaven is
upon me, and full well I know that this day my soul shall leave this
frail and broken body. And to thee alone is it given to know where my
bones shall rest--to thee and thy seed after thee. As long as my bones
shall remain in the land, so long shall my spirit watch over it, and
men shall call upon my name to turn the tide of battle and stay the
flood of pestilence and war. Wilt thou come with me, O king, whither
the gods shall lead, and learn the secret of my grave?"

Then Theseus bowed his head, and answered,

"Show thou the way, and I will come."

So OEdipus turned and led the way into the grove, and Theseus and
Antigone followed after. For a mysterious power seemed to guide him,
and he walked as one who could see, and his steps were strong and firm
as those of a man in his prime. Straight into the grove did he go till
they came to the heart of the wood, where there was a sacred well
beneath a hollow pear-tree. Close by was a great chasm going deep down
into the bowels of the earth, and men called it the Gate of Hades, the
Kingdom of the Dead. Here, too, the Awful Goddesses were worshipped
under a new and gentler name. For after they had driven the murderer
Orestes up and down the land for his sin, he came at length to Athens
to stand his trial before gods and men. And mercy tempered justice and
released him from blood-guiltiness, and the Furies laid aside their
wrath and haunted him no more. So the people of Athens built them
shrines and sanctuaries, and worshipped them as Eumenides, the Kindly
Maidens. And now once more a wanderer was to find rest there from his
sin.

When they reached the well, OEdipus sat down upon a rock and called
his daughter to his side, and said,

"Antigone, my child, thy hand hath ministered to me in exile, and
smoothed the path for the wanderer's feet. Go now, fetch water, and
pour libation and drink-offering to the gods below. It is the last
thing thou canst do for me on earth."

So Antigone fetched water from the well, and dressed and tended him,
and poured libation to the gods. And when she had finished, OEdipus
drew her to him and kissed her tenderly, and said,

"Grieve not for me, my child. Well I know that thy heart will ache,
for love hath made light the burden of toil. But for me life's day is
done, and I go to my rest. Do thou seek thy brethren, and be to them
as thou hast been to me. My child, my child, hard is the way that lies
before thee, and my soul yearneth over thee for the evil day that
shall come. But look thou to thine own pure heart, on which the gods
have set the seal of truth that changeth not with passing years, and
heed not the counsels of men."

And he held her closely to him, and she clung weeping about his neck.
As they sat a hush fell upon the grove, and the nightingales ceased
their song, and from the depths of the grove a voice was heard like
the voice of distant thunder.

"OEdipus, OEdipus, why dost thou tarry?"

When they heard it they were afraid. But OEdipus rose up and gently
put his daughter from him, saying,

[Illustration: "With firm, unfaltering steps he led the way once more,
and Theseus followed after."]

"Lo! the voice of Zeus, who calleth me. Fare thee well, my child; thou
canst go no further with me. For Theseus only is it meet to see the
manner of my death, and he and I must go forward alone into the wood."

With firm, unfaltering steps he led the way once more, and Theseus
followed after. And what happened there none can tell, for Theseus
kept the secret to his dying day. But men say that when he came out of
the wood his face was as the face of one who had seen things passing
mortal speech. As for OEdipus, the great twin Brethren Sleep and
Death carried his bones to Athens, where the people built him a
shrine, and for many a long year they honoured him as a hero in the
land of Attica. For though the sin that he sinned in his wrath and
ignorance was great and terrible, yet his life had brought joy to many
men and prosperity to more lands than one. For with wisdom and love he
guided his days, and with sorrow and tears he wiped out the stain of
his sin, so that, in spite of all he suffered, men love to tell of the
glory and wisdom of OEdipus, and of how he solved the riddle of the
Sphinx.



Eros and Psyche


I

In the blue waters of the Ægean Sea, midway between Greece and Egypt,
lies the fertile land of Crete. Here, long, long ago, when the gods
still walked on earth in human form and the sons of men were as
children playing in a fair garden, there ruled a king who was the
father of three lovely daughters. They lived in a palace in the rich
Omphalian plain, beneath the shade of snow-capped Ida, surrounded by
smiling gardens and fruitful vineyards, with a glimpse, away to the
southward, of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. So great was the beauty
of these three maidens that their fame went abroad throughout all the
land, and wealthy wooers flocked from far and wide to win their hands
in marriage. The two elder sisters soon became the brides of two great
princes, and were well content to pass their days in the sunshine of
their husbands' love and admiration, and to deck themselves with gold
and jewels, and listen to the praise of their beauty upon the lips of
men. For the gods had given them grace of form and feature, but their
souls within were vain and foolish, so that in after-years, when they
found their sister more blessed than they, their vanity and envy
brought them to an evil end.

The youngest sister, whose name was Psyche, continued to live on at
home long after the other two were married. In face and form she was
as fair as they, whilst her soul within was so pure and beautiful that
it shed a heavenly radiance about her, so that when men looked into
her face all thoughts of love and wooing died out of their hearts, and
they worshipped her as one of the Immortals. Wherever she passed
voices were hushed and heads were bowed in prayer, till at length it
was rumoured that Aphrodite herself, the Queen of Love, had come to
live with men. The temples stood deserted and the altars bare of
sacrifice, and from far and wide men flocked to Psyche with gifts and
garlands and songs of praise.

Then foam-born Aphrodite, Queen of Love, was filled with jealousy and
wrath that a mortal should usurp her place and name, and she cast
about in her mind for some means of revenge.

"Verily, I must make this Cretan maiden rue the day when first men
laid my offerings at her feet. I will smite her with so dire a malady
that her very beauty shall be turned to scorn, and the heights to
which her impious pride hath raised her shall be as nought to the
depths of her shame and misery."

Thereupon she sent for her son, the great god Eros, who lords it over
gods and men. The poison of his fiery darts none can withstand, and
with him it rests to burn men's hearts with the fever of unsatisfied
desire, or so to temper the venom of his shafts that it runs like
heavenly nectar through the veins. Yet the joy that he gives withal is
akin to madness, and the torture of his wrath a frenzy unquenchable.

"Best-beloved son," she said, "if thou carest aught for thy mother's
name and fame, thou wilt hasten now to do my bidding. In midmost Crete
there dwells a maid--Psyche by name--whose impious pride hath cast
dishonour on my godhead. The offerings that are mine by right are cast
before her feet. My temples stand devoid of worshippers, who flock to
pay her court; and all this not in Crete alone, but from the farthest
shores of Hellas men cross the sea in white-winged ships to gaze upon
her face. Go now, I pray thee, and smite her with a poisoned arrow
from thy bow. Make her to love some loathly monster, deformed in soul
and body, and with a passion so shameless and all-consuming that men
shall spurn her, even as now they haste to pay their vows. As thou
lovest me, go with all speed and do my bidding."

So Eros sped away to fulfil Aphrodite's command, and plant in the
heart of Psyche the image of a dark and dreadful monster, and make her
love it. As she slept he came and stood beside her, armed with his bow
and poisoned arrows. But when he looked upon her his arm fell lifeless
by his side, and the arrows slipped out of his hand, for never had he
looked on one so fair; and her beauty smote his heart as surely as
ever one of his own shafts had pierced a mortal's breast. From that
moment he loved her with all his soul, and swore that no harm should
ever come to her through him, but that he himself and no other,
whether man or monster, should be her bridegroom. And he picked up the
arrow and put it back into the sheath.

"If she can trust me," he said, "she shall never feel a wound from one
of these. I will carry her away, and she shall be mine; but till the
gods are reconciled that I should wed a mortal, and my mother's anger
is appeased, I must visit her only in the night-time, and she must not
know who I am nor see my face. When the gods have proved her and found
her worthy of me, then will I reveal myself to her, and through my
love she shall be immortal, and dwell with me for ever in the shining
courts of heaven."

And he bent over and kissed her lightly on the lips. She smiled in her
sleep and held out her arms towards him, and he knew that his kiss had
kindled in her heart the light of love.

Aphrodite, meanwhile, with her mind at rest, took her way along the
shell-strewn curve of a sandy bay, and laughing ripples made music at
her feet. The Sun was slowly sinking to his bed in Ocean's stream, and
Night rode in her crescent car across the calm green vault of heaven.
From Aphrodite's feet a broad gold path of light led straight to the
sunset realms of Helios, the sun-god, and as she waited on the shore,
a band of dolphins ploughed the sea towards her. In their wake came
Tritons blowing on soft-voiced conches, and some drew a pearly shell
behind and pushed it to the shore and bade her enter.

"Great Helios bids thee to his midnight revelry, O Queen of Love,"
they cried, "and we are come to guide thee along the golden pathway
to the glowing palaces of Sunset Land."

As the goddess stepped into the shell, they blew a loud salute upon
their conches, and spread a silken sail above her head, and with music
and laughter they crossed the shining sea to the golden halls of
Helios.


II

Psyche, meanwhile, all unconscious of the wrath she had kindled in the
breast of Aphrodite, was pining away at home in loneliness of heart.
Little did she care for the worship that men paid her or for the
offerings that they laid at her feet. It was for the love of a husband
that she longed, and her soul was starving in the midst of rich gifts
and the rapt, adoring gaze of worshippers. Her melancholy fastened on
the king her father, and on all the palace, and soothsayers and augurs
crowded round the doors with omens, charms, and riddling words, and
prophesied all manner of evil.

At last the king could bear it no longer, and he set forth on
pilgrimage to Apollo's shrine at Delphi, and made question of the
oracle.

"Have the gods ordained that Psyche, my daughter, should die unwed,
though the fairest maid on earth, or doth some bridegroom await her
who tarrieth long? O god of Light, reveal his name, and save my child
from death."

Then the tripod shook, and from the midst of the incense and vapour
the priestess made reply,

"Think not of marriage-songs, O king, or bridal torches. On a lonely
rock on snow-clad Ida must thou leave thy child, the bride of no
mortal man. But a savage monster shall come, the terror of gods and
men, and shall bear her away to his own land, and thine eyes shall see
her no more. Wherefore make ready the funeral feast. Bring forth your
sable robes of mourning, and bid the minstrels raise a dirge for the
dead. For so the gods have willed it."

So the king went sadly home, and his heart was heavy within him. And
all the people mourned with him; for they loved the fair princess,
with her beautiful sad face and her kind and noble heart. All manner
of tales went abroad of the monster she must wed, some saying one
thing and some another. But most men thought it must be Talus, the
great giant who guarded Crete. Three times every day did he walk round
the island, and woe to any stranger who fell in his path or tried to
land when he was by. For from top to toe he was made of burning
metal--gold and silver and bronze and iron--while through his body ran
one single vein that was filled with fire and fastened in his head
with a nail. If any man tried to thwart him, he would gather him up in
his great bronze arms and hold him to his breast, red-hot with the
fire in his vein, and when he was well cooked through he would devour
him. Many a long year after, when Jason sailed by with the heroes of
the Golden Fleece, Talus rushed down, and would have stopped them from
watering their ship, and have turned them adrift on the salt seas to
be tortured to death with thirst. But Medea, Jason's dark witch-wife,
beguiled him with fair promises, and made him cool his burning body in
the sea before she would come near. Then when she had him under her
spells she softly drew the nail from his head, and the fire flowed
forth from his vein, and all his strength departed, and he died with a
curse on his lips for Medea and her wiles. But she only laughed aloud,
and bade Jason water the ship and thank the immortal gods that he had
a witch-woman to wife. That, however, was long after, and Talus was
now in the prime of life, and the terror of all the country-side.

Meanwhile, the land was plunged in mourning, and in the palace all was
bustle and confusion in preparation for the funeral rites. All day
long the old king sat in his chamber, and looked out towards the
lonely heights of Ida, where his daughter was to be left.

"Better that she should die in her maidenhood," he cried, "than wed
this terrible monster."

Psyche alone in all the palace was calm, and tried to comfort her
father.

"Sire," she said, as she put her arms about his neck, "to look on thy
tears is to me more bitter than my fate. Weep not for me, for
something within me bids me take comfort, and I hear a sweet voice
say, 'Rejoice, beloved, and come with me.' Dark was that day, my
father, when first men laid their offerings at my feet, and my heart
dwelt apart in its loneliness. And now, if but for one day I may look
upon the face of my bridegroom, I would gladly die. For, methinks, it
is no monster I must wed."

But the king thought only of the words of the oracle, and would not be
comforted.

At length the bridal day dawned, and the sad procession wound slowly
from the palace towards Ida. Choruses of singers led the way with
solemn dirges for the dead, and the king, uncrowned, followed with his
nobles clad in armour and holding blazing torches in their hands. Next
came Psyche, all in white, with a bridal veil and garlands, and
surrounded by white-robed maidens; and last of all the people of the
city followed with loud wailing and lamentation. Up the steep mountain
road they went, and the path grew rougher and narrower step by step.
On either side the dark rocks frowned down upon them, and echoed to
and fro the wailings of the people as they passed, and above them the
snow-capped peak of Ida stood out against the summer sky, like a
lonely sentinel keeping watch over the plain below. Slowly the shadows
of the rocks lengthened across the barren slopes, and the funeral
torches shone pale in the glowing sunset light. At last they reached
the appointed place beneath the unmelting snow, and on the barren rock
they set the maiden, and bade her a sorrowful good-bye. Ever and anon
they turned back to look on her as they wound down the mountain-track,
and always she waved to them a fond farewell. At length the shadows
fell on all the mountain-side, and only the snow-clad peak flashed
like a ruby in the last rays of the sun, and as they looked backward
for the last time they saw Psyche transformed in the golden light. Her
white dress shone like a rainbow, and her golden hair fell about her
shoulders like a stream of fire, and as she raised her arm to wave to
them she looked like no mortal maid, but a goddess in all her beauty,
so that the people hushed their voices and bowed their heads before
her. Soon the light faded, and they could see her no more. Sadly they
went their way, and all down the mountain-track and across the plain
below the torches shone out like pale twinkling stars in the darkness.

Psyche, meanwhile, left alone, pondered sadly on her fate, and
wondered what the night would bring. And as she sat and pondered, a
soft breeze played about her, filling her veil and robe, and gently
she felt herself lifted from the rock and borne through the air, till
she was laid down upon a grassy bank sweet with the scent of thyme and
violets. Here a deep sleep fell upon her, and she knew no more.


III

Day was dawning when Psyche awoke, and high up in the bright air the
larks were singing their morning hymn to the sun, and calling on bird
and beast and flower to awake and rejoice in the glad daylight. At
first she could remember nothing of what had happened, and wondered
where she was; then slowly all the sad ceremony of the day before came
back to her--the funeral procession up Mount Ida, the lonely rock on
which she had been left, and the soft west wind that had borne her
away. So she rose up from the green bank on which she had slept all
night, and looked round about her to see what manner of land she was
in.

She found herself standing on a hillock in the midst of a fertile
plain. Steep cliffs rose up on every side as though to guard the
peaceful valley, and keep out any evil thing that would enter in. To
the eastward only was there a break in the mountain-chain, and the
dale widened out towards the sea. As Psyche gazed, the golden disc of
the sun rose slowly from the water, and his bright rays lit up the
grey morning sky and scattered the silvery mist that hung about the
tree-tops. On either side of her was a wood, with a green glade
between sloping up towards a marble temple, which flashed like a jewel
in the rays of the rising sun. And Psyche was filled with wonder at
the sight, for it seemed too fair to be the work of human hands.

"Surely," she thought, "it must be the handiwork of the lame fire-god
Hephæstos, for he buildeth for the immortal gods, who sit on high
Olympus, and none can vie with him in craft and skill."

Then she looked about her to see if anyone were near. But all around
was quiet and still, with no signs of human habitation. Wondering the
more, she drew near to the temple, and went up the marble stairs that
led to the entrance. When she reached the top her shadow fell upon the
golden gate, and, as she stood doubting what to do, they slowly turned
on their hinges, and opened to her of their own accord, and she walked
through them into the temple. She found herself in a marble court
surrounded by pillars and porticoes which re-echoed the soft music of
a fountain in the midst. Through the open doors of the further
colonnade she caught a glimpse of cool dark rooms, with carvings of
cedar-wood and silver and silken hangings. And now the air was filled
with music and sweet voices calling her by name.

"Psyche, lady Psyche, all is thine. Enter in."

So she took courage and entered. All day long she wandered about the
enchanted palace discovering fresh wonders at every step. Even before
she knew it the mysterious voices seemed to guess every wish of her
heart. When she would rest they led her to a soft couch. When she was
hungry they placed a table before her spread with every dainty. They
led her to the bath, and clothed her in the softest silks, and all the
while the air was filled with songs and music.

All this time she had not said a word, for she feared she might drive
away the kindly voices that ministered to her. But at last she could
keep silence no longer.

"Am I a goddess," she asked, "or is this to be dead? Do those who pass
the gates of Death feel no change, nor suffer for what they have done,
but have only to wish for a thing to gain their heart's desire?"

The voices gave her never a word in answer, but led her to the chamber
where her couch was spread with embroidered coverlets. The walls all
round were covered with curious paintings, telling of the deeds of
gods and heroes--how golden Aphrodite loved Ares, the god of War, and
Apollo the nymph Daphne, whom he changed into a laurel-tree that never
fades. There was Ariadne, too, upon her island, whom the young god
Dionysus found and comforted in her sore distress; and Adonis, the
beautiful shepherd, the fairest of mortal men.

Psyche, tired out by all the wonders she had seen during the day, sank
down upon her couch, and was soon asleep. But sleep had not long
sealed her lids before she was awakened by a stir in the room. The
curtain over her head rustled as though someone were standing beside
her. She lay still, almost fainting with terror, scarcely daring to
breathe, when she heard a voice softly call her by name.

"Psyche, my own, my beloved, at last I have got thee, my dear one."

And two strong arms were round her and a kiss upon her lips. Then she
knew that at last the bridegroom she had waited for so long had come
to claim her, and in her happiness she cared not to know who he was,
but was content to feel his arms about her and hear her name upon his
lips. And so she fell asleep again. When she awoke in the morning her
first thought was to look on the face of the husband who had come in
the dark night, but nowhere could she find him. All the day she passed
in company of the mysterious voices who had ministered to her before;
but though their kindness and courtesy was never failing, she wandered
disconsolately about the empty halls, longing for the night-time, and
wondering whether her lover would come again. As soon as it was dark
she went again to her chamber, and there once more he came to her and
swore that she was his for evermore, and that nothing should part
them. But always he left her before it was light and came to her again
when night had fallen, so that she never saw his face nor knew what he
was like. Yet so well did she love and trust him that she never cared
to ask him his secret. So the days and nights sped swiftly by, for in
the daylight Psyche found plenty to amuse her in the enchanted palace
and garden, and she did not think of loneliness when every night she
could hold sweet converse with her beloved.

But one evening when he came to her he was troubled, and said,

"Psyche, my dear one, great danger threatens us, and I must needs ask
thee somewhat that shall grieve thy tender heart."

"Mine own lord," she said, "what can there be that I would not gladly
do for thee?"

"Well do I know, beloved, that thou wouldst give thy life for me. But
that which I ask will grieve thee sore, for thou must refuse the boon
thy sisters shall ask thee."

"My sisters! They know not where I am. How, then, can they ask me a
boon?"

"Even now they stand upon the lonely rock where thou wast left for me,
to see if they can find thee or learn aught of thy fate. And they will
call thee by name through the echoing rocks, but thou must answer them
never a word."

"What, my lord! wouldst thou have my sisters go home disconsolate,
thinking that I am dead? Nay, surely, thou wouldst not be so hard of
heart? But let me bid the soft west wind, that wafted me hither, bring
them too, that they may look upon my happiness and take back the
tidings to mine aged sire."

"Psyche, thou knowest not what thou askest. Foolish of heart are thy
sisters, and they love the trappings and outward show of woe, and with
their mourning they wring their father's aching heart till he can bear
it no more. So he hath sent them forth to see whether they can hear
aught of thy fate. And, full of their own hearts' shallow grief, they
seek thee on the mountain-side, thinking to find thy bones bleaching
in the rays of the sun. Were they to see thy happiness, their hearts
would be filled with envy and malice. They would speak evil of me, and
taunt thee on thine unknown lord, and bid thee look upon my face and
see lest I be some foul monster. And Psyche, mine own wife, the night
that thou seest my face shall be the night that shall part us for
evermore, and thy first look shall be thy last. Therefore answer them
not, I pray thee, but stay with me and be my bride."

And Psyche was troubled at these words, for she thought her husband
wronged her sisters. Nevertheless, unwilling to displease him, she
said,

"I will do thy will, my lord, even as thou sayest."

Yet all the day long she thought on her sisters wandering on the bleak
mountain-side, and how they would call for her by name, and at length
go sadly home to her father's house and bring no comfort. The more she
thought on it the sadder she became, and when her husband came to her,
her face was wet with tears. In vain he tried to comfort her. She only
sobbed the more.

"All my joy is turned to bitterness," she said, "when I think on the
grief that bows down my father's heart. If but for one day I could
bring my sisters here and show them my happiness, they would bear the
news to him, and in my joy he would be happy too. Let them but come
and look at this fair home of mine, and surely it will not harm me or
thee, my dear lord?"

"I have not the heart to refuse thee, Psyche," he said, "though it
goeth against me to grant this. I fear that evil will come. If they
ask thee of me, answer them not."

Psyche was overjoyed at his consent, and thanked him, and put her arms
about his neck and said,

"My dearest lord, all thou sayest I will do. For wert thou Eros, the
god of Love himself, I could not love thee more."


IV

The next day, when Psyche was left alone, she went out into the valley
to see whether she could hear her sisters calling her. And sure
enough, she had not gone far, when high up above her head, from the
top of the cliff, she heard her name, "Psyche, O Psyche! where art
thou?" At this she was overjoyed,

"O gentle Zephyr!" she called, "O fair west wind! waft, oh, waft my
sisters to me!"

Scarcely had she said the words than she saw her sisters gently borne
down from the cliff above and set upon the ground beside her. She fell
upon their necks and kissed them.

"Ah, my dear sisters," she cried, "how happy am I to see you! Welcome
to my new home. See, I am not tortured, as you thought. Nay, my life
is bliss, as you shall see for yourselves. Come, enter in with me."

And she took them by the hand and led them through the golden gates.
The ministering voices played soft music in the air, and a rich feast
was spread before them. All through the palace Psyche led them, and
showed them all her treasures, and brought out her choicest jewels,
and bade them choose out and keep as many as they wished.

All this time, though there was no corner of the palace that she kept
hidden from them, she spoke no word of her mysterious husband. At
length they could contain their curiosity no longer, and one made bold
to ask her,

"Psyche, thou livest not here alone, of a surety. Yet where is thy
lord? All thy treasures hast thou shown us, but him, the giver of
all, we have not seen. Who is he, then? Surely he, whom the winds and
bodiless voices obey, must be a god, and no mortal man. Tell us of
him, we pray thee."

And Psyche remembered her husband's warning.

"My lord," she said, "is a huntsman bold, and over hill and dale he
rides this day after the swift-footed stag. As fair as the dawn is he,
and the first down of youth is on his cheek. All through the hours of
sunlight he goeth forth to the chase, and at eventime he returneth to
me."

It was now close on night, and the shadows fell long across the cool
green lawns of the garden. Psyche bethought her that it was high time
for her sisters to go, before they could ply her with questions. So,
kissing them farewell, and sending many a loving message to the king
her father, she called on Zephyr to waft them away to the top of the
cliff.

Hitherto the surprise and wonder at all they had seen and heard had
filled the minds of the two sisters. But when they found themselves
once more alone upon the barren mountain-slopes, they had leisure to
think and compare their lot with that of their sister. Before they had
seen her golden halls they had been quite content with their own
palaces. But these now seemed humble beside the splendours they had
just left. Their shallow hearts were quite filled up with the image of
themselves, and they had no room left for their sister. But now her
good fortune forced the remembrance of her upon them, and they were
filled with an envy and jealousy of her which conquered even their
love for themselves. They could not be content to return once more to
their homes, and receive the homage of their husbands and their
households. Their one thought was how they might spoil her happiness.
For the hatred that is born of self-love is an all-consuming passion
that burns up every kind and noble thought, as a forest fire burns up
the tall trees that stand in the path of its fury.

"How cruel and unjust," cried one, "that she, the youngest, should be
blest so far above us both. My lord is a very beggar to him who giveth
Psyche her golden halls to dwell in."

"Yea, and mine is an old man by the side of this beardless youth.
Sister, thy grief and mine are one. Side by side let us work, and
verily her cunning shall be great if she can avail against us and keep
her ill-gotten wealth."

"Thou sayest well. 'Twas from pride that she welcomed us to her halls
to flaunt her riches before us. Sister, I am with thee. Quickly let us
plan some plot to unrobe this upstart maiden of her vaunted godhead."

Whereupon they agreed together to bring their father no word of
Psyche's happiness. They tore their robes and loosed their hair, as
though all this while they had been wandering over the rough mountain
rocks.

"Ah, sire," they cried, "how can we tell thee the evil tidings?
Nowhere can we find our sister, or any trace of her. Verily, the
oracle lieth not, and she is the bride of some fell monster."

Their cruel words smote their father to the heart, and quenched the
feeble spark of hope that still burned in his breast. And when all
hope leaves the heart of man, life leaves him, too. So the old king
died, and his blood was on the hands of his own children, and one day
they paid the penalty with their lives.

Meanwhile, Psyche lived on in the happy valley in blissful content.
Her husband would often warn her that her sisters were plotting her
ruin, but she would listen to nothing against them. At last one night
he said,

"Psyche, to-morrow thy sisters will seek thee once again. This time
they will not wait for Zephyr to bear them down, but, trusting
themselves to the barren air, they will hurl themselves from the
cliff, and be dashed to pieces on the rocks below. Leave them to their
fate. 'Twill be due penalty for their crime, and 'tis the only way
that we can be saved, beloved."

"My lord," cried Psyche, "thy cruelty would kill my love for thee,
were it not immortal. But, in very truth, all my joy would be slain
did I know that my sisters were killed when I could have saved them.
Oh, dearest husband, by the love that makes us one, I beseech thee,
send Zephyr once more to bear my sisters hither."

And she sobbed so pitifully and prayed so earnestly that once again he
had not the heart to refuse.

So about noontide the next day Psyche heard loud knocking and cries at
the door, and she hastened to open it herself to her sisters. Again
she kissed them, and bade them welcome, and they deceived her with
flattery and honeyed words, and when she was off her guard one said,

"Come, tell us, Psyche, thy husband's name. Among the immortal gods,
where doth he take his place, and why is he not here to greet us?"

"My husband," she replied, "is a rich merchant. Many a long year hath
it taken to build up all the fortune you behold, for already the hair
about his temples is touched with snow. And this day hath he gone a
long journey to a distant town in search of rich merchandise, and he
returneth not till the setting of the sun."

Then quickly she called on Zephyr to bear them away before they could
ply her with questions.

When her husband came that night he was more troubled than before, and
begged her to see them no more, but let them be dashed to death on the
rocks if they troubled her again. Her pure heart, however, would
believe no evil of them; and in this one thing she disobeyed her lord.


V

Meanwhile, the second visit of the sisters to Psyche in her beautiful
home had but served to add fuel to the fire of their envy. When they
remembered her confusion and the different tales she had told them
about her unknown lord, jealousy whispered in their ears that all her
happiness depended on the keeping of her secret, and that secret they
straightway determined to know.

"'Tis a strange lord, methinks," said one, "who in the waxing and
waning of a single moon doth change from a beardless boy to a grave
and reverend merchant whose hair is touched with snow."

"True, sister. And therein lieth the secret of her happiness. Her
lying tale but proves that she hath never seen her lord. And verily,
he who would hide his face from the queen of his heart must be some
child of the Immortals, whose love for an earth-born maid must be hid
from gods and men."

"Yea, and they who are loved of the Immortals are themselves immortal,
too, and their seed after them. Truly, sister, that Psyche should be a
goddess is more than I can bear."

"I feel with thee! It is not meet that the youngest should have all.
Let us invent some lying tale which shall make her look upon her lord,
and break the spell which binds him to her."

"What sayest thou to the words of the oracle that doomed her to wed a
monster? Let us go to her and say that now we know this to be true,
and beg her to flee from a fate so vile."

So once more they trusted themselves to Zephyr, for Psyche had
prevailed upon her lord to promise that, so long as her sisters should
do her no harm, Zephyr should always be waiting to carry them to and
fro from her.

Early the next day she was aroused from sleep by the sound of weeping
and lamentation at her door, and she hastened to meet her sisters,
fearing some ill news. And they fell upon her neck, crying,

"Alas, alas, for thine evil fate!"

"Mine evil fate, sisters? What mean ye? All is well with me."

"Ah, so thou thinkest in thine heart's innocence. Even so falleth the
dove a victim to the hawk that wheeleth above."

"What talk is this of doves and hawks? Come, my sisters, weep no more,
for in this pleasant vale even the winds of heaven breathe gently on
me, so good and great is my lord who commandeth them."

"Thy lord! Hast ever seen his face, child, that thou callest him good
and great?"

"Nay," she answered, blushing to think that they had guessed her
secret, "'tis true I have not seen his face, but what need to look
upon him when all around me breathes of his love for me?"

"Hast never heard tell of foul monsters that wed with the daughters of
men, and come to them only in the night season, when the darkness can
hide their deformity? They cast a spell about their victims, and by
their wiles and enchantments they make all things about them seem
fair. But one day, when they have had their fill, and tire of the maid
they have won, lo! at a word the pleasant palaces and gardens vanish
into air, and she is left all ashamed and deserted, and scorned by
gods and men. Ah, sister, be warned by those who wish thee well, and
flee from thy vile lot ere all is lost. Even yesterday, when we left
thee, we saw a monstrous shape that glided after us through the wood,
and we fled in terror, knowing it was thy lord, who would not have us
near thee. Come with us now, and be saved."

When Psyche heard their words she was very troubled. Truly, 'twas
strange that her lord should be loath for her to see her sisters,
unless, indeed, it was even as they said, and she was the prey of some
terrible beast. Yet his kind and loving words and his tender thought
for her welfare and all the beauty that surrounded her gave the lie to
such a thought.

"My dear sisters," she cried, "I thank you for your loving fears for
me, but it cannot be as you say. Though I have never looked upon my
lord, these fair halls and gardens do but mirror forth the beauty of
his soul, and I know that he is true."

"Then why doth he hide his face? At least, if thou wilt not flee with
us now, do but put him to the test when he comes this night. A glimpse
at his form will tell thee that our tale is true; and if by some
strange chance it be not so, what harm can one glance do?"

Thus they tempted her, and made her doubt her lord, though sore
against her will. So it often happens that the pure of heart are
tortured by the doubts which the wicked plant in their breasts. As
little does a young bird in the greenwood suspect the hunter's snare
as did Psyche in her loving innocence suspect the malicious envy of
her sisters.

But they were filled with joy at the success of their plot, and when
Zephyr had borne them to the top of the cliff they could contain their
gladness no longer, but fell upon each other's necks and kissed and
danced for glee.

But Psyche at their bidding made ready to look upon her lord that
night. Under a chair she placed a lighted lamp in readiness, and
shrouded it about, that the light might not shine into the room and
betray her purpose. Trembling she went to bed that night, for she
hated the deed she must do. At the usual hour her lord came and spoke
lovingly to her, and kissed her, but her words died away upon her
lips, and she shuddered at his embrace. In time he fell asleep, and
his breathing was gentle and even as that of a child sweetly dreaming
in its innocence of heart. Then she rose up silently in the dead of
night, and walking softly to the chair, she took the lamp from
beneath and turned on tiptoe to the bed. High above her head she held
the light, that the rays might fall more gently on him as he slept,
and with bated breath she drew near and looked on him. As she looked,
the blood rushed headlong through her veins, and her heart beat fast
within her, and her limbs seemed turned to water as she bent forward
to look more closely. For on the bed, wrapped in deep slumber, lay no
terrible monster, as she feared, but the youngest and fairest of the
Immortals--Eros, the great god of Love. The gleam of his golden locks
was as sunshine on the summer sea, and his limbs like the eddying
foam. From his shoulders sprang two mighty wings bright as the
rainbow, and by his side lay his quiver and darts. As he moved
restlessly in the light of the lamp she heard her name upon his lips.
With a low cry she fell on her knees beside him, and as she did so her
arm grazed the point of an arrow placed heedlessly in the sheath. The
poison ran like liquid fire through her veins, and set her heart
aflame, and with blazing cheeks she bent over and kissed him on the
lips. As she did so the lamp trembled in her hand, and a drop of the
burning oil fell upon his shoulder, and he started up and found her
bending over him.

"Ah, wretched, wretched Psyche!" he cried; "what hast thou done?
Couldst thou not trust me, who gave thee all the happiness thou hast
ever known?"

"My lord, my lord, forgive me! I would but prove to my sisters by mine
own eyes' witness that thou wert not the monster that they dreaded."

"Thrice foolish maid! Knowest thou not that doubt driveth away love?
Did I not tell thee that thy first look would be thy last? From a
terrible fate I saved thee when Aphrodite bade me strike thee with my
shaft and make thee love some terrible beast. When I went forth to do
her bidding thy grace and beauty conquered me, and I took thee away to
be my bride; and in time, hadst thou proved worthy, my mother and all
the great gods that rule above would have forgiven me, and shed on
thee the gift of immortality, to live with me for ever in the courts
of heaven. But now all is lost, and I must leave thee."

[Illustration: "On the bed, wrapped in slumber, lay the youngest and
fairest of the Immortals."]

"Ah, my lord, great is my sin, but I love thee, and my soul is thine.
Over the whole wide world would I wander, or be slave to the meanest
of men, so be it I could find thee again. Ah, dearest lord! tell me
not that all hope is gone."

One moment he was silent, as though doubting her. Then he answered,

"One way there lieth before thee, if thy courage prove greater than
thy faith--one only way, by which thou canst reach me--the long rough
path of trial and sorrow. Heaven and earth shall turn against thee;
for men win not immortality for a sigh. Yet will I help thee all I
may. In thine own strength alone thou wouldst faint and die by the
way, but for every step thou takest I will give thee strength for two.
And now farewell! I can tell thee no more, neither linger beside thee.
Fare thee well, fare thee well."

As he vanished from her eyes Psyche fell senseless on the floor, and
for many a long hour she lay there, hearing and seeing nothing, as
though life itself had fled.


VI

Meanwhile the two sisters were waiting in a frenzy of impatience to
know whether success had crowned their evil plot. If the doubt they
had planted in Psyche's breast had borne fruit, and she had dared to
disobey her lord, they knew full well that all her happiness would
have vanished like a dream. Yet, fearing the anger of him whom the
winds of heaven obeyed, they dared not trust themselves to Zephyr, who
had carried them down before. So they wandered restlessly from room to
room, and peered from the windows, hoping that Psyche in her misery
would come to them and beg for succour in her evil plight. There was
nothing they would have loved better than to spurn her from their
doors and taunt her on the retribution which had fallen on her vanity.
But all day long they waited, and yet she came not, so that at length
they parted and went each one to her couch.

But the night was hot and sultry, and the eldest sister lay on her bed
and tossed restlessly from side to side, and could not sleep. At
length she went to the casement and drew aside the curtain and looked
out on the starry night, and when she had cooled her burning brow she
went back to her couch. Just as she was about to fall asleep she felt
a shadow pass between her and the light from the window, and she
opened her eyes, and her heart beat fast; for straight in the path of
the moonbeams stood Eros, the great god of Love, and his wings stood
out black against the starlit sky as he leant on his golden bow.
Though his face was dark in the shadow, his eyes seemed to pierce
through to her heart as she lay still and trembling with fear. But he
spoke softly to her with false, honeyed words.

"Lady, thy sister Psyche, whom I chose out from the daughters of men,
hath proved false and untrue, and lo! now I turn my love to thee. Come
thou in her stead and be mistress in my palace halls, and I will give
thee immortality. Lo! even now Zephyr awaits thee on the mountain-top
to bear thee away to my home."

So saying, he faded from her sight. Her wicked heart was filled with
joy when she heard of Psyche's fall, and she rose up in the dead of
night and put on her gayest robe and brightest gems. Without so much
as a look on the prince her husband she went out to the mountain-top.
There she stood alone, and called softly to Zephyr,

"O Zephyr, O Zephyr, O fair west wind, waft me, oh waft me away to my
love!"

Without waiting she threw herself boldly down. But the air gave way
beneath her, and with a terrible cry she fell faster and faster, down,
down, to the gulf below, and was dashed to pieces on the rocks; and
from the four quarters of heaven the vultures gathered and fed upon
her flesh.

As for the second sister, to her, too, the god appeared and spoke
false honeyed words, and she too went forth alone; and in the morning
her bones lay gleaming white beside her sister's on the rocks below.


VII

When Psyche awoke from her swoon, she looked around her in
bewilderment, for the scene which met her eyes was the same, and yet
so different. The forest-trees waved their arms gently in the breeze,
and whispered to each other in the glad morning light, and in the
hedges the birds sang sweet songs of joy; for the skies were blue, and
the grass was green, and summer was over the land. But Psyche sat up
with a dull grief in her heart, feeling over her the dim shadow of a
half-forgotten woe that meets those who awake from sleep. At first she
wondered where she was, for her clothes were wet with dew, and looking
round the still familiar scene, she saw the green glade in the forest,
but no shining palace at the top. Then like a flash she remembered the
night, and how by her doubt she had forfeited all her happiness, and
she lay on the ground and sobbed and prayed that she might die. But
soon tired out with weeping, she grew calmer, and remembered the words
of her lord--how she could find him again only after long wandering
and trial. Though her knees gave way beneath her, and her heart sank
at the thought of setting out alone into the cruel world, she
determined to begin her search forthwith. Through the dark forest she
went, and the sun hid his face behind the pine-tops, and great oaks
threw shadows across her path, in weird fantastic forms, like wild
arms thrust out to seize her as she passed. With hurrying steps and
beating heart she went on her way till she came out on the bleak
mountain-side, where the stones cut her tender feet and the brambles
tore her without mercy. But on and on she struggled along the stony
road, till the path grew soft beneath her, and sloped gently downwards
to the plain. Here through green fields and smiling pastures a river
wound slowly towards the sea, and beyond the further bank she saw the
smoke from the homesteads rise blue against the evening sky. She
quickened her steps, for already the shadows from the trees fell long
across the fields, and the grass turned to gold in the light of the
dying day. And still between her and shelter for the night lay many a
broad meadow and the silver stream to cross. As she drew nearer she
looked this way and that for a ford, but seeing none, she gathered
together her courage, and breathing a prayer to the gods, stepped into
the water. But she was weak and faint with fasting, and at every step
the water grew deeper and colder, and her strength more feeble, till
at length she was borne off her feet, and swept away by the hurrying
tide. In her agony she cried out,

"O god of Love, have mercy and save me ere I die, that I may come to
thee!"

Just as she was about to sink, she felt a strong arm seize her and
draw her up on the opposite shore. For a while she lay faint and
gasping for breath; but as her strength returned, she heard close
beside her soft notes of music, and she opened her eyes to see whence
the sweet sounds came. She found herself lying beneath a willow-tree,
against which leant a strange musician. For his head and shoulders and
arms were those of a man, but his legs and feet were thin and hoofed,
and he had horns and a tail like a goat. His ears were pointed, his
nose was wide and flat, and his hair fell unkempt and wild about his
face. Round his body he wore a leopard's skin, and he made sweet music
on a pipe of reeds. At first she was terrified at the sight of this
strange creature, but when he saw her look up at him, he stopped
playing, and smiled at her; and when he smiled he puckered his face in
a thousand wrinkles, and his eyes twinkled merrily through his wild
elf-locks, so that none could look on him and be sad. In spite of all
her woes Psyche fairly laughed aloud as he began to caper round her on
his spindle legs, playing a wild dance-tune the while. Faster and
faster he went, and up and down, and round and round, till, with a
last shrill note on his pipe and a mad caper in the air, he flung
himself on the grass beside her.

"Have I warmed the blood back to thy heart, fair maid?" he asked, "or
shall I dance again the mad dance that drives away cold and despair?"

"Nay, merry monster, even now my sides ache with laughter. But tell
me, who art thou, that savest damsels in distress, and drivest away
their sorrow with thy wild piping and dance?"

"I am the god of the forest and woodland and broad wide pasture lands.
To me the shepherd prays to give increase to his flocks, and the
huntsman for a good day's sport. In the evening, when the moon shines
high o'erhead, and the sky is bright with stars, I take my pipe and
play my lays in the dim dark forest glades. To the sound of my music
the brook murmurs sweetly, the leaves whisper softly o'erhead, the
nymphs and naiads forget their shyness, and the hamadryad slips out
from her tree. Then the eyes of the simple are opened, and on the
cool, green grass by the side of the silver stream the goatherd,
the neatherd and the young shepherd-lad dance hand-in-hand with the
nymphs, and the poet, looking forth from his window, cries, 'How sweet
are the pipes of Pan!'

[Illustration: Faster and faster he went, and up and down, and round
and round.]

"But when the dark storm-cloud rides over the sky, and the streams
rush swollen with rain, with fleet foot I hurry through woodland and
dell, and over the bleak mountain-tops; the crash of my hoofs on the
rocks sounds like thunder in the ears of men, and the shriek of my
pipe like the squall of the wild storm-wind. And I rush through the
midst of the battle when the trumpets are calling to arms; but above
the blare of the bugle men hear the shrill cry of my pipes. Then the
archer throws down his bow, and the arm of the spearman falls limp,
and their hearts grow faint with panic at the sound of the pipes of
Pan. Nay, turn not from me in terror, lady," he added, as Psyche made
as though she would flee, "for I wish thee no ill. 'Tis gods mightier
than I who have made me goat-footed, with the horns and the tail of a
beast. But my heart is kindly withal, or I would not have saved thee
from the stream."

Once more he smiled his genial smile, and puckered his face like the
ripples on a lake when a breeze passes over,

"Come, tell me who art thou, and how can I help thee?"

Then Psyche told her tale, and when she had finished Pan was silent
for a time, as though lost in thought. At length he looked up, and
said,

"Thou seekest the great god Eros? I would that I could help thee,
lady; but love once fled is hard to find again. Easier is it to win
the dead to life than to bring back love that doubt hath put to
flight. I cannot help thee, for I know not how thou canst find him,
or where thou must seek. But, if thou wilt journey further, and cross
many a long mile of pasture and woodland, thou wilt come to the rich
corn-lands and the shrine of Demeter, the great Earth Mother. She
knows the secret of the growing corn, and how the rich fruits ripen in
their season, and she will have pity on a maid like thee, because of
her child Persephone, whom Hades snatched away from her flowery
meadows and dragged below to be Queen of the Dead. Three months she
lives with him, the bride of Death, in the dark world of shades, and
all the earth mourns for her. The trees shed their leaves like tears
on her grave, and through their bare branches the wind sings a dirge.
But in the spring-time she returns to her mother, and the earth at her
coming puts on her gayest robe, and the birds sing their brightest to
welcome her back. At her kiss the almond-tree blushes into bloom, and
the brook babbles merrily over the stones, and the primrose and violet
and dancing daffodil spring up wherever her feet have touched. Go,
then, to Demeter's shrine; for if thy love is to be sought on earth,
she will tell thee where to go; but if to find him thou must cross the
dark river of death, her child Persephone will receive thee."

He then pointed out to her the path to the village, where she could
get shelter for the night, and Psyche, thanking him, went on her way,
gladdened at heart by the genial smile of the wild woodland god.

That night she slept in a shepherd's cottage, and in the morning the
children went out with her to point out the road she must go. The
shepherd's wife, standing at the door, waved to her with her eyes full
of tears. She had maidens of her own, and she pitied the delicate
wanderer, for Psyche's beautiful face had shed a light in the rude
shepherd's hut which the inmates would never forget.


VIII

So Psyche went on her journey, often weak and fainting for food, and
rough men laughed at her torn clothes and bleeding feet. But she did
not heed their jeers and insults, and often those who had laughed the
loudest when she was a little way off, were the first to hush their
rude companions when they saw her near. For her face was fairer than
the dawn and purer than the evening star, so that the wicked man
turned away from his sin when he saw it, and the heart of the watcher
was comforted as he sat by the sick man's bed.

At length, as Pan had told her, she came to the rich corn-lands where
Demeter has her shrine. Already the valleys were standing thick with
corn, for it was close on harvest-time, and on the hill-sides the
purple grapes hung in heavy clusters beneath the tall elm-branches. As
she drew near the temple, a band of harvesters came out. They had just
placed the first-fruits of the corn in the shrine, and now they were
trooping to the fields, a merry throng of young men and maidens.
Psyche stood back shyly as they passed, but they heeded her not, or at
most cast a curious glance at her ragged clothes and bruised feet.
When they had passed her, and she had heard their merry laughter and
chatter die away down the lane, she ventured to enter the temple.
Within all was dark and peaceful. Before the altar lay sheaves of
corn and rich purple clusters of grapes, whilst the floor was strewn
with the seeds and bruised fruits which the harvesters had let fall
when they carried in their offerings. Hidden in a dark corner Psyche
found the temple-sweeper's broom, and, taking it, she swept up the
floor of the temple. Then, turning to the altar steps, she stretched
forth her hands and prayed,

"O Demeter, great Earth Mother, giver of the golden harvest--O thou
who swellest the green corn in the ear, and fillest the purple vine
with gladdening juice, have mercy on one who has sinned. For the sake
of thy child, Persephone, the Maiden, have pity on me, and tell me
where in the wide world I can find Eros, my lord, or whether to the
dark land I must go to search for him."

So she prayed, and waited for an answer; but all was still and dark in
the temple, and at length she turned sorrowfully away, and leant her
head against a pillar and wept. And, because she had walked many a
long mile that day, and had not eaten since dawn, she sank down
exhausted on the ground, and gradually her sobs grew fewer and
fainter, and she fell asleep.

As she slept she dreamt the temple was dark no more, but into every
corner shone a soft clear light, and looking round to see whence it
came, she saw, on the altar steps, the form of a woman, but taller and
grander than any woman of earth. Her robe of brown gold fell in
stately folds to her feet, and on her head was a wreath of scarlet
poppies. Her hair lay in thick plaits on her bosom, like ripe corn in
the harvest, and she leant on a large two-handed scythe. With great
mild eyes she looked at Psyche as one who has known grief and the
loss of loved ones, and can read the sorrows of men's hearts.

"Psyche," she said, "I have heard thy prayer, and I know thy grief,
for I, too, have wandered over the earth to find the child of my love.
And thou must likewise wander and bear to the full the burden of thy
sin; for so the gods have willed it. This much can I tell thee, and no
more. Thou must go yet further from the land of thy birth, and cross
many a rough mountain and foaming torrent, and never let thy heart
grow faint till thou come to a temple of Hera, the wife of Zeus the
All-seeing. And if she find thee worthy, she will tell thee how thou
must seek thy love."

So saying, she faded from her sight, and Psyche awoke and found the
temple cold and dark. But in her heart she cherished the image of the
great Earth Mother, with her large eyes full of pity, and set out
comforted on her journey.

Too long would it be to tell of all her wanderings and all the
hardships of the road, but many a moon had waxed and waned before she
stood on the brow of a hill looking down on Hera's shining temple.
Down the hill she went, and up the marble steps, and men stood aside
as she passed, for her face was fairer than before, and she no longer
shrank back like a hunted thing, but walked with the swinging gait of
those whose feet the kind earth has hardened, and the breezes of
heaven have fanned the fire in their eyes. In her heart she knew that
she had conquered and borne the terrors of the path with no coward's
fears, and she prayed that Hera might find her worthy of doing great
deeds to win back her lord. Then she stood before the altar, and made
her prayer,

"O Hera, golden-throned, who sittest on the right hand of Zeus--O thou
who, when the marriage-torch is lit, doth lead the bride and
bridegroom to their home, and pourest blessings on their wedded love,
have mercy on me, and show me where I may find my lord. Far have I
wandered, and drunk deep of sorrow's cup, but my heart is strong for
any task that shall win back my love to me."

Thus she prayed, and bowed her head before the great white statue of
the goddess. Even as she spoke, the statue seemed to change and rise
from the ivory throne in the shape of a woman tall and exceeding fair.
Her robes were like the clouds at sunset, and her veil like the
mountain mist; on her head she wore a crown of gold, and the lightning
played about her feet as she gazed at Psyche with eyes that pierced
through to her soul.

"Psyche," she said, "I have heard thy prayer, and I know that thou art
true. For I am the wife of Zeus, who seeth all things, and he hideth
naught from me. Well I know that thou hast wandered far, and suffered
at the hands of men. But greater trials await thee yet, before thou
canst find thy lord. Thou must be slave to foam-born Aphrodite, the
pitiless goddess of Love. And she will try thee sorely, and put thee
to many a hard test ere she will forgive thee and think thee worthy of
her son Eros, or of the godhead men gave thee long ago. But if thou
overcomest her wrath, thou hast overcome death itself, and naught can
part thee from thy lord again. Go, then, to where she holds her court
in a pleasant valley by the sea, and forget not that the gods bless
tenfold those who waste not the power that is given them, how feeble
soe'er it be."

So saying, she faded slowly away till Psyche found herself standing
once more before the pale white statue. Then she turned and went
through the silent temple, and out into the sunlight, and asked for
the road which would lead her to the sea and Aphrodite's pleasant
vale.


IX

For many a long day she journeyed, till at length she saw the blue sea
far away and a pleasant valley sloping to the shore. Here the waves
broke in laughing ripples on the beach, and the leaves danced gaily on
the trees in the soft west wind; for Aphrodite, born of the foam, the
fairest of all the goddesses, held her court there, surrounded by her
nymphs and maidens. As she sat on her golden throne they danced around
her with their white arms gleaming, and crowned her with roses,
singing the while the song of her beauty.

"O foam-born Aphrodite, Queen of Love, fairest of Time's deathless
daughters. Thee the golden-snooded Hours kiss as they pass and the
circling Seasons crown with grace. Before thee all was fire and chaos,
but at thy coming like sped to like. The earth decked herself with
flowers, and the nightingale sang to her mate on the bough, and in the
pale moonbeams youth and maiden sped hand in hand through the glade.
Thy smile is like sunshine on ripples, but the flash of thine eyes
like the death-bearing gleam of the lightning; for not always art thou
kind. The heart of the scorner thou breakest, and art jealous for thy
rites. Wherefore north and south and east and west men worship thee,
both now and evermore, O goddess of ten thousand names!"

As Psyche drew near the nymphs espied her. With loud cries they rushed
forward, and flinging chains of roses about her, dragged her forward
before the throne.

"A prisoner, a prisoner!" they cried--"a mortal, O queen, who has
dared to enter thy sacred vale! What fate shall be hers?"

And Psyche knelt trembling before the throne. She dared not look up,
for she felt the eyes of the goddess upon her, and the blaze of her
anger burned through to her heart.

"Psyche, what doest thou here? Knowest thou not that long ago I loved
thee not, because thy beauty taught men to forget my dues, and mine
own son didst thou lead to disobey my word? By thy folly hast thou
lost him; and glad am I that he is rid of thy toils. Think not that
thy tears will move me. Those who enter my sacred vale become the
lowest of my slaves, and woe to them if they fail to do the task I set
them. Verily, thine shall be no light one, or I am not the Queen of
Love and Beauty."

"O lady," answered Psyche, "'twas to be thy slave and to do thy will
that I came to thy sacred vale, if haply I might turn thy wrath to
love and prove myself not all unworthy of thy son. Great was my sin, O
goddess, when I doubted him; but many are the tears I have shed, and
weary the way I have wandered in search of him--yea, even to the dark
underworld would I go, if so be it I could find him there. As for the
worship that men paid me, Zeus, who searcheth all hearts, knoweth
that I lifted not mine in pride above thee. Nay, doth not every gift
of beauty come from thee, O mighty one? If my face hath any fairness,
'tis that it shadoweth forth thine image. Weak are the hearts of men,
lady, and hard is it for them to look on the sun in his might. Be not
angry, then, if through the mortal image that perisheth, they stretch
forth blind hands towards the beauty that fadeth not away. And now on
my knees I beg thee, O queen, to set me thy hardest tasks, that I may
prove my love or die for mine unworthiness."

As Psyche was speaking the face of the goddess softened, and she
answered her more gently.

"Thy words please me, maiden, for the gods love those who shrink not
back from trial. Three tasks will I set thee, and if in these thou
fail not, one harder than all the others will I give thee, whereby
thou shalt win thy love and immortality. Go, maidens, and lead her to
my garner, that she may sort the golden grain ere the sun's first rays
gild the pine-tops."


X

At the command of the goddess the nymphs gathered round Psyche, and,
binding her hands with chains of roses, led her away to the garner.
Here they set her free, and with peals of merry laughter bade her
farewell.

"Pray to the hundred-handed one, maiden, to help thee," cried one;
"thy two hands will not go far."

"Nay, an hundred hundred hands could not sort the grain by sunrise,"
said another.

"Better to work with two hands," said Psyche, "than idly to pray for
ten thousand."

But for all her brave answer her heart sank as she looked at the task
before her; for she stood in the largest garner it had ever been her
lot to see--wide and lofty as her father's palace-halls, and all the
floor was strewn with seeds and grain of every kind--wheat, oats and
barley, millet, beans and maize, which she must sort each after its
kind into a separate heap before the sun should rise. However, she set
diligently to work, and minute after minute, hour after hour passed
swiftly by, and the heaps kept growing by her side; yet for all her
toil 'twas but a tiny corner of the garner she had cleared. Feverishly
she worked on, not daring to look at what remained to do. Her back
ached, her arms grew stiff, and her eyes felt heavy as lead, but she
worked as one in a dream, and her head kept falling on her breast for
weariness, till at length she could hold out no longer, but fell fast
asleep upon the cold stone floor.

While she slept a marvellous thing happened. From every hole and crack
there appeared an army of ants--black ants, white ants, red
ants--swarming and tumbling over each other in their haste. Over the
whole floor of the garner they spread, and each one carried a grain of
seed, which it placed upon its own heap and ran quickly back for
another. Such myriads were there, and so quickly did they work, that
by the time the first ray of the sun peeped in at the windows the
floor was clear, save for the heaps of sorted grain standing piled up
in the midst. The bright light pouring in at the window fell upon
Psyche as she slept, and with a start she awoke and began feverishly
to feel about for the grain. When her eyes became accustomed to the
light, how great was her joy and thankfulness to see the neat heaps
before her! And as she looked round, wondering who could have been so
kind a friend, she saw the last stragglers of the ants hurrying away
to every crack and cranny.

"O kind little people," she cried, "how can I thank you?"

She had no time to say more, for the door was thrown open, and in a
golden flood of sunlight the nymphs came dancing in. Seeing the floor
cleared and the bright heaps lying on the floor, they stopped short in
amazement.

"Verily thou hast wrought to some purpose, maiden," said one.

"Nay, she could never have done it of herself," said another.

"True, O bright-haired ones!" answered Psyche. "I toiled and toiled,
and my labour did but mock me, and at length my strength gave way and
I fell asleep upon the floor. But the little folk had pity on me, and
came out in myriads and sorted out the grain till all was finished.
And lo! the task is accomplished."

"We will see what our queen shall say to this," they answered.

And binding her once more in their rosy chains, they led her to
Aphrodite.

"Hast thou swept my garner, Psyche, and sorted the grain each after
its kind?" she asked.

"Thy garner is swept and thy grain is sorted, lady," she replied, "and
therein I wrought the little my feeble strength could bear. When I
failed the little folk came forth and did the task."

Trembling, she waited for the answer, for she feared that in the very
first trial she had failed. But Aphrodite answered,

"Why dost thou tremble, Psyche? The task is accomplished, and that is
all I ask; for well do I know the little folk help only those who help
themselves. Two more tasks must thou do before I put thee to the final
proof. Seest thou yon shining river? On the other bank graze my flocks
and herds. Precious are they beyond all telling, for their skins are
of pure gold. Go, now, and fetch me one golden lock by sunset."

So saying, she signed to the nymphs to release Psyche, who went at
once towards the stream, light-hearted; for this task, she thought,
would be no hard one after the last.

As she approached the river she saw the cattle feeding on the further
bank--sheep and oxen, cows and goats--their golden skins gleaming in
the sunlight. Looking about for some means of crossing, she espied a
small boat moored among the reeds. Entering it, she unloosed the rope
and pushed out into the stream. As she did so, one of the bulls on the
further shore looked up from his grazing and saw her. With a snort of
rage he galloped down the field, followed by the rest of the herd.
Right down to the water's edge they came, lashing their tails and
goading with their horns, and an ill landing would it have been for
Psyche had she reached the shore. Hastily she pushed back among the
reeds, and pondered what she must do; but the more she thought the
darker grew her lot. To get one single hair from the golden herd she
must cross the stream, and, if she crossed, the wild bulls would goad
her to death. At length in despair she determined to meet her doom, if
only to show that her love was stronger than death. As she bent over
the boat to loose the rope, a light breeze set the reeds a-whispering,
and one seemed to speak to her.

[Illustration: She unloosed the rope and pushed out into the stream.]

"Fair lady, leave us not, for those who reach the further shore return
not to us again."

"Farewell, then, for ever, gentle reed, for I have a task to do,
though I die in the vain attempt."

"Ah, lady, stay here and play with us. Too young and fair art thou to
die."

"No coward is young or fair, kind reed. And before sunset I must win a
lock from a golden fleece yonder, or I shall never find my love
again."

And she let loose the rope.

"Stay, stay, gentle maiden. There I can help thee, for all my life
have I watched the golden herds, and I know their ways. All day long
they feed in the pleasant pasture, and woe to those who would cross
over when the sun is high in heaven. But towards evening, when he is
sinking in the far west, the herdsman of Aphrodite cometh and driveth
them home to their stalls for the night. Then mayest thou cross with
safety and win a lock from the golden herd."

But Psyche laughed aloud at his words.

"Thou biddest me steal the apples when the tree is bare. Thy heart is
kind, O reed, but thy tongue lacketh wisdom. Fare thee well."

"Not so fast, lady. Seest thou not the tall ram yonder by the
thorn-bush? Sweet grows the grass beneath its shade, yet to reach it
he must leave a golden tribute on the thorns. Even now there is a lock
of his fleece caught in the branches. Stay with us till the herds are
gone, lady, and then canst thou win the lock of gold."

"O kindest of reeds, forgive my blindness. 'Tis more than my life thou
hast saved, for, with the task undone, I should lose my love for
ever."

So all day long she stayed and talked with the reeds; and they told
her that often folk came down to the stream and pushed out for the
other bank. But when the cattle rushed raging to the water's edge they
turned back afraid, and dared not venture forth again, but went home
disconsolate. And so they heard not the whispering of the reeds nor
learnt the secret of winning the golden lock.

Now the shadows were falling fast, and away in the distance Psyche
heard the horn of the herdsman and his voice calling the cattle home.
At the sound they lifted their heads, and made for the gate on the far
side of the field. As soon as they were safely through, Psyche pushed
out the boat and rowed to the other bank. Swiftly she made for the
thorn-bush and picked the golden lock from the bough, and as the boat
glided back to the reeds, the sun sank low behind the hills. Close at
hand she heard the laughter of the nymphs as they came to see whether
the task were done. With a smile she drew the lock of gold from her
bosom, and, marvelling, they led her back to Aphrodite.

"Thou hast a brave heart, Psyche," said the goddess, as she looked at
the golden lock at her feet.

"The bravest heart could not have won this lock, lady, without knowing
the secret which the reeds whispered to me."

"Well do I know that, Psyche. But 'tis only the pure in heart that can
understand the voice of the wind in the reeds; and thus doubly have I
tried thee. Take now this crystal bowl for thy third task. Beyond this
pleasant vale thou wilt come to a dark and barren plain. On the far
side a mighty mountain rears his peak to heaven, and from the summit a
spring gushes forth and falls headlong over the precipice down into
the gulf below. Go now and get me a draught of that stream, but see
that thou break not the goblet on the way, for its worth is beyond all
telling."

In truth, as she held it out, the crystal gleamed brighter than the
rainbow. Psyche took the goblet, and the first rays of the sun found
her already on the plain. Far away on the other side the mountain-peak
rose barren and black against the sky, and she hurried on as fast as
her feet would go, lest night should fall ere she had filled the
goblet. On and on she went, and at length she drew near to the
mountain and looked about for a path leading up to the summit. But
naught could she see save rocks and boulders and masses of crumbling
stones, and there was nothing for it but to set to work to climb the
rough mountain-side. Clasping the goblet tightly in one hand, she
clung to the rocks as best she might with the other, fearing at every
step that she would slip and break her precious burden. How she ever
reached the top she never knew, but at length she stood, bruised and
torn, upon the summit. What was her dismay when she saw that the
mountain-peak was divided by a mighty cleft, and across the abyss she
saw the stream of water gushing out from the steep rock a hundred feet
and more below the summit! Even had she toiled down again and up on
the other side the rock fell away so smooth and sheer that a
mountain-goat would have no ledge on which to rest his foot.

Psyche sat down upon a rock to think what she must do, and the more
she thought the more she felt that her last hour had come.

"For the only way I can reach the water is to throw myself into the
bottomless abyss, where the stream flows deep down into the bowels of
the earth; and I should be dashed to pieces, but perchance the King of
the Underworld would have mercy on me, and let my soul return but once
on earth to bear the crystal bowl to Aphrodite."

So saying, she stood and bade farewell to the earth and the pleasant
sunlight and the fair flowers that she loved, and prepared to throw
herself over the mountain-side. As she was about to spring from the
edge, she heard the whirring of wings above her head, and a mighty
eagle flew down and settled on the rock beside her.

"Far up above thy head, in the blue sky, have I watched thee, Psyche,
and seen thy labours on the mountain-side. Too brave and true art thou
to go to thy death. Give me the goblet, and I will fill it. Knowest
thou that yonder stream is a jet which springeth up from dark Cocytus,
the River of Wailing, which watereth the shores of the dead? No mortal
can touch of that water and live, or bear it away in a vessel of
earth. But this goblet is the gift of Zeus almighty, and I am his
messenger--the only bird of heaven that can look on the sun in his
might. Give me the cup, then, and I will fill it, and bear it to the
mountain-foot, that thou mayest carry it back in safety."

With tears of joy and thankfulness Psyche gave him the goblet, and as
he flew away across the dark chasm, swift as an arrow from the bow,
she turned and sped down the mountain-side, heeding not the stones and
boulders, so glad was she at heart. At the foot she found the eagle
awaiting her.

"O mightiest of birds, how can I thank thee?" she cried.

"To have served thee, lady, is all the thanks I need. Farewell, and
may the gods prosper thee in thy last great trial."

And he spread his mighty wings and flew away. Psyche watched him till
he grew but a tiny speck in the blue of the sky. Then she turned and
hastened across the plain with her precious goblet of water.

The nymphs danced put to meet her as before, and led her to Aphrodite.

"I see thou art fearless and true, maiden," she said, when Psyche had
told her tale. "Twice hast thou faced death without flinching, and now
must thou go down to his own land; for no woman is worthy of my son's
love, if she possess not beauty immortal that fadeth not with passing
years. And she alone, the Queen of the Dead, can give thee this gift.
Take this casket, then, and go and kneel before her and beg her to
give thee therein the essence of that beauty. When thou hast it, see
thou hasten swiftly back and open not the casket; for if its fumes
escape and overcome thee in the world below, thou must dwell for ever
with the shades."

So Psyche took the casket, and her heart sank within her at the
thought of that dread journey. And the nymphs waved sadly to her as
she went away, for never yet had they looked on one who had returned
from the dark land of shadows.


XI

Away from the pleasant vale went Psyche, for she knew full well that
nowhere in that fair place could she find a way down to the world
below. As a child, when she had lived in her father's halls, her nurse
had told her strange tales of dark and fearsome caves which men called
the mouth of Hades, and how those who went down them never returned;
or if one perchance, more favoured than the rest, came back into the
sunlight, his face was pale and his strength departed, and he talked
wildly of strange things that none could understand.

Far over the country-side she wandered and asked for the gate of
Hades, and some pitied her weakness, and some laughed at her
foolishness, and all men thought her mad.

"For beggar and king, for wise and foolish, the road to Hades is one,"
they said, "and all must travel it soon or late. If thou seekest it,
in very sooth, go throw thyself from off yon lofty tower, and thou
wilt find it fast enough."

Sadly she went and stood on the tower, for she saw no other way. Once
again she bid farewell to the earth and the sunlight, and was about to
leap from a pinnacle, when she thought she heard a voice calling her
by name, and she hushed her breath and listened.

"Psyche, Psyche," she heard, "why wilt thou pollute my stones with
blood? I have done thee no wrong, yet thou wouldst make men hate me
and shun the rock on which I stand. As for thee, it would avail thee
nought, for thy soul would dwell for ever in the Kingdom of the Dead,
and the shadow of thyself, faint and formless, would glide about my
walls, and with thin-voiced wailing weep for thy lost love; men,
hearing it, would flee from me, and for lack of the builder's care, my
stones would fall asunder, and of all my proud beauty naught would be
left, save a mound of moss-grown stones and thy spirit's mournful
guardianship."

Then Psyche knelt and kissed the stones.

"Poor tower," she said, "I would not harm thee. Thou canst tell me,
perchance, some better way, for I must bear this casket to the Queen
of the Dead, and beg for a gift of beauty immortal, that I may return
to the earth worthy of my lord."

"Hadst thou thrown thyself over the edge, thou wouldst never have come
to the Queen of the Dead, but wailing and forlorn wouldst have
wandered on the shores of the Land that has no name; for betwixt that
land and Hades flows the wide Stygian stream. One boat there is that
can cross it, and therein sits Charon, the ferryman of souls. Greedy
of gain is he and hard of heart, and none will he take across who bear
not a coin of gold in their mouths. And the pale ghosts of those who
have died away from their loved ones, when none were by to pay the
last rites of the dead and place the gold coin in their mouths--all
these flock wailing around him and beg him with heart-rending cries to
take them over the stream. But to all their entreaties he turneth a
deaf ear and beateth them back with his oar. E'en hadst thou prevailed
on him and come to the palace of pale Persephone, thou couldst not
have entered in; for at the gates sits Cerberus, the three-headed
hound of Hell, and none may pass him without a cake of barley-bread.
But his soul loveth the taste of earth-grown corn, and while he
devours it the giver may pass by unscathed."

"The coin of gold and the barley-cake I can get," she said, "but how I
can reach the Underworld alive I know not."

"Not far from hence thou wilt find the cave men call the Gate of
Hades. In ignorance they name it, for no man hath proved where it
leads. All the long years I have stood upon this rock have I watched
the entrance to that cave, and men have come up and looked inside, and
the boldest have entered in; but always have they come swiftly back,
staggering like drunken men, with pale faces and wild eyes full of
fear, and about them hangs the smell of the noisome vapours that rise
up from the gates of the dead; and the old wives sitting by the
fireside nod their grey heads together. 'Tis the tale that our mothers
told us long ago and their mothers before them,' they mutter. 'Tis
surely the Gate of Hades, and those who venture too far will never
come back again.' They have guessed aright, maiden, and down that dark
cavern lies thy path."

"But if those who venture too far never return, how shall I bear back
the essence of undying beauty in the casket?"

"Instead of one gold piece, take two, and two loaves of fresh-baked
barley-bread. One gold coin to the ferryman and one loaf to the hound
must thou give as thou goest, and keep the rest for thy return, and
from greed they will let thee pass back again. Tie the casket in thy
bosom, and put the gold coins in thy mouth, and take the barley-loaves
one in each hand. See that thou set them not down, or the pale ghosts
will snatch them away; for the taste of the earth-grown meal giveth a
semblance of warmth to their cold forms, and for a brief space they
feel once more the glow of life. So by many a wile will they seek to
make thee set down the bread; but do thou answer them never a word,
for he who toucheth or answereth one of these becometh even as they
are."

Psyche thanked him for his counsel, and went forth to beg the two gold
coins and barley-loaves, and for love of her fair face the people gave
it gladly. When all was ready, she set out towards the cave. About its
mouth the brambles grew tall and thick, and the ivy hung down in long
festoons, for none had ventured in for many a long year. As best she
might, she cut a way through the prickly hedge, and stood in the
shadow of the cave, and the drip of the water from the roof sent a
faint echo through the vaults. Through the dark pools she went,
through mud and through mire, and the green slime hung like a dank
pall about the walls. On and on she hastened, till her head swam round
and her heart turned sick within her; for round her floated a mist of
poisonous vapour, which choked her and made her gasp for breath, and
monstrous shapes swept past--the Furies and Harpies and hundred-headed
beasts which guard the gate to Hades. Their cries and shrieks filled
the air, and every moment she shrank back, terrified that they would
tear her limb from limb, as they bore down on her with the whirr of
their mighty wings and their wild locks flying in the wind. Across the
path they stood and waved her back, and her heart turned cold with
fear; but she pressed onward with hurrying steps, and lo! when she
came up to them the shapes clove asunder like mist before the sun, and
she passed through them, and found they were but smoke.

And so she came to the nameless land that lies betwixt earth and
Hades; a barren, boundless plain it is, with never a tree or shrub to
break the dulness of its sad mud flats. Up and down it wander the
shades of those whose bodies the kind earth has never covered, and
they wring their hands and wail to their dear ones above, to grant
them burial and the rites of the dead. For Charon, the grim ferryman,
beats them back from his boat, because they have no coin, and they are
doomed to dwell for ever in the land that has no name.

As she was crossing the dismal plain, an old man came towards her
beating a laden ass. Old and weak was he, and could scarce stagger
along by the side of the beast, and as he came up to Psyche the cords
broke that bound the burden on the ass's back, and the faggots he
carried were scattered all about. And he set up a dismal wailing, and
wrung his pale withered hands.

"Gracious damsel, have mercy on an old man, and help me load my ass
once more."

But Psyche remembered the words of the tower, and she clung the
tighter to the loaves of bread, though she longed to help the feeble
shade.

[Illustration: "Help, help! I drown in this foul stream!"]

Onward she went till she came to the banks of the Styx, the mighty
river of Hell, by which the great gods swear. Nine times it winds its
snaky coils about the shores of Hades, and across its leaden waters
Charon, the boatman of the dead, ferries backward and forward for
ever. When he saw Psyche, he hailed her, and asked her for the coin.
Answering him never a word, she held out one coin with her lips, and
as he took it she shuddered. For his breath was as the north wind
blowing across the snow, and his eyes were like a fish's, cold and
dull.

"Welcome, sweet maiden. 'Tis not often we get a fare like thee, my
boat and I;" and he laughed a hard, thin laugh, like the cracking of
ice in a thaw, and beneath her weight the boat creaked in chorus.

Out into the stream he pushed with his pole, and then set to with his
oar, and the rise and fall of the blade made never a sound in those
dull leaden waters. As they neared the middle of the stream, Psyche
saw two pale arms rise up above the waves, and the head of an old man,
who cried out to her piteously,

"Help, help! I drown in this foul stream! Ah, for pity's sake put out
one finger to save me!"

And Psyche turned aside to hide her tears; for the face was the face
of her father, and his cries pierced through to her heart. As the boat
passed by he sank with a moan beneath the waves, and she saw him no
more.

At length they reached the shore of Hades, and she saw three paths
before her leading upwards from the landing-stage. As she stood, not
knowing which to take, the old man beckoned to her.

"I know not whither thou art bound, lady, for thou bearest not on
thee the mark of the dead. The souls of the wicked I know, for about
them fly the Furies, the avengers of sin, and hound them down the
left-hand path, through Periphlegethon, the river of fire--down, down
to the utmost depths of Tartarus. And the souls of the brave shine
forth like stars in the darkness, and they take the right-hand path to
the Elysian fields of light, where the breeze blows bright and fresh
and the golden flowers are glowing. The middle path leadeth to the
palace of pale Persephone, but that way only the gods and the children
of the gods may go, or those who bear with them some token from the
Immortals."

Then Psyche showed him Aphrodite's casket, and turned up the middle
path. Through a dark wood she went, and came out upon a plain. Here
she saw three aged women weaving at a loom, and they cried out to her
in weak, quavering voices,

"Oh, maiden, thine eyes are young and thy fingers supple. Come help us
unravel the thread."

But for the third time she turned aside, and went quickly on her way,
and when she looked back over her shoulder the loom and the hags had
vanished away.

So at length she came to the palace of Persephone. The roof and
columns were all of pure silver, which shone with a pale light through
the murk and gloom, like the shimmer of pale moonbeams on a cloudy
night. Above the heads of the pillars ran a frieze of strange device.
It told of Night and Chaos, and of the birth of Time, and how the sons
of Earth rose up against the gods in deadly battle, and were hurled
into the depths of Tartarus by the thunderbolts of Zeus. And it
showed how Prometheus the Titan gave fire to mortal men, so that they
learnt all manner of crafts, and became the masters of all living
things, and like the gods for wisdom. But they ruled by the law of the
strongest, and said that might was right, and begat the foul forms of
Pestilence and War and red-handed Murder. The other side told of the
things that would come to pass when Time and Death should be no more,
and Love should rule the universe. On that side all the forms were
fair and all the faces beautiful, and the breeze played through
pleasant places where the flowers never fade. In the centre of the
pediment, with mighty wings overshadowing either side, stood a mighty
figure, Anangke, great Necessity, the mother of gods and men. From the
one side she looked dark and terrible, and the world trembled at her
frown, but from the other she was fairer than the day, and by
unchanging law she drew all things after her till they should be
perfected.

On the palace steps before the doorway sat Cerberus, the three-headed
watch-dog. When he saw Psyche approaching he began to growl, and his
growl was like the rattle of thunder far away. As she drew nearer he
barked furiously and snarled at her, baring his white gleaming fangs.
Quickly she threw him one of the barley loaves, and while he was
devouring it, she slipped gently past, and stood within the courtyard
of the palace. All was silent and deserted, and her footsteps, as they
fell on the marble pavement, sent no echo through the colonnades; for
it seemed that even sound must die in that lifeless air. She passed
through great doors of bronze into a lofty hall. In the shadowy
depths of it she saw a great throne raised, and on it sat the Queen of
the Dead. About her stood two handmaids, and their names were Memory
and Sleep. One fanned her with great poppy-leaves, and as she did so
the eyes of the queen grew heavy and dim, and she sat as one in a
trance. But when this one grew weary of fanning, anon the other would
hold up before her a great mirror of polished steel, and when she
looked into it the colour would rush into her pale cheeks, and her
eyes would glow like coals of fire, for in the flash of the steel she
saw earth's flowery meadows, and remembered that for three months only
did she live in the gloom and the shade; and she knew, moreover, that
one day the circling seasons would stay their course, and decay and
death would pass away, and when that time came she would return no
more to the murk and gloom, but dwell for ever in the sunshine and the
flowers. A magic mirror is that which Memory holds, and few are there
who can bear to look on its brightness, but those whose eyes are
strong gaze into its depths, and learn that knowledge and remembrance
are one.

With timid steps did Psyche cross the hall, and knelt upon the steps
of the throne.

"Child of Earth, what dost thou here?" asked the queen. "This is no
place for living souls."

"O mighty one, 'tis a boon I beg of thee," said Psyche, and drew from
her bosom Aphrodite's casket. "Give me, I pray thee, the gift of
undying beauty in this casket, that I may return above worthy of my
lord."

"'Tis a great boon thou askest. Nevertheless, for thy bravery's sake I
will give it thee. For many are they who set out to find it, but few
have the heart to come so far."

Thereupon she took the casket in her hands, and breathed into it, and
her breath was as the smoke of incense on the altar.

"Take it and return swiftly whence thou earnest, and see thou open it
not till thou comest upon earth. For in the land of the dead my breath
is death, but above it is life and beauty immortal. Fare thee well."

With a glad heart Psyche rose from her knees, and sped through the
silent palace. She threw the second loaf to Cerberus as she passed,
and for the second coin of gold Charon took her once more across in
his boat. This time no sad phantoms cried to her for help, and she
knew that it was for the sake of the earth-grown meal that they had
stood in her path before.

At last she stood once more in the sunlight, and joy lent wings to her
feet as she sped across the plain and away to Aphrodite's pleasant
vale. With the casket in her hand, she knelt before the throne, but
Aphrodite put out her hand and raised her up.

"Kneel no more to me, Psyche, for now thou art one of us. But open the
casket and drink into thy very soul the life and beauty that will
never die."

Her smile was brighter than sunshine on the shimmering waves, and the
touch of her hand made Psyche's blood run like fire through her veins.
Scarce knowing what she did, she opened the casket. The fumes rose up
in a cloud about her head, and she knew no more till she felt herself
moving upwards, upwards. As life came slowly back she opened her eyes,
and looked into the face of him she had seen but once. His rainbow
wings were spread above her, and his strong arms held her close, and
he looked into her eyes with the look that mingles two souls into one.

"Beloved," he whispered, "Love has conquered all things. In thy
darkest hour of trial I watched over thee, and gave thee strength, and
now we two will dwell for ever in the courts of heaven, and teach the
hearts of men to love as we love."

[Illustration]



Hero and Leander


One sunny day in April long ago, a maiden sat in a lonely tower
looking out across the Hellespont. At her feet the blue ripples lapped
lazily on the beach and played a soothing lullaby upon the stones, and
the white-sailed ships floated slowly down the stream from Sestos,
carrying their rich freights of corn and merchandise. To the north she
could see the port of Sestos, with the great walls running down from
the city to the harbour, and the masts of the ships as they lay at
anchor by the quay. Across the water, facing the tower, stood Abydos,
with its palaces and houses nestling white at the foot of the low
green hills. So narrow is the sea that runs between Sestos and Abydos,
and so swiftly does the current flow, that the ancients used to think
it was a great river running down from Propontis and the stormy
Euxine, and emptying their overflowing waters into the wide Ægean
main. So they called it the broad Hellespont, for the rivers of Greece
were but narrow streams beside it.

As she looked across the sunlit waters the maiden sighed, and turned
wearily to an old dame who sat spinning in a corner of the room.

"Good mother," she said, "how many years didst thou say we two have
lived in this wave-washed tower?"

"'Tis close on twenty years, my dear, since I brought thee here, a
tiny babe in my arms."

"Twenty years!" sighed the maiden. "Twenty centuries had passed by
more swiftly in the bright busy world out yonder. How long is a
woman's life, good nurse?"

"With the blessing of Heaven she may live for four score years, my
child."

"Four score years--four times as long as I have lived already! I can
well dispense with the blessing of Heaven."

"Nay; hush, hush!" cried the old woman, and stopped her spinning
hastily. "What ails thee, Hero? Thou wast never wont to speak such
dreadful words."

The girl threw herself on her knees beside her, and laid her head upon
her lap and sobbed. The old nurse drew her fingers tenderly over her
long black hair, and waited for the storm of passion to be spent.

"I am tired--tired of this lonely life," sobbed the maiden. "Why am I
shut up here, all alone?"

"Thou knowest the reason full well, my child. If thou goest forth into
the world, a great sorrow will come upon thee, and drive thee to death
in the flower of thy youth. Such was the oracle of the gods concerning
thee. Thy mother--poor young thing!--scarce lived to hold thee to her
breast, and when she died she put thee in my arms. 'Take her away,
nurse, far from the haunts of men, and never let her out into the
cruel world. Go, live with her in some lonely tower by the sea, and
make her a priestess to pitiless, foam-born Aphrodite. Night and day,
as soon as she can lisp a baby prayer, let her burn incense before the
altar of the goddess, and perchance she will have mercy on her, and
save her from her fate. Full well I know that 'tis with her it rests
to strike down my child or to save her, even as it was she, the
goddess of Love, who laid her cruel hand on me, so that now I lie
a-dying. Ah! save my child from the fate that has been mine.' I did as
she bade me, and surely we have not been unhappy, thou and I,
together, all these years?"

And she stroked the girl's cheek tenderly, and sighed as she thought
how, for many months past, it had grown paler week by week.

"Ah, think me not ungrateful!" cried Hero. "Thou knowest that I love
thee, and would never leave thee. But my heart is restless, and I long
to set foot beyond this tower and see a great town and streets and the
faces of my fellow-men."

Then she rose from her knees, and led the old nurse to the window.

"There!" she cried, pointing towards Sestos; "dost thou see where the
white highway runs down into the city--how a crowd of pilgrims throng
towards the gate? See, too, the steep pathway that winds upwards from
the harbour--how the folk move ever one way, up, up, to the temple of
Aphrodite on the hill! How often have I watched them year by year as
they gather together for the great feast of Adonis! Yet I, who all my
life long have been Aphrodite's priestess--I have never been inside
her temple or joined with those who throng from far and wide to pay
her worship at this glad season. Verily, the goddess hath good cause
to be angered with me if I neglect her dues. Good nurse, let me go
to-morrow and join in the procession of the maidens, and let me lay my
tribute of flowers before her altar, that she may bless me and save me
from my evil fate."

But the old nurse was very troubled at her words.

"My child, thou hast thine own shrine within the house where thou
canst burn incense and offer up flowers to Aphrodite. She will answer
thy prayers as well from here as from the crowded temple in the town."

"Then why do men build her great pillared temples, and throng from far
and near to keep her feast, if the fireside shrine and the simple
prayer would please her as well? Nay, she loveth rich gifts and music
and singing and the heads of many bowing as one man before her image.
Ah, nurse, let me go--let me go."

"My child, why wouldst thou go when thou knowest that the world can
only bring thee sorrow? Stay here with me in peace."

"Nay, there is no peace here for me. Aphrodite is angry, and she will
slay me by a slow and cruel death if I do not keep her feast this
year. Should I, her priestess, stay away, when even the meanest of the
folk gather together in her honour? All these years I have not gone,
and now she will stay her hand no more. As for the world and its
cruelty, fear not for that. Thou thyself shalt go with me, and stay by
my side till I join the procession of priestesses and maidens. Then I
will go up with them to the temple, and in their midst I shall be as
far from the world as in this tower. I long to stand within the great
white temple and hear the chanting of the priests. I long to see the
gleaming image of the goddess, and the statue of the risen Adonis, and
the altars sweet with incense and flowers. Ah, nurse, let me go, and
all the rest of the year, till the glad season comes round once more,
I will stay with thee in this tower and pine no more."

So piteously did she beg that the old nurse had not the heart to
refuse, though she feared what might come of it. But she tried to
comfort herself with the thought that perchance, after all, the maiden
was right, and that Aphrodite was killing her by a slow and cruel
death, because she had never kept her solemn feast-day.

The next day broke bright and fair, and Hero, as she looked out from
the window, was filled with joy. In the grey dawn she had risen, and
sat looking anxiously across the narrow sea towards Abydos and the low
line of hills on the further shore.

"O Helios," she prayed, "bright and beautiful, shine down upon the
earth this day, and fill the hearts of all with gladness; for it is
Aphrodite's solemn feast, and the greatest day of all my life."

And her prayer was not unanswered. Slowly the grey dawn turned to
saffron, and the golden disc of the sun rose over the silent hills and
scattered the rosy clouds north and south before him. With a cry of
joy Hero turned away from the window and ran to rouse the old dame in
the other room.

"Nurse, nurse!" she cried, "the sun is shining, and the world has
awaked from sleep. It is time to pick the roses and the lilies fresh
with dew and weave them into garlands for the goddess. Come up, up,
and out with me to the garden."

Without waiting for an answer, she tripped down the turret-stair and
out into the garden, and the old nurse sighed and followed slowly
behind. In the golden morning they gathered the roses and lilies, and
wove them into garlands and posies, and heaped up the loose flowers in
baskets. When all was ready they set out for the town. Though it was
yet early, the streets were thronged with pilgrims and folk hurrying
this way and that to the houses of their friends and kinsmen. Yet,
despite the bustle and confusion, there were few who had not leisure
to turn and watch the maiden and the old woman hastening along.

"It is Hebe come down from the courts of heaven," they said--"she who
giveth to the deathless gods eternal youth and joy. None can look on
her face and be sad."

And, indeed, all the sunshine of the morning seemed reflected in
Hero's face, so glad at heart was she. It was small wonder that men
turned and looked at her; for she walked as one of the Immortals, full
of dignity and grace. No evil thing had ever touched her or left its
mark upon her soul. But in a fair garden she had grown to womanhood,
where the breeze made music in the plane-trees and the waves beat time
upon the shore, and on the hill behind, the tall dark cypress-trees
kept silent watch above her. No angry word had ever reached her ears,
but as long as she had lived the love of one faithful heart had
shielded her. And now, though she knew it not, the call of life had
come to her, as it comes to every living thing, and with eager, open
arms she was answering it. In the midst of that bustling city crowd,
she was like a fair flower that brings into some restless sick-room
the scent of sunlit meadows and the murmur of dancing streams. As she
went she laughed and talked merrily to the old nurse beside her, and
ever and anon a flower would fall to the ground from the laden basket
she was carrying; and one of the crowd would quickly pick it up and
place it in his bosom, and carry away in his heart something of the
music of her laughter and the sunshine of her eyes. The old nurse when
she saw it was filled with fear, and hastened faster along; but Hero
saw none of these things, nor knew that she was different from other
folk.

At length they reached the temple on the hill and went into the
chamber where Aphrodite's priestesses and maidens were to meet; and
they clad her in long white robes, and put a garland on her head. When
all were ready, they went and stood before the priest of the temple,
and he told them in what order they should walk. First came little
children, who scattered rose-leaves in the path, and behind them
followed maidens, playing upon pipes, and singing the hymn to Adonis
and Aphrodite. Next came the priest himself, and on either side of him
two maidens walked, and held above his head great fans of peacock's
plumes. After him followed the long procession of priestesses and
maidens, incense-bearers, and the keepers of the sacred doves. Last of
all came Hero, bearing in her hands a garland of roses and lilies to
lay at the feet of the great white statue of the goddess. Each year
the fairest of the maidens was chosen for this task, and in all that
throng of youth and beauty there was none more fair than she. With her
eyes upon the gleaming statue that shone from the dark recess above
the heads of the worshipping people, she walked as one in a dream.
About her the smoke of the incense rose, and to her ears the voices of
the singers sounded low and far away as they sang,

"All hail to thee, Aphrodite, foam-born Queen of Love! Adonis, all
hail to thee! Thou art risen--thou art risen on this joyful day. No
more doth Death detain thee in his dark domain, nor Persephone
enshroud thee in the mists of the sad Underworld. But thou art come
back to the daylight and the flowers; and Aphrodite has dried her
tears. For once more by thy side, O fairest of mortal men, she wanders
through green glades and echoing caverns and by the shore of the
silver sea. The joy of her love has kindled the light of summer suns,
and like the west wind in the roses, her breath stirs gently in the
hearts of men, and the eyes of every living thing reflect the
brightness of her smile. All hail to thee. Aphrodite! Adonis and
Aphrodite, all hail!"

As they sang, the choir of maidens parted this way and that, and Hero
walked up between them bearing the garland in her hands. When she had
laid it at the feet of the statue, the procession formed once more,
and, with music and singing, they marched round the colonnade to the
shrine of Adonis, and all the people followed after. Still Hero walked
as one in a dream, and when the procession halted, she turned into a
small recess and leant against a pillar to rest; for her part was
done, and the people pressed so close about her in the aisle that she
was glad to stand aside till the procession moved again. With her eyes
closed, she drank in the sweet scent of the incense and flowers, and
listened to the chanting of the choir, as they sang of the love of
Adonis and Aphrodite. How Adonis, the beautiful shepherd, the fairest
of mortal men, was loved by the Queen of Beauty, and all the long
summer days they shepherded his flocks together on the shady slopes of
Ida. But there came a time when the people of the country held a great
hunt, and chased the wild boar through grove and dale till he was
brought to bay in the greenwood; and foremost of those who rushed in
to the death was Adonis. But the boar in his agony turned round upon
him and pierced him in the thigh with his tusk, and wounded unto
death, his followers bore him away and laid him in the shade of an
oak. With a wild cry of sorrow Aphrodite came and knelt beside him,
and tried to call him back to life, but his head fell limp upon her
breast. The red drops of his blood were mingled with her tears, and
both turned to flowers as they fell upon the ground--his blood to the
crimson rose, and her tears to the pale, drooping windflower. All
through the woods and the echoing hills a cry of mourning was heard,
"Adonis, Adonis! O weep for Adonis! Adonis is dead." But though his
spirit had crossed the gloomy river and fled to the dark halls of
Hades, yet Death was not strong enough to hold him. The voice of his
love and of Aphrodite's pleaded together, and heaven and earth, and
the world of the dead, were moved by their prayer. Even the heart of
Pluto, the black-browed god of Death, was touched, and he said that
for only four months in the year must Adonis dwell beneath the earth,
but for the other eight he might live his old life with Aphrodite in
the sunlight. So he chose the season of the flowery spring-time to
come back to his love each year, and only the cold dark months of
winter did he spend in the land below. So did a great love prevail and
conquer even the black lord of Death.

As Hero listened to the well-known tale, her heart was moved, and she
felt that if ever she loved, her love would be as the love of Adonis
and Aphrodite--stronger than death; and she sighed as she remembered
how she must live lonely all her days in the tower by the sea.

As though in answer to her sigh, she felt a light touch upon her arm,
and, raising her head, she found herself face to face with a young
man. She was about to turn away in anger and return to her place in
the procession, but the look of his eyes held her spellbound, so full
of fire and yet so sad were they. For a moment she stood gazing at
him, and the fire of his eyes seemed to light another in her heart and
set her whole frame aglow. The hot blood rushed to her face, and she
lowered her eyes in confusion, and her limbs trembled beneath her, so
that she leant back against the pillar for support.

"I ask your pardon, gentle lady," said the man; "forgive my rudeness.
Though thou knowest me not, I have known thee for many a long year,
and day and night have I prayed the gods that I might meet thee face
to face. This day Aphrodite has heard my prayer. If I have seemed
presumptuous, forgive me. 'Twas the goddess nerved my arm to touch
thee."

And he stood with bowed head before her, awaiting her reply.

[Illustration: She lowered her eyes in confusion, and her limbs
trembled beneath her so that she leant back against the pillar for
support.]

"Who art thou, stranger?" asked Hero. "Thou mistakest me, surely, for
some other maid. Never till this day have I set foot beyond my tower,
and to that lonely spot cometh no man, nor have I ever spoken with
such as thee before."

"My name is Leander," said the stranger, "and I dwell in white Abydos
across the water. Full well do I know thy lonely tower; for as I ply
to and fro between Sestos and Abydos on my father's business, I pass
close beneath its walls, and day by day have I seen thee sitting at
thy window looking out across the sea. Ah, lady, be not angry with me!
The first day I saw thee thy beauty set my heart aflame, and since
then I have lived for thee alone."

"Thy words stir me strangely, sir," answered Hero. "I know not what to
say to thee."

"Thou art not angry, then?" he cried. "Thou wilt let me speak my love?
Ah, maiden, all these years have I loved thee with a true heart's
devotion! If my love could find but ever so faint an answer in thy
heart, I would be content."

And he raised his eyes full of hope and joy to her face. But she
turned aside her head to hide the answering fire of her eyes.

"Alas, sir!" she said, "mine is a heart that must never beat for any
living man. I am doomed to dwell in yonder tower lonely all my days,
for if I go forth and mix with the world, I shall die by the curse of
Heaven before my time."

"I have heard thy tale, lady; for even the most secret things are
noised abroad by rumour. Far be it from me to bring the curse upon
thy head. If thou couldst give me thy love, there would be no need for
thee to come forth into the world. I have thought of that. Each day we
would live our lives as we have done till now. But at night, when none
would miss me, I would come to thee. No living soul should know my
secret--no, nor yet the lifeless boards of my boat; for even dumb wood
can tell a tale if need be. Nay, these two arms shall bear me. Look
not fearful, lady. Full often have they borne me to and fro across
this narrow sea from mere love of sport. With thee as the prize they
would bear me twice as far."

As he spoke he held them out towards her, and, indeed, they were
goodly arms to look upon, and his face and form did them no shame
either.

Then Hero raised her eyes and looked him full in the face.

"Leander," she said, "I know not what charm or magic thou hast used,
but I am as clay in thy hands. 'Tis not thy words have conquered me;
in thy reasoning I could find many a flaw. Though one short hour ago I
had never seen thee, yet now I feel that I have known thee always, and
that life apart from thee were worse than death."

"Ah, Hero!" he cried, and took her hand in his; "the gods have heard
my prayer. Though thine eyes had never seen me, the voice of my heart
reached thee long ago, and thy soul came out to mine. 'Twas in answer
to my call that thou didst come to-day to the feast; for I prayed to
Aphrodite to move thy heart, or I knew not how I should ever speak to
thee. This very night, beloved, I will come to thee, and the light
which thou burnest in thy chamber shall be my guiding star."

"Ah, how carefully will I trim that torch to-night!" she said, "that
it may burn brightly for thee. Every evening I put it there as a
beacon-light for the ships that pass in the night; but to-night it
shall burn for thee--for thee alone."

Now the service was ended before the shrine, and the train of people
began to move once more. With one last look and a pressing of hands
they parted, and Hero returned to her place in the procession.

When all was ended, the old nurse hastened to the robing-room. In the
crowd inside the temple she had lost sight of Hero, and her heart was
full of fears for the maiden. As she helped her to lay aside her
festal robes and garland, she gazed anxiously at her.

"Art thou content to come home with me, my child," she asked, "or has
the glamour of the world ensnared thee?"

"Ah, nurse!" she cried joyously, "never, never have I loved my tower
so well. Let us hasten home, and in the quiet of the evening I will
tell thee that of which my heart is full."

The old dame was glad when she found her so ready to go home, and they
hastened silently through the crowded streets. As the sun was setting
behind the hills, and the shadows fell cool and long across the garden
slopes, Hero sat at her nurse's feet, and told her of the story of
Leander's love, and how that night would make them man and wife. When
she had ended her tale, the old dame took her face between her hands
and looked her in the eyes.

"Hero," she said, "this thing can never be. I have failed in my
trust. I have listened to thy pleading, and let thee out into the
world, and now through this man the curse of the gods will be
fulfilled. Think no more of him. Let this day be to thee as though it
had never been, and thou mayst yet escape thy doom."

But Hero sprang to her feet.

"What!" she cried; "thou wouldst take away the only joy of my life
now, when I have just found it? Never! Curse or no curse, Leander
shall be my wedded husband. Ah, nurse!" she added, falling on her
knees once more, "methinks that over all the joys of life the gods
hang a curse, and that it lies not with us poor mortals to choose
between them. We must take both and live, or neither and be dead all
our days on earth. Thou canst not hold me now; I have chosen my lot."

Nothing that the old dame could say availed to change her purpose, but
with her heart full of joy she put on her brightest robes and sat by
the lighted torch in her chamber, looking out across the sea, and
waiting for the night. True to his word, Leander came as soon as
darkness fell, and the old dame let him in by the turret door.
Carefully she shaded her lamp with her hand so that the light fell
full upon his face, that she might see what manner of man he was. He
had dried himself as best he might with leaves and grass from the
garden, but his hair hung in damp clusters about his head, and his
tunic clung wet about him. Yet, in spite of all, he was full fair to
look upon--a very god for strength and beauty. The old dame was
pleased when she saw him, for he had braved danger and discomfort to
win his bride, and he was a proper man withal, and worthy of so fair a
maid as Hero. So she led him upstairs and gave him change of raiment,
and when he was ready she took him to Hero's chamber. There before the
shrine of Aphrodite they plighted their troth, with but one faithful
soul to witness their vows, and the music of the wind and the waves
for their marriage hymn. To the two lovers the night fled by on wings
of lightning, and all too soon they had to say farewell; for ere day
dawned Leander must have reached the further shore. But parting was
sweet sorrow for those who so soon would meet again.

So for many a day their lives ran smoothly on. Each night Hero lighted
her torch; each night Leander was guided by its light, and, true to
his word, swam across the narrow sea that divided him from his wife.
The colour came back to Hero's cheeks and the brightness to her eyes,
and she pined no more to leave the tower and go out into the world.
When the old dame saw how happy she was, she was glad that things had
fallen out so, and prayed that for many a long year the gods would be
pleased to bless their wedded love.

Meantime Leander thought that no one knew of the nightly voyage save
Hero and the old dame her nurse, yet, for all his secrecy, there was
one who each night watched for him with a longing as great as Hero's
own. In the depths of the blue Ægean the daughters of Nereus
dwell--the fair nymphs of the ocean. All the day long they play
beneath the waters, and dance hand in hand along the yellow sands and
the shell-strewn hollows of the sea. But at night, when the eyes of
men are darkened, they come up above the water and, cradled in the
bosom of the waves, swing gently to and fro in the soft summer air;
and the white gleam of their arms is the glint of ripples in the
moonlight. But when the wild storm-wind shrieks over the sea and the
skies are dark and lowering, they forget their fears, and are filled
with madness. Then they chase each other across the black waters with
wild locks flying in the wind, and woe to those who are out upon the
high seas when the Nereids dance in the storm, for their dance is the
dance of Death. The fire of the lightning runs hot in their veins as
they fly on the wings of the whirlwind, and wherever they go the waves
hiss white and angry behind them. On the crests of the billows they
rise and fall, and with the voice of the storm-wind they shriek aloud,
and call upon all things to join in their dance; and they leap on the
decks of the travailing ships, and man, woman, and child they clasp in
their cruel white arms, crying, "Come, dance with us over the sea."
With a force that none can withstand they bear them away, and whirl
them round in the dance of Death, till they hang limp and lifeless in
their arms. Then they toss them aside, nothing caring, to be washed
ashore in the wan morning light, or to sink to a nameless grave in the
depths of the ocean. Wherever they have passed wreck and ruin lie
behind; but they rush on, till the storm dies away, and they sink down
exhausted to their home in the sea. Sometimes in the calm green waters
below they find the bodies of those they have drowned in their frenzy,
but they know them not; for all that they did when the spirit of the
storm was upon them they forget, and it passes from their minds as a
dream dies at break of day. So when they see the bodies lying still
and lifeless, they call to them to come and play with them in the
water, and when they get no answer, they creep closer, and find that
their eyes are closed. Then they know that, however long they call,
they will never get an answer, for they have learnt that those whose
eyes are closed have neither life nor voice, but are as the rocks and
stones. But the Nereids know not sleep nor death, and when they look
upon one lying dead they think he has always been so; and they do not
grieve nor weep for him, for the gods did not make them for grief, but
to be the bringers of beauty wherever they go, and to turn all foul
things fair. So they gather the shells and the bright seaweeds, and
cover the body where it lies, and it sleeps in beauty and peace in the
hollows of the sea.

One of these same Nereids it was who saw Leander as he swam across the
Hellespont each night, and she loved him for his beauty, and longed to
have him as her playfellow. So she swam near to him on the crest of
the dancing waves, and called to him softly,

"O child of the green earth, come, come with me, and play with me and
my sisters in the depths of the blue Ægean."

But he saw her not, nor listened to her pleading, for his eyes were
darkened. To him the gleam of her arms was the moonshine on the water,
and the sound of her voice like the west wind on the waves.

So she followed him in vain across the channel, and when he went up
into the tower she sat below upon a rock, and watched for him to
appear at the window; and she saw Hero sitting by the torch waiting
for her lover, and heard her cry of joy as she ran to greet him when
he came. Then again she called to them softly,

"O children of the green earth, come and play with me. I will crown
your heads with white sea-pearls, and you shall sit on coral thrones
beneath the waves, and be king and queen over all the nymphs of the
sea."

But as they stood hand in hand at the window, they saw her not, and
heard only the murmur of the ripples on the beach. So she sat calling
in vain all the night long. Before the grey morning dawned Leander
came down, and when he reached the shore he turned and called,

"Farewell, Hero!"

And Hero, leaning from her window, answered,

"Leander, farewell!"

So the sea-nymph learnt to know their names, and every night she would
sit sadly calling them, and they heard her not.

But one night all the winds of heaven were loosed, and they rushed
with a wild shriek over the face of the waters, and lashed them to a
fury of white-maned waves. With a deafening crash the thunder echoed
through the hills, and the pale forked lightning lit the sky from east
to west. With white cheeks and a heart full of fear, Hero knelt before
the shrine in her chamber, and prayed the gods to have mercy on the
sailors out at sea, and, above all, to grant that Leander had not set
out ere the storm began.

Meanwhile Leander on the other side had seen the storm approaching,
and he knew full well that when the seas ran high no man could swim
the channel and reach the other shore alive. So he sat by his window
and longed for the storm to be spent and the day to dawn; for the
night without Hero was to him but misery. Across the stream he could
see the torch burning fitfully in the gale.

"The gods grant she think me not faithless," he said, "for not going
to her this night."

As he sat and watched, the storm grew wilder and more terrible. In the
swirling, seething waters the Nereid danced with the madness of the
tempest in her heart, up and down over the crested waves, with the
storm wind whistling through her hair. In the gleam of the
lightning-flash she held out her arms to the shore and called,

"Come and dance with me. Leander, O Leander, come!"

As she called, the east wind rushed with a wild shriek across the
water, and blew out the beacon light in Hero's chamber. Leander at his
window saw the pale light disappear and return no more. A blinding
flash of lightning rent the sky, and the rattle of the thunder sounded
as though the mountains of the earth were falling. Then the spirit of
the storm came upon him too, and he heard the voice of the sea-nymph
calling with a wild, unearthly shriek,

"Leander, O Leander, come!"

And he thought it was the voice of Hero calling him in deadly peril.
Perchance the thunderbolt had struck her tower, and it had crashed in
ruins about her and borne her with its falling stones into the rushing
stream below. In a mad frenzy, scarce knowing what he did, he plunged
into the seething waters and struggled in the waves with the strength
of despair. With a wild cry of joy the sea-nymph caught him in her
arms. "At last, at last, thou hast heard my call," she said.

Up and down through the hissing waves she bore him, now plunging down,
deep, deep, into the calm green water below, now rushing round and
round in a whirlpool, now leaping from the crest of one white wave
into the boiling foam of the next, till he lay limp and breathless in
her arms. She heeded not, but bore him on, ever on, across the water
till they came beneath Hero's tower. Then, rising on the crest of the
waves that beat against the wall, she called,

"Come, join with us in the storm-dance! Come, Hero, Hero!"

In the breath of the east wind the stinging foam beat against the
window like one knocking in wild alarm, and the echo of the
sea-nymph's cry reached the maiden as she knelt before the shrine.
Filled with terror, she rushed to the window and looked down on the
seething water. A brilliant flash of lightning blazed across the sky,
and for a moment all was light as day. On the bosom of a breaking wave
she saw Leander with his arms tossed helpless about him, and his head
thrown back pale and lifeless, and above him stood the sea-nymph in a
robe of flashing foam. With a cry of despair Hero leaped to the sill
and plunged into the roaring waves, and with her arms about Leander,
she, too, was tossed along in the dance of Death, till the storm died
away and the nymph bore them down side by side to the floor of the
blue Ægean. There, true to her word, she set them on thrones of coral,
and twined white sea-pearls in their hair, and in time the winding
seaweeds and clinging ocean flowers wove a shroud of beauty about
them; and their bodies slept side by side in the fair ocean depths. So
did it come to pass that the curse of the gods was fulfilled.

But whether it was truly a curse or a blessing, who shall say? For
they lived and loved with a love that has become famous among men, and
side by side they died. And does not the poet tell us of the islands
of the blest, where the souls of the brave and true abide for ever;
where the breeze blows always bright and fresh, and the golden fruits
are glowing, and the crimson-flowered meadows before the city are full
of the shade of trees of frankincense? In that far land there is no
death nor parting, no sorrow and no tears, but those who have been
true on earth dwell ever side by side. If the poet is right, Hero and
Leander are there together, where no storm can reach them and no sea
can part them ever again.

[Illustration]



The Sacrifice of Alcestis


I

Once upon a time when Pelias, the crafty king, ruled in Iolchos by the
sea, his nephew Jason came and tried to win back from him the land
that was his by right. But Pelias put him off with cunning words, and
sent him forth to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece, thinking
that so he need never look upon his face again. Jason, therefore, who
was brave and stout of heart, and feared not man nor beast, sent a
proclamation through the land, bidding all who loved adventure to join
him in the good ship _Argo_, and sail with him for the Golden Fleece.
From the length and breadth of Hellas the heroes and sons of the
Immortals flocked. Among them came Admetus of Pheræ, in the first
bloom of his manhood, and sailing with the Argonauts, he braved all
the terrors of that fearful voyage, and sat at his oar like a man in
the midst of deadly peril.

After many a long day the remnant of the heroes who had sailed away
from Iolchos returned with the Golden Fleece; and standing before
proud Pelias, they laid it at his feet. In the great hall of the
palace he received them sitting on his throne: on his right hand sat
Philomache his wife, and all about him stood his daughters, Peisidice
and Asteropæa, Hippothoe, and Evadne, and Alcestis--maidens whose
beauty would gladden any father's heart. But fairest of the fair, as
the moon among stars, was Alcestis. When Admetus looked upon her face,
his heart was filled with love for her, and he swore a great oath that
he would live and die unwed, or else have Alcestis to wife.

When Pelias had welcomed back the Argonauts, he bid the henchmen
spread the tables in the hall, and soon the king with his son Acastus
and all the menfolk were seated with the heroes round the well-filled
board. Against a pillar leant a minstrel, who sang of great deeds and
heroes, and how the good ship _Argo_ had braved the terrors of the
seas; while the daughters of Pelias bore round the sweet dark wine in
flagons, and filled up the golden goblets. To Alcestis it fell to fill
up the cup of Admetus, and as he held it out towards her their eyes
met, and she blushed beneath his gaze, and tried to hide her confusion
in the folds of her veil. She was vexed with herself for the blush and
vexed with him for having called it forth. Yet withal her heart beat
fast, and the beating of it was not altogether born of wrath; for
Admetus was a proper man in the prime of life, who had sailed the high
seas and seen danger face to face, and a brave man's admiration is
ever dear to a woman's heart. So it came to pass that when Admetus
drew from his breast a lock of the Golden Fleece, which Jason had
given him for a memorial, and held it forth to her, she refused it
not, but took it and hid it in the folds of her gown, and when Admetus
was gone away she would draw it forth and sigh as she looked at it.

When Admetus saw that she did not altogether disdain him, he was glad
at heart, and plucked up all his courage, and went and stood before
the king her father, and boldly asked her hand in marriage. As he
spoke the king's brow darkened, for he loved not Jason nor any of his
crew. He had sent them forth, as he thought, to their death, and now
they were come home to wrest the kingdom from him and give it to the
lawful heir. So he cast about in his mind for some excuse; for Admetus
was nobly born, and heir to a great kingdom, and he could not say him
nay without good reason. In his trouble he bethought him of an ancient
oracle which a soothsayer had spoken when Alcestis lay a babe upon her
mother's breast. Till now he had put aside all thought of it, and had
looked upon the seer as a mad prophet whose words were of no account.
But now that they would serve him in his need, he pretended that he
had always laid them up in his heart, and intended to abide by them.

"Young man," he said, "they who would woo my child Alcestis must woo
and win her as the gods have ordered. When she lay in her mother's
arms, there came a prophet and stood over her and spake, saying,
'Child of evil fortune! whosoever thou weddest, woe to thy wedded
life, sobeit thy lord come not to bear thee away in a chariot drawn by
a lion and a boar.' Thus spake the prophet of the gods, and his words
shall surely come to pass. Think not, then, that I will give my
daughter up to misery, or that thou hast but to look on her beauty
and long for her, to have her for thine own. Nay; hence, away, and
bethink thee how thou canst so beguile a lion's heart that he shall
walk tamely in the yoke beside his lawful prey. Then, and then only,
when thou comest driving this strange pair shalt thou have Alcestis
for thy wife."

Admetus was sad at heart when he heard the king's words, and he set
out sorrowfully home for the halls of Pheres, his father; for he
thought that this thing was beyond the power of mortal man to do, and
that all his life long he must live in loneliness of soul, without
Alcestis to wife.

When they heard of their son's return, Pheres and Periclymene, his
wife, came forth to greet him, and fell upon his neck and embraced him
with tears of joy. A great feast was prepared, and the altars of the
gods sent up to heaven the savoury smoke of sacrifice, and all the
people rejoiced together at the return of the hero their land had sent
forth.

After all the feasting and merrymaking was ended, Pheres drew his son
aside to his chamber and said,

"My son, whilst thou hast been away in strange lands the hand of Time
hath dealt heavily with me. My knees are weak beneath me, my hair is
white with age, and all my strength is gone. Year by year it groweth
harder for me to ride forth among my people, and the folk on the far
boundary know my face no more, and I cannot say whether all is well
with them. Time is it for me to give my crown and sceptre to a younger
man, and thou hast shown thyself worthy to rule. Take now the kingdom
from my hand, that thy mother and I may pass our last years in peace
together. A mighty kingdom have I builded up for thee, and worthy of
mighty kings. See to it, then, that thou take to wife some princess of
a royal house and rear up a son to rule the land when thou art dead."

And Admetus answered,

"The kingdom will I take from thee right gladly, my father, and rule
it well and wisely so long as the gods shall give me strength. But as
to taking a wife in my halls, that I can never do."

Then he told him of his love for Alcestis, and how he could never hope
to win her. But his father laughed and shook his head.

"'Tis the way of hot-headed youth to think that in all the wide world
one woman alone hath a fair face and bright eyes. Time and the beauty
of another woman shall heal thy malady, never fear."

"Time and another woman may drive me to my death," he answered hotly,
"but never will I wed with any maid save Alcestis alone, whom I love."

And he strode in anger from the room. But Pheres laughed the louder.

"Verily, young blood is the same the whole world through," said he.

So Admetus became King of Pheræ, and ruled in his father's stead; and
from the shores of the sea below Pelion to the land of the Molossians,
the mountain-folk of the Far West, his name was held in honour among
his people; for the land had peace in his day, and the valleys stood
thick with corn, and by the fair-flowing waters of Boebe the shepherd
played his pipes, and his flocks wandered browsing about the green
meadows. No stranger was ever turned away from the palace doors, but,
however poor and ragged he might be, he was welcomed right gladly, and
feasted in the halls and sped upon his way with kindly words. So it
came to pass that through the length and breadth of Hellas, when men
spoke of good cheer and hospitality, they always raised the cup in
honour of Admetus, the kindliest of hosts to rich and poor alike.


II

One day as Admetus sat at meat in the great hall with his parents and
all the household, a thing befell which changed the course of his
whole life. Inside the fire burnt brightly on the hearth, and the
torches on the walls sent a cheerful gleam through the shadowy
vastness. But outside the wind howled about the corners of the palace
like Furies in their wrath, and anon it sunk down to a sob and a wail,
while the lashing of the rain against the walls was as the whip of a
furious driver urging on his steeds. And lo! from out the darkness of
the storm there came a man, who stood in the doorway of the great hall
and looked round about upon the company. Many a long mile must he have
come that day in the teeth of the gale, for from head to foot he was
splashed with mud, and the water ran from his ragged cloak in
streamlets, making a pool upon the floor. In his hand he carried a
staff; from a strap about his body hung a strange instrument such as
no man in the hall had ever seen before; and he held his head up
proudly and looked fearlessly about him, so that for all his sorry
raiment he seemed no common beggar, but a young king in all his pride.
A hush fell upon the people as they gazed, for his eyes shone
strangely bright, and in the darkness of the shadowy doorway his
stature seemed greater than that of mortal man. When he had looked his
fill and saw where Admetus sat, he strode across the hall with great
swinging strides, and came and stood before him. As he walked the
people looked silently after him, for a great ship running before the
wind was not more fair than he.

"O king," he said, and his voice rang clear and mellow through the
hall, "a suppliant I stand before thee, and my hand is red with blood.
Say, wilt thou receive me in thy halls, or wilt thou turn me forth
into the storm and darkness?"

And Admetus marvelled at his words.

"Who art thou, stranger, to make this bold request? When a man's hand
is stained with blood, 'tis to the altars of the gods that he should
fly for cleansing, and not bring pollution to the palaces of kings."

"My name it behoveth thee not to know now, nor the deed I have done.
Let it suffice thee when I say that not yet have the altars of that
god been built who hath the power to cleanse me from blood-guiltiness.
Nay, myself I must work out mine own cleansing, and for the waxing and
the waning of twelve moons it is decreed that I must serve a mortal
man. Wilt thou take me for thine herdsman--yea or nay?"

At this Admetus marvelled the more, and looked hard in the face of the
stranger, but his eyes fell beneath the other's fearless gaze as those
of a dog beneath his master's; and he answered him never a word, for
he felt that the thought of his heart lay writ beneath that piercing
look as clear as writing on a tablet. So he signed to his attendants,
and they led the stranger forth and bathed him in warm water, and
anointing him, clad him in fresh sweet linen and a tunic of silk. When
all was accomplished, they led him back to the hall; and if the people
had marvelled before at his beauty, their wonder was increased twofold
as they gazed at him now.

When he had taken his fill of meat and wine, the stranger turned to
Admetus and said,

"My noble host, fain would I, in some poor measure, requite thee and
thy household for kindness to a wanderer and a suppliant. I have some
small skill in song, and have fashioned me an instrument whereon I
play sweet harmonies, that frame the melody of my song like the golden
setting of a gem. Have I thy leave to sing before thee in thy halls?"

As Admetus bowed his head the stranger loosed the curious instrument
from his girdle. The body of it was the hollow shell of a tortoise, in
the rim of which two twisted horns were cunningly fitted, joined
together towards the top by a silver band. The space between the band
and the furthermost edge of the shell was spanned by seven strings of
gold. Lovingly he drew his fingers across the strings, and the chords
rang soft and true through the silence of the hall, as he played a
prelude to his song, and anon raised his voice and sang. He sang a
strange, sweet song, such as no man there had ever heard, and yet in
the depths of his soul each one of them felt that he had known it
before he was born. For the song that the stranger sang was the song
that the stars first sang together when the universe was born, and
light sprang forth from the darkness. The melody they made that day
vibrates for ever till the end of time. Musicians and artists and
poets, and those whom the gods love, hear it and sing it, each in his
separate way, for those who have forgotten the sound of it. Deep in
the heart of every man it lies voiceless, till once at least in his
lifetime the hand of the divine musician sets the chords vibrating,
and opens the ears of the soul to hear the heavenly harmonies. Such
was the song that the stranger sang, and the people sat breathless
beneath his spell, and gazing deep into the red-hot heart of the fire,
saw strange dreams and visions. The very dogs awoke from their sleep,
and crept closer to the music, and with their heads between their
paws, gazed with unblinking eyes at the singer; and a magic thrill ran
round the circle of them that listened, both man and beast, and welded
and fused their souls in one, so that they felt that the life in them
all was the same. When the song was ended, silence fell upon all
things--even the storm outside had ceased to rage; and Time stood
still as each man sat motionless in his seat, with heart too full for
speech. But at length the spell was broken, and with a sigh and a
whisper, they glided away to their rest, till Admetus and the stranger
were left face to face before the hearth.

"O divine musician," said Admetus, "I know not who thou art. This only
do I know, that I could worship thee for the godlike beauty of thy
song, and follow thee and serve thee all my days."

"Nay, O king; 'tis destined that I must serve thee, and be thy
servant for a year. To-morrow I will lay aside this silken doublet,
and put on the dress that suits my station, and go forth with the
other shepherds of thy flocks."

"O stranger, this thing can never be. Who am I that thou shouldst be
my servant?"

"Thou art the man who turneth not the stranger from thy doors, though
his hands, like mine, be red with blood. As for me, I must work out my
cleansing, as I told thee. For blood-guiltiness is mine, though I have
not sinned in the shedding thereof. But even Zeus himself, thou
knowest, hath not reached wisdom and might, save by sore struggle
against powers less wise than he. Happy am I if by the service of an
upright man I may be purified."

From that day forth the stranger became a herdsman in the halls of
Admetus, and in no wise would he be treated differently from the other
servants. Clad in the coarse, rough homespun of a shepherd, he would
go forth at early dawn with the flocks, and at eventide return and sit
among his fellows at the lower table. The hearts of all the household
were warmed towards him, and it seemed that in his presence no evil
thing could live; for if ever a quarrel or strife of tongues arose, a
look from the stranger would take all the spirit from the combatants,
and the matter fell dead between them like a ball at the feet of
listless players--nay, it seemed that he could read the very thoughts
of their inmost hearts, and all malice and unkindness withered away in
the sunshine of his presence, like sprigs that have no root. Strange
tales were told of how he shepherded his flocks, for the shepherd
lads who went forth with him at dawn would lie at his feet in some
shady grove whilst the flocks browsed close at hand; and he would take
his lyre and sing to them of all things in heaven and earth, and at
the sound of his voice the hearts of all living things were moved.
From the rocky heights of Othrys the lion came down and fawned at his
feet with bloodless fangs, and the spotted lynxes gambolled with the
flocks. The shy fawns forgot their fears and left the shelter of the
tall pine-woods, and danced about his lyre with fairy feet; for the
magic of his singing made the whole world kin, and the bow and the
arrow were laid aside in those days, and no watchman stood upon the
heights to guard the herds from beasts of prey. But the flocks
increased and multiplied, and the earth brought forth rich harvests of
corn and fruit, and all the land had peace. So Admetus loved and
honoured his strange herdsman above all his fellows, and took counsel
with him, and followed his advice in all things.


III

Meanwhile in Iolchos by the sea the old king Pelias had died. His son
Acastus succeeded to his throne, and, as the custom was, held great
games in honour of his father. Far and wide through Hellas he sent the
news, and bade all men of might come and take part in the contests of
running and wrestling and hurling the quoit. To the victors in each
trial he offered to give one of his sisters in marriage, but for
Alcestis he made the contest doubly hard, for she was the fairest and
noblest of the daughters of Pelias, and he knew that the suitors
would flock without number for her hand if the task that was set them
was not well-nigh impossible. So he ordained that he who would win her
must prove himself the mightiest of all men in the field that day, and
that, moreover, he must come to bear away his bride in a chariot drawn
by a lion and a boar; for so the king, her father, had ordered in
obedience to the words of the prophet.

When Admetus heard the news, the fire of his love for Alcestis burst
forth into flame, and he felt that he could conquer the whole world to
win her. When he went to rest that night he could dream of nought but
her, and of how all men would marvel when they saw him come to bear
her away in a chariot drawn by a lion and a boar. How he was to train
this strange yoke-pair he knew not, but he felt that Alcestis was not
one whom the gods had fated to live unwedded all her days. From the
length and breadth of Hellas men would flock to woo her, and surely
from all the host one would be found to do this deed, and why should
he not be that one? So he argued, and dreamed sweet dreams of love and
happiness. But,--whether it be that sweet dreams take the heart from a
man, because in sleep they put within his grasp visions which, on
waking, he finds to be but shadows of a shade, and he longs to clasp
them once again without the labour and toil which alone on earth can
bring man happiness,--certain it is that when he awoke Admetus felt
that the task was hopeless, and that all his efforts would be vain.
His heart was in a tumult; his longing for Alcestis was as strong as
ever, but the confidence of winning her was gone. He went out into the
woodland and threw himself on the grass beside the stream and gazed
moodily into the dark depths of a pool. Its silent stillness so
maddened him that he cast a pebble into the midst, and watched it as
it slowly sank, feeling that it was an image of his own life. An hour
or more he sat there idly playing with the pebbles and the water,
heavy at heart, and a prey to morbid fancies. At length he was roused
from his dreaming by the sound of music far away. Slowly it drew
nearer, and from the shadow of the trees came the strange herdsman
playing on his lyre, followed by his flocks and the wild creatures of
the forest. Without a word he came and sat beside Admetus at the
water's edge, and the animals lay grouped around. Then he changed the
key of his song from a merry dance-tune to a solemn lay, and the
burden of his song was love--how love, if it were but strong and pure,
could conquer the whole world and accomplish deeds undreamt of. As
Admetus listened, the tumult of his heart was stilled, and once again
the flower of hope sprang up in his breast--not the phantom flower
that springs from idle dreams, but the bright living flower whose
roots are firmly planted in the will to do and dare all things to win
the promised prize.

When the herdsman had ended his song, he laid aside his lyre and gazed
at Admetus.

"Dost thou love this maiden with all thy heart and soul, Admetus?" he
asked.

"I would face the whole world to win her," said he.

"Wouldst thou lay down thy life for her?"

"Why ask so poor a sacrifice? My life without her would be a thing of
nought."

[Illustration: From the shadow of the trees came the strange herdsman,
playing on his lyre.]

Again the herdsman gazed at him, and seemed to read his inmost soul.

"In sooth, I verily believe that, were death now to face thee, thou
wouldst gladly die for her. Go forth, then, and win thy bride, and I
will help thee all I can. If thou fulfil the first part of the test, I
will see to it that thou fail not in the second."

"Master," cried Admetus, "what meanest thou?"

"Go thou and enter the lists for Alcestis, and show thyself the best
man in the field that day. When they hail thee victor, and bid thee
come to fetch away thy bride, as her father willed, answer boldly that
the next day at noon thou wilt come in a chariot drawn by a lion and a
boar to bear her away to thine own land. Then do thou hasten alone to
the wood that lies on the road to Pheræ, five miles from Iolchos, and
there, by the temple of Hecate, wilt thou find me and the chariot
ready harnessed. Believest thou that I can do this thing?"

"O master, do I not see before me the lion lying tamely by the sheep
and the wolf by the side of the lamb? How can I doubt thy power?"

"So be it, then. One word of counsel would I give thee: in the day of
thy triumph forget not the gods."

"From my youth upwards have I honoured the gods, O stranger. How,
then, in the day of my triumph, should I forget them?"

"May they deliver thee in the hour of thy wealth, Admetus, and save
thee from blindness and hardness of heart! Above all, when thou art
coming home with thy bride, beware lest in thy haste thou pass by the
altar of Hecate without the tribute of a prayer. Mighty is the
goddess, and in her hands are life and death. The sun with his glad
warm rays shines down upon the bosom of the earth, and draws forth the
young corn from her breast, and with loving hand he paints the purple
bloom of the grape. But when summer skies are cloudless, and the
breath of the breeze smites hot upon the land, men pray for rain and
the cooling veil of mists to hide the parched and thirsty fields from
the cruel shafts of his rays. Even so is the might of Hecate; in one
hand she hath a blessing, in the other a curse. She may stand beside
thy wife in the hour of her need, and bring thy children with joy into
the world (for the life of all young things she loveth); or if she be
slighted, she can blast the parent-stock ere it hath time to bear
fruit, and cut off the fair promise of the race."

"Surely, I will not forget her," said Admetus.

"An hour before noon, then, on the day after the contest of the
suitors, I will await thee in the wood. May the gods speed thee in thy
trial!"


IV

On the day before the games were to be held Alcestis went on to the
roof of the palace, and looked down upon the great courtyard below.
All was bustle and confusion. The bronze gates stood wide upon their
hinges, and a stream of people passed to and fro. The chariots of the
suitors thundered across the pavement. Through the colonnades
re-echoed the clattering of horses' hoofs and the clanging of harness
chains, and from his post at the gateway the warder shouted his orders
to the pages and attendants. Far out across the country Alcestis
gazed and traced the white roadway where it wound over the bosom of
the plain. He for whom she was looking had not entered the courtyard,
and she strained her eyes to see whether, among all the folk who were
wending their way towards the city, she could find him. But the palace
stood high upon the hill, with the houses of the town nestling below,
and the folk upon the road were like flies, so small and black they
seemed upon the dusty highway. Many a long hour she watched upon the
roof, and still he came not. At length the sun went down behind the
mountains in a glory of crimson and gold, and the purple hills cast
their shadow across the silent plain. Then Alcestis laid her head upon
her arm, and great tears stole through her fingers, and fell upon the
cold stone parapet.

"Ah me, the gods are cruel!" she sobbed. "They have planted the seed
of love within my heart, and now they would have me tear it out. Hard
is a woman's lot. In bitterness of soul she sits within, whilst out in
the great world men fight for her beauty, as though she were some
painted image or lifeless weight of gold. On the slipping of a foot or
the cast of a die her fate may rest for weal or woe, and the happiness
of her life hang upon the issue of a moment."

Then she felt in her bosom for the lock of the Golden Fleece which
Admetus had given her, and drew it forth and kissed it.

"Alas, he has forgotten me! He is a great king now, and thinks no more
of the maiden in whose eyes he looked when he first came back from his
voyage."

Sadly she put the lock back in her bosom, and turned and went down the
turret-stair. It was close upon the hour when all the suitors were to
be feasted in the great hall, and with her sisters she was to sing the
pæan song at the pouring of the third libation. Full often had she
sung it in her father's halls; for only unwedded maidens, pure and
innocent of soul, might sing it, and ask for blessings on their home
and kindred, and return thanks to great Zeus, the saviour, for the
gladness of a well-filled board and the happy faces of friends and
kinsfolk round the hearth. Her heart was heavy within her when she
thought that now for the last time this task would be hers, and that
only one more sun would set before she would be far away in a strange
land, the wife of a man whose very name she knew not yet. Her one hope
lay in the words of the prophet and the will of her father, that she
should wed that man only who could come to bear her away in a chariot
drawn by a lion and a boar; and from the depths of her soul she prayed
that all might find the task impossible.

"Better to die a maiden," she thought, "than to be the prize of a man
I do not love."

As she reached the bottom of the stair she heard her sisters calling.

"Alcestis, Alcestis, where art thou? The feast is wellnigh finished,
and all men wait for us to sing the pæan song. Tarry no longer, but
hasten and come."

"I come, I come," she answered. "Yet the song of joy upon my lips will
echo like a dirge through the chambers of my soul."

And the sisters marvelled at her, and shook their heads.

"She hath always wayward fancies," they whispered, "and is different
from other folk."

Their hearts were a-flutter with hope and joy, for on the morrow they
would each one be wedded to a brave man, and go to a strange new land,
and be queens in their own palaces. So they took no heed of her words,
but tripped along the galleries with joyful feet, and took their
places in the crowded hall. After them came Alcestis. Slowly, and with
sad, unseeing eyes, she took her seat beside them.

Meanwhile Admetus had tarried alone outside the city walls. He had
sent his servants before him with his chariot and his gear to secure a
stabling for his horses and a sleeping-place for himself in the
crowded alcoves of the king's palace. But his soul longed for peace
and quiet, and he felt he could not face the noisy crowd before it was
needful. Time enough if he slipped into the great hall when the
company was gathering for the feast. Only then might he hope to see
Alcestis. So he turned aside into the quiet fields and wandered by the
winding stream. Behind him the dust rose in white clouds from the
high-road as the chariots of the suitors thundered up towards the
palace, and Admetus knew that many a brave and mighty hero would stand
against him on the morrow. Yet hope burned high in his heart, and he
felt that his love for Alcestis was a power which his rivals lacked--a
power which would nerve his arm and give him the strength of ten. The
desire of his heart went up to the throne of Zeus like the breath of a
good man's prayer; and Zeus heard the cry of his soul, and into his
veins he poured of that fire which runs in the veins of the
Immortals. On earth men know not what to call it, and they name it
with many names--inspiration, genius, and the spirit of prophecy, or,
when it works too far beyond their understanding, they call it
madness.

As the sun was sinking low in the sky, Admetus turned up the steep
roadway to the palace. In the courtyard he found his servants, and
they brought him water to wash with, and a change of raiment, and
clothed him as befitted one who had come to woo a fair princess. As
the shades of evening fell he entered the great hall, and mingled with
the company, and when the tables were spread, he took his seat among
the rest. But when his neighbour spoke to him, he would answer at
random, and ever his eye wandered restlessly up and down the hall to
find Alcestis. Now the feast drew to its close, and yet no womenfolk
appeared. At last one of the serving-men drew aside the great curtain
that hung across the doorway, and as the daughters of Pelias entered
Admetus felt his heart leap in his bosom, and he leant eagerly across
the table. The moments that passed before Alcestis came seemed
eternity, and when at length she entered, her eyes were cast upon the
floor, and she saw him not. But when she had taken her seat, the
silent voice of his soul sped across the great hall, and found an echo
in her heart, and she raised her eyes and looked at him, and for one
moment they two were alone in that crowded place.

And now the wine was mixed, and each man held out his cup for the
pouring of the third libation. Then Alcestis rose from her seat, and
her sisters played a prelude on their pipes. When the prelude was
ended she raised her voice and sang.

"O all-bestowing Zeus, Father Almighty, for the mercies thou hast
showered upon us, for the evil thou hast warded off, lo, with thankful
hearts we make libation of the sweet dark wine! O friend of the
stranger, who searchest out the secrets of men's hearts, midst the
whirlwind rush of the chariots and the dust of the wrestling-ring,
stand thou beside the brave man and the true! Make firm his axle-pin,
and the earth beneath him sure, and chain blind Fortune's hands. So
shall the prize fall to the most valiant. To those whose lives must be
moulded by another's will, grant thou patience and an understanding
soul, O Lord, and may the desire of their heart be according to thy
will. O father of gods and men, cloud-enthroned, who ridest on the
wings of the whirlwind, joy and sorrow by thee are blended into one
harmonious whole. By the sunshine of thy mercy, by the scorching fire
of thy wrath, open thou the blinded eyes of men to see the glory of
thy works. All hail to thee, saviour and king most high!"

As she sang the people marvelled, for her voice was as the voice of
some priestess of the gods filled with the breath of heaven.

When the feast was ended, the pages took down the torches from the
walls, and led forth the guests to the shadowy alcoves where each
man's couch was laid, and there was silence in the halls. On noiseless
wings Sleep glided through the palace, and stood by each man's side.
With gentle hands she soothed his weary limbs, and put fresh courage
in his heart for the contest of the morrow. But when she came to
Alcestis she found her gazing out upon the starlit sky.

"My daughter," she said, "come to my arms and lay thy head upon my
breast, and I will ease the trouble of thine heart."

"Ah, sweet Sleep, not to-night," Alcestis answered, "for with Zeus a
mortal's fervent prayer availeth much. I cannot stand beside Admetus
in the lists, but at least he shall not fail for want of a true
heart's prayer to-night."

So Sleep passed her by, and till the bright-haired dawn shone out in
the east Alcestis sat by the open window. When it was light she went
to rouse her sisters, for early in the morning they were to lead the
procession of the maidens to the temples of the gods and lay wreaths
and garlands before the shrines, while the men-folk gathered in the
plain to watch the contest of the suitors.

Now once more there was bustle and confusion in the city, and the
streets were thronged with eager folk hurrying to the lists. Ever and
anon there was a shout, and the crowd parted this way and that, like
the earth before a ploughshare, as a chariot thundered over the stones
bearing some proud suitor to the games. Last of all, when everything
was ready, came the king, Acastus, and took his seat beneath a canopy,
and the people rose as one man, and greeted him with cheers. Then came
a herald, and blew a call upon his trumpet, and one by one the suitors
marched up and stood before the king, and with a loud voice the herald
proclaimed each man's name and station and the contest he would enter
for that day. Truly it was a goodly sight to see them marching past,
strong men all, in the prime of life. Broad were their shoulders, and
their limbs were straight and brown, and the rhythm of their marching
was like the swell of the sea. Never since the day when all the heroes
gathered at the call of Jason for the search of the Golden Fleece had
there been such a goodly concourse of men in fair Iolchos. From all
the wide plain of Thessaly they flocked, from hill-girt Attica and the
Spartan lowlands, from Argolis and the green valleys of Arcadia, and
from the isles of the sea.

All the day long the people sat and watched the games, and ever and
anon a shout went up to heaven when a strong man overthrew his
adversary, or one swift of foot passed the others in the last lap of
the race. There was hurling of quoits, and leaping and wrestling, and
beneath the feet of the boxers the earth was trampled hard. Far away
across the plain the chariots flew, and the people shaded their eyes
with their hands, and strained to see which was foremost. But the dust
rose in clouds about the horses' breasts, so that till they were close
at hand no man could say who was leading.

At last the great day drew to a close, and once more the herald stood
before the king and blew a call upon his trumpet. Each in turn the
victorious suitors came forward, and when the herald had proclaimed
his name and the contest he had won, the king placed a crown of leaves
upon his head, and told him which of the daughters of Pelias was to be
his bride. Brave men were they all, and bravely had they fought that
day, but mightiest among the mighty had been Admetus of Pheræ. Last of
all the victors, the herald called his name, and he came and stood
before the throne; and the king placed the crown of leaves upon his
head and said,

"In token that thou hast proved thyself the mightiest in the field, I
place this garland on thine head, Admetus. Verily, the gods have stood
upon thy side and filled thee with the fire of heaven, so that the
strength of thine adversary was turned to weakness before thy might.
May they grant thee, in like way, to fulfil the last part of the task;
for, of a truth, it would grieve me to see one so mighty depart
without a prize."

Then Admetus answered boldly,

"But one more sun shall set, O king, before Alcestis shall be my
bride. To-morrow at noon will I come to bear her away in a chariot
drawn by a lion and a boar."

And those who heard him marvelled at his confidence.


V

The next day towards noon the king came forth and sat upon a throne in
the portico before the palace, and all the nobles and suitors stood
round about and waited to see if Admetus would fulfil his word. As the
sun stood high in the heavens there fell upon his ears a sound like
the moaning of the sea far away when a storm is at hand. Louder and
louder it grew, drawing nearer every moment, till at length, like the
break of a mighty wave, a host of cheering citizens surged through the
great bronze gates. Into the wide courtyard they poured, and then
stood back upon either side, and, up the alley in the midst, drove
Admetus in a chariot drawn by a lion and a boar. Straight across the
court he came, and, like well-trained steeds, the beasts looked
neither to right nor left, nor heeded the cheers of the people. With a
jingling of bells and the rattle of harness-chains, they trotted
between the ranks, and came and stood before the king.

"I have kept my word, O king, and have come to bear away my bride, as
the prophet of the gods ordained."

Then the king rose up and greeted Admetus.

"Right glad am I to see thee, Admetus," he cried, "and right glad that
my sister shall be thy bride. May the gods bless thy wedded life, even
as they have blessed thy suit this day!"

Thereupon the pages threw open the palace doors, and a chorus of
maidens came forth playing upon pipes, and singing a marriage hymn.
Last of all came Alcestis, clad in the saffron robes of a bride, and
to Admetus she seemed like the sun heralded by the stars of dawn.
Gently he took her hand and raised her into the car, and the people
piled rich tapestries and vessels of gold and silver beside them for
gifts of marriage. With a shouting and waving of hands the chariot
passed once more across the court and down through the echoing
streets, till at length they two were alone upon the white highway.
The joy that was born of their hearts threw a magic light on all the
land. The green grass waved in the meadows, the leaves danced gaily on
the trees, and from the thickets and bushes the birds sang songs of
gladness. On and on they drove, as in a dream, heeding neither time
nor distance. The glare of the dusty highway changed to the shade of
the woodland path, with green arches overhead, and a murmur of dancing
streams. Before the shrine of Hecate a shepherd had placed his
offering, and was standing with his hands held high in prayer. But
Admetus heeded neither shepherd nor shrine, nor remembered when last
he had stood there and taken his strange team from his herdsman.
Without a thought he passed the altar by. As the gleaming chariot grew
dim in the distance, the shepherd turned and watched it, till the
curve of the road hid it from sight. Even then he stood and listened
to the jingling of the bells, as though he thought that still it might
turn back. But the bells grew fainter and fainter, till he heard but a
tinkle now and again borne back on the wings of the wind, and at last
he could hear that no more. Sadly he turned back, and stood again
before the shrine with outstretched hands, then silently disappeared
into the depths of the wood.

On went the two till the shades of night began to fall, and one by one
the stars came out in the sky. Now they drew near to Pheræ. High up
upon the hill the palace gleamed bright with many a torch, for
messengers had gone before to say that Admetus was coming with his
bride, and all the folk had gathered together to greet him on his
return. As they entered the city gates choruses of men and maidens
came forth to meet them, and up the steep hill the glad procession
wound, with the singing of hymns and playing of pipes. When they
reached the palace gates the maidens raised Alcestis in their arms,
and bore her over the brazen threshold, that no evil omen might befall
her as she entered her new home. Long and merry was the
marriage-feast, and ere it was over the night was far spent. But at
length the last libation had been poured, the last cup had passed
round the board, and the maidens stood waiting to take Alcestis to the
marriage chamber. So she rose and went with them, and they decked her
in the robes in which for the first time a young bride greets her
lord. When all was ready, they took down the torches from the walls,
and left her. Outside the door they formed in chorus to sing the
love-song till Admetus should come to his bride.

[Illustration: Admetus heeded neither shepherd nor shrine.... Without
a thought he passed the altar by.]

Not long did they wait. With eager steps he came and drew aside the
curtain from the doorway. In the middle of the chamber stood Alcestis,
and never had she looked more fair. As the sweet notes of the
love-song stole softly through the door, she held out her arms to
Admetus. Her hair fell in a cloud about her shoulders, and her white
robe touched the floor. From the casement the pale moonbeams fell
slanting down, and cast about her a halo of light. With the silver
shimmer of her hair and the gleam of her outstretched arms, she seemed
to Admetus a messenger of the gods come down by the ladder of light.
With a cry of joy he stepped towards her. As he did so a terrible
thing befell. Between him and his bride there rose up two huge
serpents, and as he rushed towards them they circled Alcestis about in
their gleaming coils. The nearer he drew the more closely did they
clasp her, and their forked tongues flashed like lightning about her
head.

"Back, back!" she gasped, "or they will strangle me."

Unconsciously he fell back. As he did so the great beasts relaxed
their grip, and fell down in shining coils upon the floor; but their
heads waved to and fro above the ground, and when once more he took a
step forward, they rose up again about her with an angry hiss.

"Oh, leave me, leave me!" cried Alcestis. "The gods are angry, and
will not let thee touch me. Fight not against their will, or the
serpents will slay me."

"Nay, with these hands will I strangle them," cried Admetus.

Again he rushed forward, and again, before he could cross the room,
the monsters had wound themselves about Alcestis with a clasp of iron,
so that she could scarcely breathe. Just in time Admetus drew back, or
they would have squeezed the life from her. With a groan he turned and
fled from the room, and the love-song changed to a shriek of terror as
the maidens scattered this way and that before him. With head bowed
down and wide eyes full of horror, he staggered on like a drunken man,
and disappeared into the darkness of the silent hall. In terror the
maidens clung together, with whisperings like the twitter of
frightened birds. At length one more bold than her companions drew
aside the curtain from the door and looked into the chamber. Full in
the path of the moonbeams Alcestis lay stretched upon the floor. Her
eyes were closed, and her face was pale as with the paleness of death.
Yet there seemed nothing in the room that should have caused her to
swoon away. The maiden called to her companions, and together they
lifted Alcestis upon the couch, and ministered to her, till at length
she opened her eyes.

Admetus meanwhile had rushed through the deserted hall and out into
the moonlit court. All was quiet, save for one solitary figure, who
walked up and down in the shadow of the colonnade. As Admetus
staggered across the court, the man came out and stood across his
path.

"Whither goest thou, O king?" he asked.

Raising his eyes, Admetus found himself face to face with his strange
herdsman.

"My head burns from feasting in the crowded hall," he said, "and I am
come out to get the cool night air."

The herdsman answered him never a word, but gazed at him with his
strange piercing eyes. And Admetus glanced this way and that, but
could not meet that steadfast look.

"Why do the gods torment me?" he cried hotly. "What have I done that I
should be tortured on my bridal night?"

"Nay, think rather what thou hast left undone."

"Left undone?" cried Admetus, and pointed to the altar in the centre
of the court. "Seest thou not the fire still red from the burning of
the sacrifice? Not here only, but throughout the whole city, do they
steam with the savoury smoke."

"Altars may steam while hearts are cold, Admetus. One fervent prayer
before the solitary shrine availeth more than hecatombs of oxen slain
without a thought. Did I not stand before thee in the path this day
and lift my hands in prayer to Hecate? But with unseeing eyes didst
thou pass me by, and the goddess is wroth at thy neglect, and her
anger standeth between thee and thy bride."

And Admetus stood with eyes downcast before him, and had never a word
to say.

"Yet because I love thee I will help thee once again," the herdsman
said. "Go back upon thy road and offer now thy prayers. I too will
intercede for thee, and methinks that the voice of my pleadings she
will not disdain."

Slowly and sorrowfully did Admetus return along the road he had
travelled with so light a heart before. For three days and three
nights he was not seen within the palace, and for three days and three
nights Alcestis lay tossing to and fro upon her bed, with wild words
upon her lips, and before her eyes fearful shapes that she alone could
see. On the fourth day Admetus came slowly up the hill. The dust of
the highway clung white about his clothes, and the sweat of weariness
stood out upon his brow. Yet straightway he came and stood beside
Alcestis, and took her hand in his. Then she opened her eyes and
looked at him, and for the first time since her marriage night she
looked on a face with eyes that could see. The fearful shapes and
visions fled away, and she smiled at him with tears of joy. Then
Admetus knew that his prayers had not been vain, and that Hecate had
heard his cry, and given him back his wife.


VI

Quickly the days and nights sped by, and the palace was full of joy
and happiness. At last the season came round that had brought the
strange herdsman to Admetus the year before. On the selfsame day of
the month he came and stood once more before him.

"Twelve moons have waxed and waned, O king," he said, "since the day
when first thou gavest me shelter in thy halls. The time of my
cleansing is accomplished, and I am come to bid thee farewell."

"Farewell?" cried Admetus. "That is a bitter word in mine ears. Fain
would I have thee with me always. Yet have I no heart to beg thee to
remain, for thou art mightier than I, and even to call thee guest and
friend would sound presumptuous in mine ears. Farewell, then. May the
gods reward thee tenfold for the blessings thou hast showered upon my
house!"

"When first I stood within thy halls thou didst say to me, 'Stranger,
who art thou, and whose blood is on thy hands?' Dost thou not ask me
that question now once more ere we part?"

"Master, I asked it then in ignorance of thee and of thy ways. To-day
it lieth with thee to tell me or not as thou wiliest. If thou wouldst
hide thy name from me still, I am content."

"Nay, I will tell thee, for 'tis meet thou shouldst know. The fame of
the deed I wrought has spread far and wide throughout the world
wherever men speak with awe the name of Delphi. Thou knowest how in
the beginning Earth held the sacred shrine, and gave forth, from the
mouth of her priestess, dark and dreadful oracles, and Chaos and Night
had their seats there, and the wingless foul Furies, the trackers of
blood. Round about the awful spot the mountains re-echoed the voice of
lamentation and the cries of human victims led forth to sacrifice; and
lest at any time one strong of arm and stout of heart should come to
wrest away the shrine from the powers of darkness, there lay before
the gates a guardian fierce and terrible--Python, the sleepless
dragon. In and out and round about the portals he wound his monstrous
length, and his scales threw back the light like points of flashing
steel, and his eyes were like the red-tongued flame. No man in those
days could pass that dreadful portal, but, like a dim, uncertain echo,
the voice of the priestess floated down to the trembling folk below.
At last one day there came a shining one whose sword was the sunlight,
and his arrows were darts of living fire. With the strength of his
right arm he slew the Python, and stretched out his monstrous coils
beneath the hot sun's rays, till the flesh melted and rotted away, and
only his bones lay gleaming white upon the rocks, to show how once he
had guarded the shrine against all comers; and the victor took the
shrine and made it his own, and placed his priestess there to utter
forth true oracles to men when the divine spirit filled her breast.
The waters of the Castalian spring he purified, so that those who came
might wash away their guilt, and stand with pure hearts before the
shrine. And over the green lawns beneath Parnassus he led the choir of
the Muses, the bright-haired sisters of poetry, and music, and
dancing. Because their feet have touched the earth where Castalia has
its fount, men say that those who drink of those waters are filled
with their spirit, so that the words that they speak and the songs
that they sing are immortal, and will live for ever upon the lips and
in the hearts of men. He who did this thing and turned the darkness
into light stands here before thee now."

"Apollo!" cried Admetus, "lord and master!" And he fell upon the
ground before him, and clasped him by the knees. "Ah, forgive the
blindness and presumption of my heart!" he begged.

"Nay, there is nought to forgive. They that shed blood must pay the
price--yea, though it be the blood of a monster rightfully poured out
upon the ground. Light was the cost of my purification, for thou art a
kind master and an honourable man. But now my hands are clean, I go
back to my seat on fair Olympus, where high above the clouds the
deathless gods dwell evermore in the clear, bright light of heaven.
Yet do I love thee, and will not forget thee. When the shadow of
despair falls dark across thy path, call on me, and I will help thee."

So saying, he bent forward and took Admetus by the hand, and raised
him up. Once more that piercing glance burned through to his very
soul; then the stranger turned and strode away across the palace
court. Like one changed to marble Admetus stood and watched him go.
Then with a start he rushed to the gateway, and looked eagerly down
the road. But though he shaded and strained his eyes, he could see
that familiar form no more. Only far away on the dim horizon the veil
of clouds which hung about Olympus melted away beneath the sun's
bright rays, and the snow-clad peak flashed clear and sparkling as a
crystal against the summer sky.

"Lo, even dread Olympus smiles a welcome to the god of Light and
Truth!" said Admetus.

Then with a sigh he turned back into the palace.


VII

For ten long years Admetus and Alcestis ruled in Pheræ, and the gods
gave them joy and happiness and two children to bless their wedded
love. And when Admetus looked back to the days of the past, he was
well pleased with the story of his life. Had he not held an oar in the
good ship _Argo_, whose fame had reached to the uttermost parts of the
earth? By the strength of his arm he had won to wife the fairest maid
in Thessaly, and brought her home behind a pair such as no man before
or since had dared to yoke together. Moreover, through the length and
breadth of Hellas his house was famous as the home of hospitality and
good cheer. Not men alone, but great Apollo, the bright-haired god of
Light, had been his guest--nay, his very servant. Was he not king,
too, of a rich and fruitful land, in which year by year the earth
brought forth plenteous harvests, because the greatness of his name
held back the tide of war, and peace with unfettered feet walked
joyously through field and city? When he remembered all these things,
his heart waxed big with vanity and pride, and he began to forget the
gods and to look down upon his fellow-men, and think that he alone of
all mankind had done great deeds, and that without him the world would
be but a sorry place. This pride it was that made him do a mean thing
that marred all the glory of his life.

One day Death came and stood beside him, and put his seal upon his
brow, and Admetus knew that he must die. When he felt that now he
stood upon the threshold of Hades, the dim dark world of the dead,
where high and low, rich and poor, strong and weak, wander for ever as
voiceless shades through the sunless groves, where kingship and
slavery are one, his heart was turned to water, and his spirit called
aloud in his anguish,

"Apollo, O Apollo! Hear me in my sore distress, and deliver me from
death."

Far away on the sunlit peak of Olympus Apollo heard his cry, and swift
as the lightning crosses the sky he came and stood beside him.

"What wouldst thou with me, Admetus?" he asked. "I have come in answer
to thy prayer."

Then Admetus raised his head, and pointed to his brow, and Apollo
gazed sadly at him. "I see the seal upon thy brow, my friend--the seal
that none may break."

"Ah, say not that, my lord! Am I not even now in the prime of my
manhood, when others look forward to many a long year of joyous life?
Why should I die before my time? My mother and my aged father still
live, and rejoice in the sunlight, yet no kingdom standeth by the
might of their right arm. The meanest slave within my palace is more
fortunate than I. Why, out of them all, hath Death laid his hand on
me?"

"He is but the servant of the Fates, Admetus, whose ways neither gods
nor men can understand."

"The Fates? Are they lower than the beasts, then, and will not listen
to the voice of reason?"

"The voice of man's reason is to them as the baying of jackals in the
wilderness, Admetus."

"O god of Light, is there nothing that will touch their hearts? Canst
thou by thy music turn the souls of man and beast, and soothe the fury
of the whirlwind and the crying of the rain, and yet over them alone
hast thou no power? Ah! by the love thou once didst bear me, go,
strike thy lyre before them, and sing thy song of magic. Surely they
will not withstand thee, but will put my life into thy hands in return
for the beauty of thy song."

"Because I love thee I will go, Admetus. Yet, if I go, it is because
they call me; and if I prevail, or if I fail, it is because they have
willed it long ago. Farewell."

So Apollo sped away on the wings of the wind, far, far away beyond
earth's widest bounds, beyond the region of unmelting snow and the
land of the midnight sun, beyond the ever-rolling stream of ocean and
the deserts of the air, till he came to the unchanging land where the
three Great Sisters dwell together, without beginning and without end.
In that land there is neither north nor south, east nor west. There is
neither sun nor moon, night nor day, time nor change. On three great
thrones of mist the mighty Sisters sit, and their forms are neither
foul nor fair. On their brows are crowns of sovereignty, and in their
hands the destinies of man, which they sit spinning, for ever
spinning, into the mighty web of Life. The first is Lachesis the
Chooser. From the tangled mass beside her she picks out threads of
varied hue and hands them to Clotho the Spinner, who weaves them into
the web upon her knees. On the other side sits Atropos the Unswerving
One. In her hands she holds a pair of shears, and as the ends of the
threads hang loose on the wrong side of the web, she cuts them off and
casts them at her feet.

So Apollo came and stood before them with his lyre in his hand. Softly
he touched the golden strings, then raised his voice and sang. At the
sound of that magic song Lachesis forgot to hand the threads to her
sister, the web dropped low on Clotho's knee, and the hand of Atropos
fell lifeless by her side, and till the ending of the song Time itself
stood still. While the magic of his singing held them spellbound
Apollo urged his plea.

"Almighty Sisters, from the ends of the world have I come, from the
haunts of mortal man, to ask a boon for one I love."

"Say on, Apollo. Thou hast turned our hearts to water by the magic of
thy song. What wilt thou?"

"In the fertile land of Pheræ, Admetus lies a-dying. He is young, and
the love of life runs hot within his veins. He is a great king, too,
and rules his subjects well and wisely, and loud will be the wail of
the people if he must die before his time. If my song has pleased you,
mighty ones, O grant that he may live to a green old age."

"All mortals would live to a green old age, Apollo, and thou lovest
many among the sons of men. There would be no end to our bounty if for
every song we must grant thee a life. Nay, ask some other boon, for
thy song has reached our hearts!"

But Apollo turned sadly away. "There is nothing else I would ask of
you, great Sisters. For this, and for this alone, have I come."

"On one condition only can we grant thee thy boon, Apollo. Thou sayest
that Admetus is a great king, and well loved by all his folk. If among
them all he can find one soul that will go to Hades in his place, we
will let him live on to a green old age. Surely we ask not much. Some
slave who loveth not his life, or some old man whose grey hairs are a
burden, will gladly die that one so wise and great may live on for his
people's joy."

"So be it, mighty ones. Yet methinks 'tis an empty boon thou hast
given me, for men cling to life and the sunny days on earth, and
Admetus may seek far ere he find one who will cast it aside for the
darkness and gloom of the sad underworld. And, in any case, he is not
one to live on at the price of another's life."

"We can grant no more," they said.

So Apollo went back by the way he had gone; and he came and stood
beside Admetus, and told him the word of the Fates. When Admetus heard
it he was glad.

"O God of Light, thou wast ever my friend, and now I shall owe my very
life to thee. How can I thank thee?"

But Apollo looked through to his inmost soul. "Dost thou accept the
condition, then?" he asked.

"What else can I do, master?" he replied.

"Thou canst die."

"I know it," cried Admetus; "but why must I die before my time? With
the Argonauts I sailed the unknown seas; in the lists I have fought
and prevailed against the flower of Hellas; and for twelve months a
god deigned to dwell beneath my palace roof. Surely my life is worth
more than most men's, and I do well to keep it while I may."

"So be it," said Apollo, but his face was stern and terrible, and
Admetus trembled at his frown. "Go now, and find one who will die for
thee." And he turned and left him.


VIII

When Admetus was left alone his heart was in a tumult. He felt the
wrath of Apollo like the lash of a whip, and he knew that his anger
was just. When he looked back on his life, he was ashamed at the
change which long years of prosperity and peace had wrought in him;
that much manliness at least was left him. When he thought of the
great deeds he had done in his youth, and how, when he had but sipped
of its joys, he had been ready a hundred times to cast life lightly
aside, he felt like a thief slinking guiltily home by night, laden
with the spoils that will make himself rich and leave his friend poor
and starving. If he took another's life as the price of his own, he
felt he would never be able again to look a man straight in the face.
And yet he could live his life but once; and life, with prosperity and
ease, sunshine and riches, had become more dear to him than honour,
more dear than the love and esteem of his fellow-men. His very deeds
of valour had become a snare to entice him to the path of meanness and
dishonour, to make him hold another's life as a cheap price to pay for
one so great as he. So he quenched the last spark of manliness that
still struggled for life in his heart, and sent a proclamation through
the land, bidding all those who would die that their king might live,
to come and stand before him in the palace, that he might choose
between them; for he thought that many would be glad to die for him.
For many a long day he waited, and no man came. Then he sent forth
trusty messengers to stir the people's hearts; but they returned with
words instead of men.

"We will ride in the chase, we will sail the stormy seas, we will
fight against our country's foes, and in all these things will we risk
our lives to save the king. But we will not leave our wives and little
ones and the pleasant life on earth, for no cause save that another
may live beyond his fated time."

Such were the words of the people.

Then Admetus sent for all his household--the slaves that had been born
and bred within the palace. And they said that they would toil for
him all their days, but die for him they would not; for even the life
of a slave was better than the endless years of gloom in the kingdom
of the dead.

Then the heart of Admetus grew bitter within him, and he hated the
thought of death more than ever before, when he found that even the
meanest life was dear to the hearts of men. In his despair he turned
to his aged parents, for he thought within himself,

"Surely one of them will be ready to die for their own son. At best
they have not many years of life, and if I die before them they will
have no son to bury them and perform the funeral rites and prayers, as
only a son can do for his parents."

So he went to Pheres his father, and begged that he would die in his
place. But his father answered,

"Dost thou think that because thou lovest the sunlight thy father
loves it not?"

"Nay, but in any case Death must lay his hand upon thee soon, whilst I
am in the prime of life."

"Because the years that are left me are few, they are none the less
sweet. Nevermore in the land of Hades shall I warm my old bones in the
sun as I look forth upon the fruitful earth. So the years that are
left are doubly dear."

"Then, when thou comest to die, men will point the finger of scorn at
thy grave. 'Behold the coward, who, though his hair was grey and his
limbs were feeble, yet refused to die for his own son!' Thy name will
be a byword throughout all Hellas."

"When I am dead it matters little what men shall say of me," said
Pheres.

"May the gods forgive thee for what thou hast said!" cried Admetus,
and turned away in wrath. For it was a dreadful thing for a Greek to
say he cared not what men would think of him when he was dead.

Then Admetus went to his mother. But she, no less than his father,
clung to life, and refused to die in his stead.

Last of all he turned to his wife, Alcestis. From the beginning she
had been ready to die for him, for she loved him, and placed his life
above her own. But he had said there was no need that she should die
and take away half the joy of his life, when another would do as well.

"It needs a great love to sacrifice life for the sake of another," she
had answered, "and there is no one in all the world who loves thee as
I do."

Now he found that her words were true, and that he must either die
himself or take her life as the price of his own; and his self-love
had the mastery, though he tried to persuade his heart that he was
living beyond his appointed time for his country's sake and his
people's good. Yet at bottom he was not satisfied, and his heart grew
bitter against all those who had refused to die for him, and he
accused them of being the murderers of his wife. But he knew full well
that it was his own hand that was sending her to the grave in the
flower of her life.

At last the day of doom arrived on which Alcestis was to die. Till
then she had put aside all thought of death, and had lived her life as
though no shadow hung over her; for she thought within herself,

"At least I will be happy my last days on earth. I shall have long
enough to mourn for my life in the kingdom of the dead."

But now the last day had come she could put away the thought of death
no longer. Before a gleam of light shone forth on the far horizon she
was up to greet the first rays of the sun, for she was a true daughter
of Hellas, and she loved the glad sunshine and all that was bright and
fair, while death and darkness and the gloom of the sad underworld
filled her soul with horror. For the last time she looked upon the
faint gleam in the east and watched it spread over the sky, and saw
the red disc of the sun as he rose from the way of the sea and made
the pale dawn blush. The clouds were tinged with glory, and the
heavens were filled with light, and the earth awoke with a smile of
flowers dancing in the glad morning breeze. Then she washed in the
fresh fountain water, put on her gayest robes, and went and stood
before the altar on the hearth, to pray her last prayer on earth.

"O lady Goddess! I am going far away across the dark river of Death,
and for the last time do I make my prayer to thee. Ah, when I am gone,
have mercy on my children. Hard are the ways of the world, and they
are young to be left without a mother's love. Put forth the right hand
of thy pity, lady, and bring them to a glad old age. Let them not
perish, as I must, in the bloom of their life, but give to my son a
loving wife, and a noble husband to my daughter; and may they be happy
all their days!"

Then she went through the palace and bade farewell to all the
servants. To each one she gave her hand, even to the meanest slave of
them all, and spoke kindly to them. And they bathed her hand with
their tears, for they loved their mistress, and knew that when she
died they would lose a good friend. As she went the children clung
weeping about her skirts, for they, too, knew that she must die.

Last of all she went alone to her chamber, for she could endure no
more; and she threw herself upon her couch, and wept as though her
heart would break. She kissed the pillows and smoothed them tenderly
with her hands.

"Alas, alas! for the happy days on earth," she cried, "and happiest of
all the years that I have lived here as the wife of Admetus! Farewell,
my couch--farewell for ever!"

She tried to tear herself away, but again and again when she had
reached the door she turned back and fell once more weeping upon her
couch. At last she felt the weakness of death creeping over her, and
she knew if she did not leave her chamber then, she would leave it
nevermore alive. All her tears were spent, and she had no strength
left to weep any more. Outside in the great hall Admetus sat with his
head upon his hands, weeping for his wife, and cursing the bitterness
of his fate. And she went and stood beside him.

"Take me out into the sunlight, Admetus," she said; "the darkness
within oppresses me. I can breathe more freely in the air."

When he looked at her he was afraid, for she was as pale as death.
Gently he raised her in his arms, and placed her on a couch in the
portico before the palace. And when she saw the blue sky and the
sunshine she smiled.

"O sun and light of day," she said, "and ye dancing, eddying clouds,
farewell!"

"O ye gods, have mercy!" cried Admetus. "My dearest, look up, and
leave me not all desolate."

But with a cry of fear she started up, and pointed in front.

"Look, look! The boat of the dead, and the ferryman of souls with his
hand upon the pole--Charon! He calls, 'Alcestis, why dost thou tarry?
Hasten and come with me.'"

"Ah, Fate, Fate--cruel Fate!" cried Admetus.

"He is snatching me away--oh, save me!--down, down to the dark halls
of death. Away, let me go! He frowns with his dark gleaming brows. Ah,
the dread journey before me!"

"Leave me not, leave me not!" cried Admetus.

"Lay me down again," said Alcestis, and her voice was scarce more than
a whisper. "The strength is gone out of my limbs, and darkness creeps
over my eyes. My children, where are you? Come here, my little ones,
and nestle close beside me."

And the children crept silently to her.

Then she held out her hand to Admetus.

"My lord," she said, "farewell. Already my feet are planted in the
paths of death, and thou canst not hold me back. I have been a loving
wife to thee, Admetus; my beauty, my youth, my joy of life--all these
I give to thee. Ah, when I am dead, forget me not, for the children's
sake, for these poor little ones--promise me. Promise me thou wilt not
wed again, for a stepmother's heart would be hard against my children,
and they would suffer. Promise me that thou wilt be a father and
mother to them in one."

[Illustration: And the children crept silently to her.]

"I promise," said Admetus.

"Then into thy hands I give them. Poor little ones, what will you do
without me? My son, for thee thy father will ever be a strong tower of
defence, and will bring thee up to be a true man. But for thee, little
maiden, my heart bleeds. Thou wilt have no mother to dress thee on thy
wedding-day, or to comfort thee in thy sorrows, when there is no love
like a mother's. Be doubly tender with her, Admetus."

"I will, I will. All that thou sayest I will do, and more also. Not
for one year only, but all my life long, will I mourn for thee. Forget
me not, I pray thee. Prepare a place for me below, that I may be with
thee when I come to die."

"Nay, I will not forget thee. Lay me back now. I can say no more."

Gently he laid her back, and knelt down by her side, and all they that
stood around bowed their heads in silence, for they knew that Death
was standing in their midst.

At last Admetus looked up.

"My friends," he said, "she is gone. Help me now to carry her in, that
the maidens may clothe her in the robes of death."

Gently and reverently, with heads bowed in grief, they carried her in.
The maidens clad her in long white robes, and laid her on the bier,
and the mourners stood round and sang a dirge for the dead. On the
threshold before the palace Admetus placed the locks he had shorn from
his head in token that within one lay dead, and he put on long black
robes of mourning, and took off the golden circlet from his brow.
Throughout the city he sent a proclamation to say the queen was dead.

"Men of Thessaly," it said, "all ye who own my sway, come, share with
me in sorrow for my wife who is dead. Shave the bright locks from your
heads, and don your sable robes. Harness your four-horsed chariots;
put the bit in the mouths of your steeds. Cut off the long manes from
their necks, and follow with me to her grave. Let not the voice of the
flute be heard in your streets, nor the sound of the lyre, till full
twelve moons have waxed and waned; for she was the noblest of women,
and dearest of all on earth to me. Her life she sacrificed for mine.
Pay her high honours, then, for she is most worthy."


IX

Whilst the preparations for the funeral were being made, anyone who
chanced to look along the highroad would have seen a stranger making
his way towards the palace. He was a strong man and tall--three cubits
and more in height. The muscles of his arms and chest stood out like
thongs of cord. In his hand he carried a huge knotted club, and over
his shoulders hung a lion's skin. If the wind or the sun were too
strong, he would draw the jaws of the beast over his head like a hood,
and the great teeth shone out white and terrible over his brows and
under his chin. He walked along with great swinging strides, balancing
the club upon his shoulder as though it were some light twig, and not
heavy as a sapling oak. As he went through the villages the people
stood aside from his path in wonder, and even the strongest champion
of them all would whisper, "May the gods deliver me from ever having
to stand up against him in single combat. In his little finger is the
strength of my right arm."

But he walked on, little heeding what folk thought of him, singing now
and again snatches of some drinking-song, and passing the time of day,
or cracking some joke with those he met upon the way; for, in truth,
he had a merry heart, and wished well to all mankind. Those who were
frightened when first they saw his club and lion's skin forgot their
fears as soon as they could see his face, for his eyes were blue and
laughing as the summer sky, and his smile was bright as the sun in
spring. And yet there were lines and scars about his features which
proved that he was no idler, but one who had looked labour and danger
in the face.

So he came to Pheræ and went up the steep path to the palace. It
chanced that Admetus was standing in the portico on his way in. When
the stranger saw him he shouted out,

"Hail to thee, Admetus! Turn back and greet an old friend."

When Admetus heard him, he turned and came towards him.

"Welcome, Heracles," he said, and held out his hand to greet him.

But when Heracles saw his black robes and shorn locks he was troubled.

"I have come at an evil hour, Admetus," he said; "thou art mourning
for one who is dear to thee."

"Ay," he answered; "it is true."

"One of thy children, can it be, or thy father?"

"Nay, there is nought amiss with them. It is a woman I am carrying out
to burial this day."

"Is she a stranger, or one of the family?"

"She is not one of the family. Yet she is very dear to us, for on her
father's death she came and lived with us. She was a fair and noble
woman, and all the house is plunged in grief at her death."

"Then I will leave thee and go elsewhere. A house of mourning is no
place for guests."

"Nay," cried Admetus; "I beg of thee, do not go. Never yet have my
halls turned away a traveller from the gates. The dead are dead. What
more could we do for them? 'Twould do them small good to lack in
friendship for the living. Come in, come in, I pray thee."

In spite of all his entreaties, he forced him to come in, and bade his
steward take him to a guest-room apart, where he might eat and drink,
and hear nothing of the sounds of mourning when the body was carried
out to the tomb; and he did all in his power to hide from his guest
that it was Alcestis who was dead; for he was ashamed for Heracles to
know that he had allowed his wife to die for him.

Meanwhile all had been prepared for the funeral, and a train of
citizens stood waiting in the court to follow behind the bier. Their
long black robes fell trailing in the dust; their heads were shorn in
grief, and with slow steps they followed behind the bier, whilst the
mourners sang a dirge for the dead.

"O daughter of Pelias, farewell, farewell for evermore! Mayest thou
have peace in the world below and such joy as may be in those sunless
places! O thou black-haired god of Death, never has one more noble
come down to dwell in thy halls; never, O Charon, thou grim ferryman
of souls--never hast thou carried a burden more precious across the
dark and dreadful stream! Oft shall thy praises be sung, lady, by
minstrels of music in every land. On the seven-stringed mountain-lute
shall they sing thee, and in hymns, without lyre or lute, in Sparta,
when the circling seasons bring round the summer feast-time, and all
night long the moon rides high in heaven. In bright and shining Athens
shall they praise thee, too; for thou alone, O brightest and best,
hast dared to die for thy lord, and give up thy young life for him. O
dark Necessity, who shroudest all men about with death, how heavy is
thy hand upon this house! From thee none can flee, and Zeus himself
bows down before thee. Thou alone, O goddess, hast no temple, no
images to which men turn in prayer, neither hearest thou the voice of
victims slain. Alcestis is gone--gone for ever. Our eyes shall see her
no more. Light may the earth lie above thee, lady. Dear wast thou when
thou wast among us; dear shalt thou be, too, in death. No mere mound
of the dead shall thy tomb be, but honoured of every passer-by, as
some shrine of the Immortals. The stranger toiling up the winding way
shall bow his head before it and say, 'Here lieth one who died for her
lord; now she is a blessed spirit. O lady, have mercy upon me!' So
great shall be thy glory among men for ever. Fare thee well, fare thee
well, most beautiful."

So they laid her in the polished tomb, and placed rich gifts about
her, and sacrifices of blood to the grim god of Death. When all the
rites were accomplished, they went away sorrowful.


X

Meanwhile Heracles had been led to a guest-chamber apart, and the
servants ministered to all his wants, and brought him water to wash
with, and change of raiment. As they waited on him, he talked gaily to
them of his adventures on the way, and made them laugh in spite of
their grief for their mistress. Only the old serving-man stood aloof,
and looked darkly at the stranger who dared to make merry in a house
of mourning.

When he had washed and dressed, he sat down to meat. They placed an
ample meal before him, and brought him wine to drink. But in his eyes
their bounty was dearth, and he kept calling for more till they could
scarce contain their astonishment at his appetite. At length, when he
had eaten his fill, he crowned his head with vine-leaves, and fell to
drinking long and deep. The wine warmed his heart, and sent a cheerful
glow through all his veins. So happy was he that he could not sit in
silence, but raised his voice and sang, and his singing was like the
roaring of a bull.

"Great Zeus, preserve us!" sighed the old waiting-man; "never have I
heard anything more discordant and unseemly."

But the guest grew merrier and merrier, and the face of the
serving-man, as he watched, grew longer and longer. At length Heracles
himself noticed his disapproving countenance.

"Ho, there!" cried he; "why so dark and gloomy, my friend? I had as
soon be welcomed by an iceberg as by thee, old sour-face."

The serving-man answered him never a word, but only scowled the more.

"What!" cried Heracles, "is this the sort of welcome thou art wont to
give thy master's guests? Come hither, and I will teach thee better
ways."

And he took hold of the old man and set him down beside him at the
table.

"Alack! What a countenance! And all for a strange girl who has chanced
to die. How wilt thou look when one of thy masters is laid in the
grave? I like not this mask of hypocrisy, my friend. Thou carest not
for her who is dead, but pullest a long face, and strikest a chill to
the hearts of all beholders, because, forsooth, it is seemly to mourn
for the dead. Why, we must all pay our tribute to death, every man of
us, and no one knoweth whether he shall ever see the next day's light;
then count the present as thine own, and eat and drink with me and
make merry. A frowning face profits not the dead--nay, it serves but
to blacken the sunshine of this life that we can live but once. Up,
man, drink and wash away thy frowns! Believe me, life is no life at
all--only labour and misfortune to those who walk through it with
pompous steps and sour faces."

And he poured out a brimming goblet.

"All this I know full well, master," answered the old man, "but the
shadow that has fallen on this house is too heavy for me to join in
thy revelry."

"Thou makest too much of death. Thou canst not grieve for a stranger
as thou wouldst for one of the household. Thy master and mistress
live. Let that suffice thee."

"What! My master and mistress live? Alas! my master is too kind a
host."

"Must I starve, then, because a strange girl is dead?"

"It is no stranger, I tell thee, but one most near and dear."

"Have I been deceived? Has he hidden some misfortune from me?"

"Ask no more, but go in peace. My master's sorrows are for me to bear,
not for thee. And he bade me not speak of it."

"Speak, speak, man! I see he has hidden some great sorrow from me. Who
is the woman who is dead?"

"Ask me not. My master told me not to say."

"And I forbid thee not to say. Tell me forthwith!"

So fierce and terrible did he look that the old man trembled before
him.

"May my lord forgive me!" said he. "It is Alcestis, his wife."

"Alcestis!" cried Heracles. "And he would not share his sorrow with
me, his friend, but let me come in and feast and sing while he went
out to bury her. Woe is me! I thought he loved me."

"It was to spare thee pain that he did not tell thee, master."

"How came she to die?" asked Heracles, and took off the vine-leaves
from his head, and poured out the wine upon the floor.

Then the old man told him the whole tale.

"Where have they buried her?" he asked, when it was ended.

"Out yonder, where the white highway leads to Larissa, in the plain.
There, on the outskirts of the city, thou wilt find the tomb of the
kings of Pheræ, where they are laying her."

"Is there no shorter way I can go and reach her quickly?"

"There is a footpath by the fields that I will show thee."

"Come, then, straightway. I must go and lie in wait for the black Lord
of Death. He will come up to drink of the blood that is poured out for
him beside the tomb. Then I will fall upon him from my ambush and
wrestle with him and prevail, and he shall give me back Alcestis. Even
if I must go down to Hades and fetch her, she shall come back. She is
too fair and too noble to pass her young life in the dark underworld."

The old man marvelled at his words; but he went out with him, and
showed him the footpath across the fields, and stood watching him till
he passed out of sight.

"Verily, we talk and weep," he muttered to himself, "and he laughs and
acts. He is worth ten of us."


XI

Meanwhile the funeral procession was coming back along the highway. As
they came into the city each man departed to his own house; only
Admetus with his near friends and kinsmen returned to the palace to
celebrate the funeral feast. Whilst they were waiting for the feast
to be prepared, Admetus stayed outside alone in the court. He sat down
on one of the stone seats beneath the colonnade, and buried his face
in his hands. He could not bring himself to go into the house, where
everything would remind him of the wife he had lost--the chair in
which she used to sit, empty now; the fire on the altar burning low,
and the ashes scattered about, because she was there no more to feed
the dying flames. The full force of the sacrifice came home to him
now, and he shuddered as he thought of the deed he had done.

"I have slain her--I have slain her whom I loved, to save myself from
death, because I loved my life, and hated to go to the dark world
below. Woe is me!" he cried. "The sun is turned to darkness and the
earth to Hades since she went away. I grasped at the substance, and
all the while I followed after a shade. Fool that I was to upbraid
them who refused to die for me and cast her death in their teeth! She
is dead, dead--slain by my hand alone. Nevermore can I look my people
in the face, nor glory in the deeds I have done. The shame of my
cowardice will blot them all out, and I shall slink like a cur among
my fellows. Would that I had died with her!"

Thus he sat making fruitless moan. His friends came out and tried to
comfort him and bring him into the house, but he sent them away, and
would not go in. All the evening he sat there alone till darkness
began to fall. At length he felt a heavy hand laid upon his shoulder,
and, looking up, he saw Heracles standing beside him.

"Why couldst thou not trust me, Admetus?" he asked. "All thy
household, all the city, knew that thy wife Alcestis was dead. Me
only, thy familiar friend, didst thou keep in ignorance. I had thought
to stand beside thee in thy sorrow, and thou didst not even tell me of
it."

"I was ashamed," answered Admetus.

"Well, well, what is done cannot be undone. There is but one way now
that thou canst prove thou art still my friend. After I had eaten, I
walked out across the fields, and came upon a place where the people
were holding games and giving rich prizes to the winners--horses and
oxen, and a fair woman to the best man of all. When I saw the woman I
determined to win her. So I entered for the contest and beat all my
rivals. The woman I have brought back with me now, and beg of thee to
keep her till I come back from the wild Thracian folk, for I cannot
take her with me there. If by any chance I should never come back, but
meet my fate away, I give her to thee to keep for thyself. I have
brought her with me now to give into thy care."

As he spoke, he led forward by the hand a woman who had been standing
near him. She was closely veiled, so that Admetus, when he glanced up
at her, could not see her face, but only the outline of her form.

"Oh, take her away, take her away!" he cried. "In height and figure
she is like my wife, and I cannot bear to look upon her. I would do
much for thee, my friend, but ask not this of me. No woman shall ever
live in my house again. Take her to some other of thy friends."

In spite of all Heracles could say, he refused to take her.

"I see that thou wouldst no more be my friend, Admetus," he said at
last. "First thou wilt not tell me of thy sorrow, and now thou wilt
not do this little thing for me. I will go and trouble thee no more
with my friendship."

At this Admetus was cut to the quick.

"Ah, say not that. Thou knowest that I love thee, but this is a hard
thing thou askest. Whenever I look at her I shall be reminded of my
wife. And the tongue of slander will not be silent. Men will say that
I take comfort, and have forgotten the woman who gave her life for
mine. Nevertheless, if thou wilt have it so, I yield. Take the woman
in, or let one of the servants show her the way."

"Nay," said Heracles; "to thee alone will I trust her. She is fair and
noble, and I would not have her treated as a common woman."

And he forced Admetus to take her by the hand.

"Now I know that thou wilt treat her honourably, thou mayst look upon
her face," he said, and lifted up the veil which shrouded her.

When Admetus saw her face, he fell back terrified, for, pale and
beautiful, scarce looking as though she breathed, Alcestis stood
before him.

"Ye gods!" he gasped; "the spirit of my wife!"

"Nay," said Heracles, "but her very self."

"Thou mockest; it cannot be."

"It is no mockery, as who should know better than I who won her?" said
Heracles. "By Zeus, I have wrestled many a tough match, but never a
one so tough as this, the gods be praised! I have met Death face to
face, and I hope I may never have to stand up against him more."

[Illustration: She answered him never a word, but held out both her
hands and raised him from his knees.]

"Ah, my friend, how can I thank thee? I have not deserved so much
joy," cried Admetus, and fell on his knees before them.

"I thought not of thy deserts, but of hers," said Heracles. "Come,
take her in."

"I dare not touch her. Ah, lady, canst thou love one who sent thee to
thy death?" he asked, with head bowed down before her.

She answered him never a word, but held out both her hands and raised
him from his knees; and he looked deep into her eyes, and found them
full of love. Tenderly and humbly he put his arm about her and led her
away, and felt that, if anything on earth could ever raise him from
the depths of selfishness and meanness to which he had fallen, it
would be the boundless, measureless love of the woman before him.

"Now to change the funeral feast to a banquet of rejoicing," cried
Heracles. "Truly, I could eat an ox after this last bout of mine."

[Illustration]



The Hunting of the Calydonian Boar


In the city of Calydon long ago there were great rejoicings because
the queen Althæa had given birth to a son, her first-born, who, if he
grew to years of manhood, would in time sit upon the throne of his
father OEneus, and rule the land. Some seven days after the child
was born it chanced that the queen was lying alone in her chamber,
with the babe upon her breast. It was winter-time, and the shades of
evening had fallen early about the room, but a bright fire blazed upon
the hearth, and the flickering flames threw dancing shadows on the
walls. The queen was very happy as she pressed her baby to her breast,
and held its soft little hand in hers, and whispered in its ear words
which only a mother knows how to use to her child.

As she lay she watched the shadows playing up and down upon the walls,
and to her eyes they took strange forms of men and beasts. Now it was
a great fight she saw, with horses and chariots rushing over a plain,
and mighty warriors meeting face to face in battle; now it was a
hunt, with winding of horns and dogs straining at the leash, and a
white-tusked boar breaking through a thicket. But whether it was a
hunt or whether it was a battle, everywhere there was one figure of a
man she watched--a man tall and fair and brave, who stood out
conspicuous among his fellows--such a hero as her son might grow to be
if he lived till years of manhood. And she prayed that her vision
might come true, and her son grow up to be a hero--a man mighty in
sport and mighty in battle. In time the flames died down, and the fire
burned clear and still upon the hearth. The queen's eyes grew heavy,
and she was about to turn on her side to sleep when a strange thing
happened, which took from her all desire for rest. The wall of the
room in front of her, which had glowed bright and cheery in the
firelight, grew grey and misty and seemed to vanish before her eyes,
and through the opening there came towards her the forms of three
strange women, taller and more terrible than any women of earth. The
first one carried in her hand a skein of thread, the second a spindle,
and the third a pair of great sharp shears. The queen lay still and
motionless with terror as they came forward slowly arm in arm and
stood beside the couch, looking down upon the child at her breast. At
length the first one spoke.

"I give to thy child, Althæa, a thread of life exceeding bright and
fair."

"And I," said the second, "will weave that thread into dark places,
where it will shine the brighter for the darkness round about, and
bring him honour and great renown."

The third one said never a word, but walked slowly round the couch
till she stood before the fire on the hearth. A great brand had fallen
from the grate, and lay smouldering on the stones. Bending down, she
took it in her hand, and thrust it deep into the red-hot heart of the
fire, and stood watching it till it was well alight, and the tongues
of flame shot crackling upwards. Then she turned towards the queen.

"As soon as that brand upon the fire is consumed," she said, "I will
cut the shining thread with my shears, and his life shall be as ashes
cast forth upon the wind."

As she spoke, she held out the shears, and they gleamed sharp and
cruel in the firelight.

With a cry of terror the queen sprang up from her couch, forgetful of
her weakness, and thinking only of the life of her child; and she
rushed across the room, and, drawing forth the blazing brand from the
fire, she smothered it in her gown, and crushed it beneath her bare
feet, till not a live spark remained about it. Then she hid it in a
secret place where she alone could find it, and cast herself upon her
couch and knew no more. When the attendants came in, they found the
room empty, save for the queen and her child; and she lay senseless on
the couch, with her feet and her gown all scarred and burnt.

For many a long day she lay between life and death, but at last the
gods had mercy, and her strength came slowly back to her. But when
anyone asked her the cause of her burning, she would shudder and
mutter some strange tale of a brand which fell from the fire, and
would have burnt out the life of her child. What she meant no one ever
knew, but they thought that the gods had stricken her with a sudden
fever, and that, not knowing what she did, she had burnt herself in
the fire. But of the half-burnt brand and of the word of the Fates
they knew nothing, for Althæa had said in her heart,

"The Fates have spoken, and their word shall surely come to pass. A
fine and fair thread of life has Lachesis given to my son, and Clotho
will weave it into dark places, where it shall shine exceeding bright.
The gifts they have given are good. The hand of Atropos alone is
against him, and she has measured his life by the life of a frail
piece of wood. But so long as the gods shall give me strength no
careless hand shall place that brand upon the flames, and no man shall
know the secret of his life, for grief or madness may turn even the
heart of a friend. On me, and on me alone, shall my son's life rest;
for well do I know that neither prayer nor sacrifice can avail to turn
the heart of Atropos, the Unswerving One."

So she kept the brand securely hidden where she alone could find it.
Many other fair children did she bear to OEneus the king--Phereus
and Agelaus and Periphas, and Gorge and Melanippe, and the hapless
Dejaneira, who married Heracles, and unwittingly caused his death. But
best of them all she loved Meleager, her first-born; for the word that
the Fates had spoken came true. He grew to be a great warrior and a
mighty man, and was feared by his foes and loved by his friends
through the length and breadth of the land; for there were great wars
in those days between the Curetes of Pleuron and the Ætolians of
Calydon, and on either side fought men whose names were not despised
among their fellows, but among them all there was none so famed as
Meleager. In all the country-side there was no man who could hurl the
javelin with such force and skill as he, and whenever he went forth to
battle the victory lay with the men of Calydon, and he was called the
saviour and protector of his city.

When he was in the flower of his manhood, the call of Jason came from
far Iolchos for all the heroes of Hellas to join him in his search for
the Golden Fleece. Amongst them sailed Meleager in the good ship
_Argo_, and came to the land of the dusky Colchians on the shores of
the Euxine Sea. One tale goes that he slew Æetes their king, the child
of the Sun, and saved his comrades from deadly peril. But whether this
be true or no, certain it is that he played his part like a man, and
came back to Calydon with a fair name for courage and endurance. Then
was he hoisted on the shoulders of his countrymen and carried through
the streets of the city, and feasted right royally in his father's
house.

Soon after his return it chanced that the harvest was more plentiful
than it had ever been within the memory of man. The golden corn stood
high upon the plains, and on the sunny mountain-sides the olive-trees
were thick with berries, and the vine-branches drooped low with their
weight of purple fruit. Wherefore OEneus the king ordered a great
thanksgiving to be held throughout the land in honour of Dionysus and
Demeter and grey-eyed Pallas Athene, who had given such good gifts to
men. At every shrine and temple the altars smoked with sacrifice, and
glad bands of youths and maidens with garlands on their heads danced
hand in hand around, singing the song of the harvest.

"All hail to thee, Demeter, great Earth-Mother! From Evenus to the
silver eddying waters of wide Achelöus thou hast covered the bosom of
the plain with golden ears of corn, and they dance beneath the west
wind like the waves on summer seas. All hail to thee, Dionysus, who
bringest joy to the heart of man! About thine altars the juice of the
vine shall flow like water, and the souls of those who were bowed down
beneath labour and toil shall be uplifted to thee in the glad
harvest-time. And Pallas Athene, grey-eyed maiden, thee too we hail,
for thy gift of the fragrant olive. The shade of thy trees lies cool
upon the panting hill-sides, and thou hast looked with kindness on our
land. Oh, come hither, all ye townsfolk and ye dwellers on the plains
and hills--come hither in your hundreds, and dance about the altars,
and sing thanksgiving to the great gods on high."

Thus did they dance and sing, and there was gladness and rejoicing
through all the land, and not one soul among them all knew how soon
their laughter would be turned to tears. For when Artemis, the
huntress, saw that everywhere the altars smoked in honour of Demeter,
and Dionysus, and Pallas Athene, but that never a single stone was
raised to her, she was filled with jealousy and wrath. One night, when
all the land lay sleeping, she left the mountains, where she loved to
hunt, and came down to Calydon. The arrows in her quiver rattled as
she strode along in her wrath, and the flash of her eyes was as the
flash of summer lightning across the sky. With great swinging strides
she came and stood over OEneus as he slept.

"O king," she said, "too long have I been patient and waited for my
dues; but I will suffer thine ingratitude no more. When the young corn
stands green upon the plain, and the vine-leaves are shooting, and the
trees cast once more their shade upon the bare hill-side, then shalt
thou have cause to know my power. Demeter may sow her golden grain,
and Dionysus and Pallas Athene may fill their fruits with gladdening
juice, but thou hast yet to learn that, if it be my will, though the
promise of the harvest be fair, the fruits thereof shall lie spoilt
and ungathered where they grew. Broad and dark are the forests which
cover wild Arachynthus, and deep the ravines, and many a wild beast
lurks therein that is tame at my word alone. One of these will I let
loose upon thy land. Many a fair field shall be trodden underfoot, and
many a vineyard and olive-grove laid waste--yea, and red blood shall
flow, ere my wrath be assuaged, and I take away the pest from your
midst. I have spoken, and no sacrifice shall turn me from my word."

Thus did she speak, saying the words in his ear, and turned and left
the room by the way she had come. With a start he awoke from his sleep
and looked around him, but no one could he see. Only a sudden storm of
wind lashed the branches of the trees against each other, and a dark
cloud hid the face of the moon.

"The sad winter-time is coming," he thought, "with its storms and its
darkened days. Yet, lest there be aught in my dream, I will remember
Artemis to-morrow, and her altars, too, shall smoke with sacrifice."

So on the morrow a great festival was held in honour of Artemis, the
maiden huntress, and OEneus laid aside all thought of his dream. But
when the spring-time came and the early summer, he had cause to
remember it with sorrow, for out of the forests of Arachynthus there
came a great boar which laid waste all the country, right and left. In
size he was more huge than an ox of Epirus, whose oxen are the largest
in the world, and the bristles on his neck stood up like spikes. His
breath was as a flame of fire that burned up all that stood in his
way, and his cruel little eyes gleamed red with blood. Over the
cornfields he raged, and trampled the green blades beneath his hoofs,
and with his strong white tusks he tore down the vine-branches and
broke the overhanging boughs of the olive, so that the young berries
and fruit lay spoilt upon the ground. Not only did he lay waste the
fields, but the flocks and herds on the pasture-land were not safe
from his attack, and neither shepherds nor dogs could protect them
from his fury. Through all the country-side the people fled in terror
for their lives, and hid within the city walls, only now and again a
band of the bravest would go forth and lay nets and snares for him;
but so great was the strength of the beast that he broke through every
trap they could devise, and, killing any man who stood in his path, he
would return, with greater fury than before, to his attack upon the
fields and cattle. At length things came to such a pass that, unless
the monster could be checked, famine would ere long stare the people
in the face. When Meleager saw that neither prayer nor sacrifice would
turn the heart of Artemis, nor any ordinary hunting put an end to the
boar, he determined to gather around him a band of heroes who, for the
sake of glory, would come together for the hunt, and either kill the
beast or perish themselves in the attempt. So he sent a proclamation
far and wide through all the kingdoms of Hellas.

"O men of Hellas," he said, "the fair plains of Calydon lie trodden
underfoot by a grievous monster, and her people are fallen upon evil
days. Come hither and help us, all ye who love adventure, and fear not
risk nor peril, ye seasoned warriors whose spirit is not dead within
you, and ye young men who have yet your name to win. Come hither to
us, and we will give you fair sport and good cheer withal."

In answer to his call there flocked from far and wide to Calydon a
great host of brave men, and mighty was the muster which gathered
beneath the roof of OEneus for the hunting of the boar. Jason
himself came, the leader of the Argonauts, and Castor and Pollux, the
great twin brethren, whose stars are in the sky. There was Theseus,
too, who slew the Minotaur, and Peirithous his friend, who went down
with him to Hades, and tried to carry off Persephone from the king of
the Dead. And swift-footed Idas came, and Lynceus, his brother, whose
eyes were so sharp that they could see into the centre of the earth.
Others were there besides, whose names are too many to tell, and
Toxeus and Plexippus, the brothers of Althæa the queen, whom she loved
as she loved her own son Meleager. For as a little maid she had played
with them in the palace of Thestius, her father, and she remembered
how she would watch for them to come home from the hunt and clap her
hands with joy, when from afar she saw them returning home with their
spoil. And they would fondle her and play with her, and so long as
they were with her she was as happy as a bird; but when they went
away, her heart ached for them to come back. The memory of those days
still shone bright within her heart, and when her brothers came with
the other guests for the hunting of the boar, she welcomed them right
gladly. In the great hall a sumptuous feast was spread, and loud was
the laughter and bright were the faces, as one friend met another he
had not seen for many a long day, and sat down by his side in
good-fellowship with the groaning board before them. The feast was
well under way when one of the attendants whispered in the ear of the
king that yet another guest had come for the hunting of the boar.

"Who is he?" asked the king.

"My lord, I know not," the man replied.

"Well, keep him not standing without, at all events," said OEneus,
"but show him in here, and we will make him welcome with the rest."

In a few moments the man returned, and held back the curtain of the
great doorway for the new-comer to enter. All eyes were turned eagerly
that way to see who it might be, and a murmur of surprise ran round
the hall; for they saw upon the threshold no stalwart warrior, as they
had expected, but a maiden young and beautiful. She was clad in a
hunter's tunic, which fell to her knee, and her legs were strapped
about with leathern thongs. Crosswise about her body she wore a
girdle, from which hung a quiver full of arrows, and with her right
hand she leant on a great ashen bow like a staff. Her shining hair
fell back in waves from her forehead, and was gathered up in a coil
behind, and she held her head up proudly and gazed round on the
company unabashed. The glow of her cheek and the spring of her step
told of life in the open, and of health-giving sport over hill and
dale, so that she might have been Artemis herself come down from her
hunting on the mountains. She looked round the hall till her eyes fell
on OEneus, the host, in the place of honour, and in no wise troubled
by the silence which her coming had caused, she said,

"Sire, for my late-coming I crave thy pardon. Doubtless some of thy
guests have come from more distant lands than I, but, as ill-luck
would have it, I chose to come by way of the sea instead of by the
isthmus, and for a whole day I ate out my heart with waiting by the
shrine of Poseidon for a favouring breeze; for the east wind blew like
fury across the Crisæan Gulf, and any barque that had ventured to try
the crossing had been blown to the isles of the Hesperides ere it had
reached thy land. So I waited perforce till the wind fell and I could
cross over in safety."

Concealing his surprise as best he could, OEneus answered,

"Maiden, we thank thee for thy coming, and make thee right welcome in
our halls. Yet we fain would know thy name who, a woman all alone,
hast crossed barren tracts of land and stormy seas unflinching, and
come to take part in a hunt which is no mere child's sport, but a
perilous venture, in which strong men might hesitate to risk their
lives and limbs."

As she listened to his words she smiled.

"O king," she said, "thou hidest thy surprise but ill. Yet am I not
offended, nor will I make a mystery of who I am. My name is Atalanta,
and I come from the mountains of Arcadia, where all day long I hunt
with the nymphs over hill and over dale, and through the dark forests,
following in the footsteps of her we serve, great Artemis the
huntress. At her command I stand before thee now, for she said to me,
'Atalanta, the land of Calydon lies groaning beneath the curse,
wherewith I cursed them because they forgot me, and gave me not my
dues. But do thou go and help them, and for thy sake I will lay aside
my wrath, and let them slay the monster that I sent against them. Yet
without thee shall they not accomplish it, but the glory of the hunt
shall be thine.' Thus did she speak, and in obedience to her word am I
come."

When she had spoken, a murmur ran round the hall, and each man's gorge
rose within him as he determined in his mind that no mere woman should
surpass him in courage and strength. The sons of Thestius, the queen's
brothers, especially looked askance at her, and their hearts were
filled with jealousy and wrath; for her eye was bright and steady, and
her limbs looked supple and swift, and there seemed no reason why she
should not be a match for any man among them, in a trial where
swiftness of foot and sureness of eye would avail as much as brute
force. When Meleager saw their dark looks he was very angry that they
should so far forget their good breeding as to fail in welcoming a
guest, and he rose from his seat and went towards her.

"O maiden," he said, "we make thee right welcome to our halls, and we
thank thee because thou hast heard our appeal, and art come to help us
in the day of our trouble. Come, now, and sit thee down, and make glad
thy heart with meat and wine, for thou must need it sorely after thy
long journeying."

As he spoke, he took her by the hand and set her in a place of honour
between his father and himself, and saw that she had her fill of the
good fare on the board. As he sat beside her and talked with her, his
heart was kindled with love, for she was exceeding fair to look upon;
and the more he thought upon the morrow's hunting, the more loath was
he that she should risk her life in it. At length he said,

"Atalanta, surely thou knowest not what manner of beast it is that we
are gathered together to destroy. Thou hast hunted the swift-footed
stag, perchance, through the greenwood, but never a monster so fierce
as this boar that Artemis has sent against us. I tell thee, it will be
no child's play, but a matter of death to some of us. Hast thou no
mother or father to mourn thee if any evil chance befall, or any lover
who is longing for thy return? Think well ere it be too late."

But she laughed aloud at his words.

"Thou takest me for some drooping damsel that sits at home and spins,
and faints if she see but a drop of blood. I tell thee, I know neither
father, nor mother, nor husband, nor brother, and I love but little
the lot of womenkind such as thou knowest. Never have I lived within
four walls, and the first roof that covered me was the forest-trees of
Mount Parthenius, which stands where three lands meet, on the borders
of Sparta, Argolis, and wooded Arcadia, that I have chosen for my
home. Whence I came or how I got to Parthenius no one can tell, and I
have no wish to find out. As for savage beasts, had I not the eyes
of a hawk and the feet of a deer, I had not been safe ten seconds on
the uplands of Arcadia. For there, as doubtless thou hast heard, there
dwells a fierce tribe of centaurs--monsters half human and half
horse--who have the passions of men and the strength of beasts. These,
when they set eyes upon me, were fired by my beauty, and pursued me
over hill and dale, and I fled like the wind before them; but ever and
anon I found time to turn and let fly from my bow a dart which fell
but seldom short of the mark. So dire was the havoc I wrought in their
herd that after a time they gave up in despair, and molested me no
more. So talk not to me of fierce beasts or of danger. All my life
long I have breathed in danger from the air about me, and I had as
soon die outright, as sit with thy womenkind in safety within, whilst
all of you went forth for the hunting of the boar."

[Illustration: As he spoke, he took her by the hand and set her in a
place of honour between his father and himself.]

And nothing that Meleager could say would turn her from her purpose.

"Dost think I have left the mountains of Arcadia, and the nymphs, and
the joys and dangers of the hunt, to come and sit with the old wives
round thy palace fire in Calydon?" she said with a laugh; and her
white teeth shone like pearls in the torchlight, and the gleam of her
hair and the fire of her eyes kindled yet more surely the flame of
love in his heart, so that he could have fallen at her feet and begged
her for his sake to keep away from danger. But across the board he saw
the eyes of Toxeus and Plexippus, his mother's brothers, fixed upon
him, and their brows were dark and lowering as they frowned upon him
and Atalanta. So he said no more, lest they should discover his secret
and taunt him for his passion; but in his heart he knew that on the
morrow his thought would be as much for her safety as for the killing
of the boar. As for Atalanta, a stone would have returned his love as
readily as she. For a companion in the hunt she liked him full well,
but to give up her maiden life for his sake was as far from her
thoughts as the east is from the west. As yet she knew not the love of
man, and had vowed in her heart that she never would. Howbeit, such
things are not altogether within the power of mortals to will or not
to will, and Atalanta, like any other woman, was destined one day to
bow her proud head to the dust before a man's great love, though the
gods had not ordained that Meleager should be the one to win her. But
more of that hereafter.

When the morrow dawned, great was the bustle and confusion in the
court of the palace, where all were to meet together for the hunting
of the boar. Attendants ran this way and that to fetch and carry for
their masters, and, as the huntsman blew his horn, the hounds barked
impatiently, and strained, whining, at their leashes. At length, when
all was ready, Althæa with her maidens came forth into the portico,
and bade farewell to her guests, her husband, her brothers, and to
Meleager, her son.

"God speed thee, my son," she said, as she looked proudly on him, "and
good luck to thy hunting."

Then she stood on the step and waved to them with a smile as they
turned to look back at her before the curve of the roadway hid them
from sight. But though a smile was on her lips, her eyes were full of
tears, and her heart within her was dark with a dim foreshadowing of
evil. With a heavy step, she turned and went into the house, and as
she passed the altar by the hearth she stopped and bowed her head.

"Great Artemis," she prayed, "have mercy and bring my loved ones
safely back to me this day."

Then she went to her chamber and drew forth from its hiding-place the
half-burnt brand on which her son's life depended.

"His life, at any rate, is safe," she thought, "so long as this brand
is in my keeping."

And she hid it away again where she knew no one could find it, and set
to work restlessly, to while away the hours as best she could, till
the hunters should come home.

They, meanwhile, had gone their way up the steep path which led into
the mountains and deep into the heart of the forest, where they knew
their prey was lurking. Soon they came upon the track of his hoofs
leading to the dry bed of a stream, where the rushes and reeds grew
high in the marsh-land, and the bending willows cast their shadow over
the spot he had chosen for his lair. Here they spread the nets
cautiously about, and stationed themselves at every point of vantage,
and, when all was ready, let loose the hounds, and waited for the boar
to come forth from his hiding-place. Not long did they have to wait.
With a snort of rage he rushed out. The breath from his nostrils came
forth like steam, and the white foam flew from his mouth and covered
his bristly sides and neck. Quick as lightning, he made for the first
man he could see, and the tramp of his hoofs re-echoed through the
woods like thunder as he came upon the hard ground. As soon as he
rushed out, a shower of missiles fell towards him from every side,
but some were aimed awry or fell too far or too short of him, and
those that touched him slipped aside on his tough hide, as though they
had been feathers instead of bronze; and he broke through the nets
that had been spread to catch him, and galloped away unharmed, whilst
behind him a hound lay dead among the reeds, pierced through with his
tusk, and two of the hunters, who stood in his path, and had not been
able to rush aside in time, lay groaning on the ground with the iron
mark of his hoof upon them, and a gaping wound in the side of one.
When the rest saw that he had escaped them, they gave chase with all
speed, headed by Castor and Pollux, on their white horses, and
Atalanta close beside them, running swiftly as the wind. Ahead of them
the woodland track gave a sudden turn to the left, and the boar,
rushing blindly forward, would have plunged into the undergrowth and
bushes, and escaped beyond range of their darts. But Atalanta, seeing
what must happen, stopped short in the chase. Quick as thought, she
put an arrow to the string, and let fly at the great beast ahead; and
Artemis, true to her word, guided the arrow so that it pierced him in
the vital part behind the ear. With a snort of pain and fury, he
turned round upon the hunters and charged down towards them as they
came up from behind, and great would have been the havoc he had
wrought among them but for Meleager. As the brute bore down, he leaped
lightly to one side, and, gathering together all his strength, buried
the spear deep into the beast's black shoulder, and felled him to the
earth with the force of his blow. Immediately the others gathered
round, and helped to finish the work that Meleager had begun, and soon
the monster lay dead upon the ground in a pool of his own blood. Then
Meleager, with his foot upon the boar's head, spoke to the hunters.

[Illustration: As the brute bore down, Meleager buried the spear deep
in his shoulder.]

"My friends," he said, "I thank you all for the courage and devotion
you have shown this day. My land can once more raise her head in joy,
for the monster that wrought such havoc in her fields lies dead here
at my feet. Yet the price of his death has not been light, my
friends." And they bowed their heads in silence, as they remembered
the two whom the boar had struck in his rush, one of whom was now
dead. "Yet those who have suffered, have suffered gloriously, giving
up themselves, as brave men must, for the sake of others, and their
names shall surely not be unremembered by us all. Once more, my trusty
comrades, I thank you, every man of you. As for thee, lady," he
continued, turning to Atalanta, "while all have played their part, yet
the glory of the hunt is thine. But for thy sure hand and eye the
beast might yet be lurking in the forest. Wherefore, as a token of our
gratitude, I will give to thee the boar's head as a trophy to do with
as thou wilt."

At his words a murmur of applause went round the ring of them that
listened. Only the voices of Toxeus and Plexippus were not heard, for
they were mad with jealousy and wrath, and as soon as there was
silence they spoke.

"By what right," asked Toxeus, "shall one bear off the trophy of a
hunt in which each one of us has played his part?"

The insolence of his words and looks roused the anger of Meleager to
boiling-point. All through the hunt the brothers had shown scant
courtesy to Atalanta, and now their rudeness was past bearing.

"By the same right as the best man bears off the prize in any
contest," he answered quietly, though he was pale with rage.

"Happy is that one who has first won the heart of the judge, then,"
said Plexippus with a sneer, as he looked at Atalanta.

By the truth and the falsehood of his words Meleager was maddened past
all bearing. Scarce knowing what he did, he sprang upon him, and
before anyone knew what he was about, he had buried his hunting-knife
in the heart of Plexippus. When Toxeus saw his brother fall back upon
the grass, he sprang upon Meleager, and for a moment they swung
backwards and forwards, held each in the other's deadly grip. But
Meleager was the younger and the stronger of the two, and soon Toxeus
too lay stretched upon the ground beside his brother, and a cry of
horror went through the crowd of those who stood by. Pale and
trembling, Meleager turned towards them.

"My friends," he said, "farewell. You shall look upon my face no more.
Whether I slew them justly or no, the curse of Heaven is upon me, and
I know that night and day the Furies will haunt my steps, because my
hand is red with the blood of my kinsmen. O fair fields of Calydon,
that I have loved and served all my days, farewell for ever. Nevermore
shall I look upon you, nor my home on the steep hill-side, nor the
face of the queen, my mother; but I must hide my head in shame far
from the haunts of men. As for thee, lady," he said, turning to
Atalanta, "their taunt was false, yet true. Right honourably didst
thou win thy trophy, as all these here will testify;" and he pointed
to the hunters standing round. "Yet my soul leapt with joy when I
found that into thine hand and none other's I might give the prize of
the hunt. Wherefore, think kindly on my memory, lady, when I am far
away, for a brave man's heart is in thy keeping. Farewell."

And he turned and went away by the forest-path. So surprised were all
the company that no man moved hand or foot to stop him. The first to
speak was Atalanta.

"Comrades," she said, "do you bear home the dead and break the news as
gently as may be to the queen, and I will follow him, if perchance I
can comfort him, for the hand of Heaven is heavy upon him."

So firmly did she speak that no man found it in his heart to withstand
her; and when she saw that they would do as she bid, she ran swiftly
down the path by which he had gone, and disappeared from sight.

Meanwhile the day had been drawing towards its close, and Althæa had
come out into the portico to watch for the return of the hunters. The
rumour had reached the city that the boar had been killed, but not
without loss among the gallant band that had gone out against him, and
with a heavy heart Althæa was waiting to know who it was that had
fallen. In time she saw them returning home, and in their midst four
litters carried on the shoulders of some. When she saw them, her heart
stood still with fear, and as they came up and laid down the litters
before the doorway she was as one turned to marble, and moved neither
hand nor foot. When OEneus the king saw her, he took her gently by
the hand.

"Come within, lady," he said; "the hunting of the boar has cost us
dear."

"Ah! tell me the worst at once," she cried. "I can bear it better so.
The suspense is maddening me."

"Two of those who lie before thee are strangers who have given
themselves for us," he said. "One of them is sore wounded, and the
other is gone beyond recovery. The other two, Althæa, are very near
and dear to us--Toxeus and Plexippus, thy brothers."

And he pointed to two of the bodies which lay side by side with their
faces covered before her. With a wild cry she rushed to them, and drew
back the coverings, and gazed upon the faces that she loved so well.
As she looked, she saw the wounds that had killed them, and she knew
now that it was no wild beast that had slain them, but the hand of
man. Drawing herself up to her full height, she looked round on those
who stood by, and the gleam of her eyes was terrible to see.

"Deceive me no more," she said, "but tell me how these two came to
fall by the hand of man."

"Lady," said OEneus, "they sought a quarrel with one of our company,
and in anger he slew them both."

For a moment she was silent, then in a low voice, yet one that all
could hear, she spoke.

"My curse be upon him, whosoe'er he be. O Daughters of Destruction,
foul wingless Furies, by the blood of my brothers yet wet upon his
hand, I bid you track his footsteps night and day. May no roof cover
his head nor any man give him food or drink, but let him be a
vagabond on the face of the earth till just vengeance overtake him.
On thee, OEneus, do I lay this charge, and on my son Meleager, to
avenge the death of these my kinsmen, who have been foully slain."

In vain did OEneus try to stop her. She was as one deaf to his
entreaties. When she had finished, she looked round for Meleager, and
when she could not see him, the blood froze in her veins.

"My son," she cried--"where is my son?"

"Lady," said OEneus, "even now the wingless bearers of thy curse are
hunting him through the forest."

For a moment she swayed to and fro as though she would fall.

"Ye gods, what have I done?" she muttered.

Then with a cry she turned and rushed through the doorway, across the
deserted palace to her own chamber, and barring the door behind her,
she took from its hiding-place the brand she had kept jealously so
long. As on the day when the Fates had come to her, a bright fire was
burning on the hearth, and deep into the heart of it she pushed the
log with both her hands.

"O my son, my son!" she cried; "to think that I should come to this!
But though the flame that devours thy life burns out my heart within
me, yet must I do it. Thus only can I save thee from my curse. For the
word, once spoken, never dies, and the Furies, once aroused, sleep
never, night nor day. Wherefore Death alone can give thee peace, O
Meleager, my first-born and my dearest."

OEneus meanwhile had followed her, and stood without, asking her to
open to him. But she cried out to him,

"All is well. I beg thee leave me. I would be alone."

So he left her; and she stood watching the flames slowly eat the wood
away, and at last, when the log fell apart in ashes, she sank down
upon the floor, and with her son's life hers too went out for grief.

Meleager meanwhile had gone blindly forward along the forest track,
and from afar Atalanta followed him. For a time he went onward,
straight as an arrow, never stopping, never turning. But when his
mother's curse was spoken, faster than the whirlwind the Furies flew
from the realms of endless night, and came and crouched before his
feet, loathsome shapes of darkness and of horror. With a cry he turned
aside, and tried to flee from them, but wherever he looked they were
there before him, and he reeled backwards and forwards like a drunken
man. But soon his strength seemed to give way, and he fell forward on
the grass, and Atalanta ran forward and took his head upon her knee.
To her eyes they two were alone in the heart of the forest, for the
foul shapes of the Furies he alone had seen. But now he lay with his
eyes closed, faint and weak, and she thought that some time in the
hunt he must have strained himself, and lay dying of some inward hurt
that no man could heal, for on his body she could see not a scratch.
So she sat in the gathering gloom with his head upon her lap. There
was nought else she could do. Help lay so far away that he would have
died alone had she left him. At last, when his heart beat so faint
that she thought it had stopped once for all, he opened his eyes and
looked up at her, and when he saw her the fear and the madness died
out of his face, and he smiled.

"The gods are kind," he said. Once more he closed his eyes, and
Atalanta knew that he would open them never again. Gently she laid him
with his head on the moss-covered roots of a tree, and sped away to
the city to bear the news of his death. In the darkness of night they
bore him through the forest, and all the people gathered together and
watched from the walls the torchlit procession as it came slowly up
the hill; and the heart of each man of them was heavy within him as he
thought that the hero and saviour of his country was being carried
dead into the walls of his native town. By the side of his mother they
laid him, and burned above them the torches of the dead, and the
mourners, with heads bowed in grief, stood around.

Thus did it come to pass that the hunting of the boar ended in grief
for the land of Calydon, and Atalanta went back to the Arcadian
woodlands with a sore place in her heart for Meleager, who had died
happy because his head was resting on her knee.

[Illustration]



The Curse of Echo


In the flowery groves of Helicon Echo was once a fair nymph who, hand
in hand with her sisters, sported along the green lawns and by the
side of the mountain-streams. Among them all her feet were the
lightest and her laugh the merriest, and in the telling of tales not
one of them could touch her. So if ever any among them were plotting
mischief in their hearts, they would say to her,

"Echo, thou weaver of words, go thou and sit beside Hera in her bower,
and beguile her with a tale that she come not forth and find us. See
thou make it a long one, Echo, and we will give thee a garland to
twine in thy hair."

And Echo would laugh a gay laugh, which rang through the grove.

"What will you do when she tires of my tales?" she asked.

"When that time comes we shall see," said they.

So with another laugh she would trip away and cast herself on the
grass at Hera's feet. When Hera looked upon Echo her stern brow would
relax, and she would smile upon her and stroke her hair.

"What hast thou come for now, thou sprite?" she would ask.

"I had a great longing to talk with thee, great Hera," she would
answer, "and I have a tale--a wondrous new tale--to tell thee."

"Thy tales are as many as the risings of the sun, Echo, and each one
of them as long as an old man's beard."

"The day is yet young, mother," she would say, "and the tales I have
told thee before are as mud which is trampled underfoot by the side of
the one I shall tell thee now."

"Go to, then," said Hera, "and if it pleases me I will listen to the
end."

So Echo would sit upon the grass at Hera's feet, and with her eyes
fixed upon her face she would tell her tale. She had the gift of
words, and, moreover, she had seen and heard many strange things which
she alone could tell of. These she would weave into romances, adding
to them as best pleased her, or taking from them at will; for the best
of tale-tellers are those who can lie, but who mingle in with their
lies some grains of truth which they have picked from their own
experience. And Hera would forget her watchfulness and her jealousies,
and listen entranced, while the magic of Echo's words made each scene
live before her eyes. Meanwhile the nymphs would sport to their
hearts' content and never fear her anger.

But at last came the black day of reckoning when Hera found out the
prank which Echo had played upon her so long, and the fire of her
wrath flashed forth like lightning.

"The gift whereby thou hast deceived me shall be thine no more," she
cried. "Henceforward thou shalt be dumb till someone else has spoken,
and then, even if thou wilt, thou shalt not hold thy tongue, but must
needs repeat once more the last words that have been spoken."

"Alas! alas!" cried the nymphs in chorus.

"Alas! alas!" cried Echo after them, and could say no more, though she
longed to speak and beg Hera to forgive her. So did it come to pass
that she lost her voice, and could only say that which others put in
her mouth, whether she wished it or no.

Now, it chanced one day that the young Narcissus strayed away from his
companions in the hunt, and when he tried to find them he only
wandered further, and lost his way upon the lonely heights of Helicon.
He was now in the bloom of his youth, nearing manhood, and fair as a
flower in spring, and all who saw him straightway loved him and longed
for him. But, though his face was smooth and soft as maiden's, his
heart was hard as steel; and while many loved him and sighed for him,
they could kindle no answering flame in his breast, but he would spurn
them, and treat them with scorn, and go on his way, nothing caring.
When he was born, the blind seer Teiresias had prophesied concerning
him,

"So long as he sees not himself he shall live and be happy."

And his words came true, for Narcissus cared for neither man nor
woman, but only for his own pleasure; and because he was so fair that
all who saw him loved him for his beauty, he found it easy to get
from them what he would. But he himself knew nought of love, and
therefore but little of grief; for love at the best brings joy and
sorrow hand in hand, and if unreturned, it brings nought but pain.

Now, when the nymphs saw Narcissus wandering alone through the woods,
they, too, loved him for his beauty, and they followed him wherever he
went. But because he was a mortal they were shy of him, and would not
show themselves, but hid behind the trees and rocks so that he should
not see them; and amongst the others Echo followed him, too. At last,
when he found he had really wandered astray, he began to shout for one
of his companions.

"Ho, there! where art thou?" he cried.

"Where art thou?" answered Echo.

When he heard the voice, he stopped and listened, but he could hear
nothing more. Then he called again.

"I am here in the wood--Narcissus."

"In the wood--Narcissus," said she.

"Come hither," he cried.

"Come hither," she answered.

Wondering at the strange voice which answered him, he looked all
about, but could see no one.

"Art thou close at hand?" he asked.

"Close at hand," answered Echo.

Wondering the more at seeing no one, he went forward in the direction
of the voice. Echo, when she found he was coming towards her, fled
further, so that when next he called, her voice sounded far away. But
wherever she was, he still followed after her, and she saw that he
would not let her escape; for wherever she hid, if he called, she had
to answer, and so show him her hiding-place. By now they had come to
an open space in the trees, where the green lawn sloped down to a
clear pool in the hollow. Here by the margin of the water she stood,
with her back to the tall, nodding bulrushes, and as Narcissus came
out from the trees she wrung her hands, and the salt tears dropped
from her eyes; for she loved him, and longed to speak to him, and yet
she could not say a word. When he saw her he stopped.

"Art thou she who calls me?" he asked.

"Who calls me?" she answered.

"I have told thee, Narcissus," he said.

"Narcissus," she cried, and held out her arms to him.

"Who art thou?" he asked.

"Who art thou?" said she.

"Have I not told thee," he said impatiently, "Narcissus?"

"Narcissus," she said again, and still held out her hands
beseechingly.

"Tell me," he cried, "who art thou and why dost thou call me?"

"Why dost thou call me?" said she.

At this he grew angry.

"Maiden, whoever thou art, thou hast led me a pretty dance through the
woods, and now thou dost nought but mock me."

"Thou dost nought but mock me," said she.

At this he grew yet more angry, and began to abuse her, but every word
of abuse that he spoke she hurled back at him again. At last, tired
out with his wanderings and with anger, he threw himself on the grass
by the pool, and would not look at her nor speak to her again. For a
time she stood beside him weeping, and longing to speak to him and
explain, but never a word could she utter. So at last in her misery
she left him, and went and hid herself behind a rock close by. After a
while, when his anger had cooled down somewhat, Narcissus remembered
he was very thirsty, and noticing for the first time the clear pool
beside him, he bent over the edge of the bank to drink. As he held out
his hand to take the water, he saw looking up towards him a face which
was the fairest face he had ever looked on, and his heart, which never
yet had known what love was, at last was set on fire by the face in
the pool. With a sigh he held out both his arms towards it, and the
figure also held out two arms to him, and Echo from the rock answered
back his sigh. When he saw the figure stretching out towards him and
heard the sigh, he thought that his love was returned, and he bent
down closer to the water and whispered, "I love thee."

"I love thee," answered Echo from the rock.

At these words he bent down further, and tried to clasp the figure in
his arms, but as he did so, it vanished away. The surface of the pool
was covered with ripples, and he found he was clasping empty water to
his breast. So he drew back and waited awhile, thinking he had been
overhasty. In time, the ripples died away and the face appeared again
as clear as before, looking up at him longingly from the water. Once
again he bent towards it, and tried to clasp it, and once again it
fled from his embrace. Time after time he tried, and always the same
thing happened, and at last he gave up in despair, and sat looking
down into the water, with the teardrops falling from his eyes; and the
figure in the pool wept, too, and looked up at him with a look of
longing and despair. The longer he looked, the more fiercely did the
flame of love burn in his breast, till at length he could bear it no
more, but determined to reach the desire of his heart or die. So for
the last time he leaned forward, and when he found that once again he
was clasping the empty water, he threw himself from the bank into the
pool, thinking that in the depths, at any rate, he would find his
love. But he found naught but death among the weeds and stones of the
pool, and knew not that it was his own face he loved reflected in the
water below him. Thus were the words of the prophet fulfilled, "So
long as he sees not himself he shall live and be happy."

Echo, peeping out from the rock, saw all that had happened, and when
Narcissus cast himself into the pool, she rushed forward, all too
late, to stop him. When she found she could not save him, she cast
herself on the grass by the pool and wept and wept, till her flesh and
her bones wasted away with weeping, and naught but her voice remained
and the curse that was on her. So to this day she lives, a formless
voice haunting rocks and caves and vaulted halls. Herself no man has
seen since the day Narcissus saw her wringing her hands for love of
him beside the nodding bulrushes, and no man ever shall see again. But
her voice we all have heard repeating our words when we thought that
no one was by; and though now she will say whatever we bid her, if
once the curse were removed, the cry of her soul would be,

[Illustration: For the last time he leaned forward.]

"Narcissus, Narcissus, my love, come back--come back to me!"

By the side of the clear brown pool, on the grass that Echo had
watered with her tears, there sprang up a sweet-scented flower, with a
pure white face and a crown of gold. And to this day in many a land
men call that flower "Narcissus," after the lad who, for love of his
own fair face, was drowned in the waters of Helicon.

[Illustration]



The Sculptor and the Image


In the fair isle of Cyprus, long ago, lived a young sculptor named
Pygmalion. As a child he had been quick to see beauty in the forms
around him, and while he found nothing better, he would dig the clay
in the garden and sit for many a long hour happy in the shade of the
trees, modelling horses and cows and human figures, whilst his mother
was busied with her duties in the house. She, for her part, was glad
he had found something to amuse him and keep him out of mischief, for
he had no brothers or sisters to play with, and his father was dead,
so they two lived alone together in a great white house between the
mountains and the sea. From time to time she would come down into the
garden to look at his figures and praise them; for though they were
childish and crude, and sometimes grotesque, they were full of life
and promise, and being a wise woman, she knew that where Nature points
the way, it is well to make the road as smooth as may be. At first she
gave him no better material to work with than the clay he could dig
for himself, nor any master to teach him; for she wished to see how
long he would persevere, and how far he would get alone. There are
times, too, when a master can hinder more than he can teach.

One day when he was old enough, she took him down to the city below,
where the people were keeping the feast of Aphrodite, and they watched
the glad procession wind through the streets, with its choruses of
priests and maidens, and little children scattering roses in the way.
With the rest of the folk they followed the procession up the hill to
the shining temple, and Pygmalion stood beside his mother, and
wondered at the tapering white columns and the clouds of incense, and
all the colours and fair forms such as he had never seen before. The
picture of all these things he carried home in his mind, and thought
of them by day and dreamt of them by night, till they became almost as
real to him as the living forms he saw around him. Then he worked more
busily than ever at his modelling in the garden; but whereas before he
had been content to leave the figures he had made, standing them out
in rows for his mother to admire, now he was no longer pleased with
his work. He would look at the figure he had made and compare it with
the image in his mind, and he saw that while his ideal was fair and
beautiful beyond measure, his work was clumsy and rude. Then he would
set to work and alter his model. But whatever he did he was not
satisfied, and when his mother came down from the house to see him,
she found him with broken bits lying about him, and never a finished
figure to show her.

Then she knew that one of two things had happened; either he had come
to the limit of his powers, and, as a child will, had grown tired of a
thing in which he could make no further progress; or else he had
reached an age when the mind sees fair forms which the hand cannot
fashion, and in disgust at his failure he had broken up his figures,
though they were better than what he had done before, because they
fell short of the ideal in his mind.

"Thou art tired of playing with clay, my child," she said; "come with
me, and I will see if we cannot find something that will please thee
better."

So she kept him with her, and taught him letters, and read to him
tales of the gods and heroes, till the child's eyes grew big with
wonder, and she saw that all she read passed before his mind like a
moving picture. She read to him from the old Greek poets, tales of
bravery and might, of love and of adventure--tales, too, of cruelty
and bloodshed, jealousy and hate. But whatever she read was beautiful,
for the Greeks loved beauty above all things else, and clothed their
thoughts in fair forms of words, so that even when they told of
wickedness and wrong they left no stain of ugliness upon the mind.
Pygmalion drank in eagerly all that was read to him, and because he
had within him the soul of a poet he understood. The music of the
words sank into his heart like seed planted in a fertile soil, which
springs up to forms of loveliness and grace. So did the old tales
bring before his eyes shapes of beauty, and once again he began to go
down into the garden and try to mould them into figures of clay. His
mother watched him, and saw that he persevered, and that week by week
his models grew more beautiful and more true, as the image in his own
mind grew clearer. Then she knew that her reading had done what she
hoped it would do, and that the vague and fleeting visions had become
for him forms as clear as those he saw around him.

"At least my son has the soul of an artist," she thought, "but whether
he has the hands and the fingers of one who can do more than play with
the clay, the gods alone can tell. He shall have a master to teach
him, and in time we shall see whether he is one of the many in whom
the divine fire burns, but whose bodies are instruments too coarse to
carry out the thoughts of the soul, or whether he is one of the few
who are able to do that of which others vainly dream."

So she gave him a master--a white-haired, venerable man, in whom lived
the spirit of the old Greek sculptors, who had been the first to show
mankind how stone and marble might be wrought into shapes of beauty.
He taught the lad how to work in all kinds of stone and metal, and to
copy faithfully the forms he saw around him. But he would not let him
be satisfied with this alone, for he saw that he had in him the making
of better things.

"Pygmalion," he would say, "in life there are many things that are not
fair, but in art all things should be fair, and no art is truly great
that is not beautiful. When thou lookest on the world, see only that
which is beautiful; thou, because thou hast the soul of a poet, wilt
see beauty where others cannot find it. Drink it in as a thirsty man
will drink from the wayside stream, then give forth to the world, in
stone, copies of those ideal forms thou seest with the eye of thy soul
alone."

The child was an apt pupil; he understood, and did as his master bade
him.

As the years flew by, he grew to be a man and a great sculptor, so
that in the temples of the gods and the palaces of the rich his
statues stood, and at the corners of the streets, a joy to rich and
poor. The years, which had brought him to fame, had taken from him the
white-haired old man, his master, and the mother who had helped to
make him what he was; and now he lived alone in the great white house
between the mountains and the sea. But he was happy, perfectly happy,
working all day long at his images, and dreaming each night of fairer
forms that he would some day work into stone and marble. His friends
would come up from the town to look at his work, or to buy, and would
say to him,

"Pygmalion, art thou not lonely here, all alone? Why dost thou not
take thee a wife, and rear up children to be a comfort to thee in
thine old age?"

And he would answer, "No, I am not lonely, for my art is to me both
wife and children. I will never marry one of the daughters of men."

Whatever they said, they could not move him from his resolve. But what
his friends could not do Aphrodite accomplished. When she saw there
was one man among the Cyprians who had reached the prime of life
without giving her a thought, or offering up one prayer before her
shrine, she was angry, and determined that he should feel her power.
So one night she sent into his mind the vision of a maiden, who in
loveliness surpassed all other forms he had ever dreamed of, and she
set his heart aflame, so that he thought he saw a living form before
him. He started up in his bed and held out his arms towards her, but
awoke with a start to find he was clasping the empty air. Then he knew
it was only a vision he had seen; but it haunted him, and he tossed
restlessly from side to side, unable to sleep. At last he could bear
it no more; while the dawn was yet grey in the east he rose from his
couch and went to his workroom. Gathering together his instruments and
some clay, he set to work to model the figure of his dream. On and on
he worked, scarce thinking of food or rest, and chose out a block of
fair white marble, which day by day grew into shape beneath his
fingers. In his hand there seemed a magic it had never had before, so
that his chisel never failed nor slipped, till the marble stood
transformed before him, shaped into the image of a perfect woman, the
vision of his dream; and he loved her as other men love a woman in the
flesh, with his whole heart and soul. But small joy did he have of his
love, for though he had fashioned her with eyes that spoke to him of
love and hands held out towards him, yet when he spoke to her she
could give no answer, and when he clasped her in his arms her touch
was the cold, hard touch of marble. Then he tried to put her away from
his mind, and covered her over with a curtain; but when he was not
looking at the marble figure, her image was still present before his
mind, and he could not forget her. Day by day his love grew, till it
became a burning fever in his heart. He grew thin and ill from want of
food and rest, and could neither work by day nor sleep by night. His
friends, when they came up to see him, marvelled at the change in
him; and when they asked to see what new work he had done he would
answer,

"My friends, I have no new work to show you. The cunning has departed
from my hand. Never again shall I fashion the white marble into shapes
of beauty."

They wondered what had come over him, for the image that had been his
undoing he never showed them, nor let them know what was troubling his
heart. But he made a niche for her in his chamber where the light fell
upon her from the window, and at night when he could not sleep he
would sit with his arms clasped about her ankles and his head resting
on her feet. Her face would look down on him full of pity and love,
pale and beautiful in the cold white light of the moon. When the day
dawned and the cloudlets clustered red about the rising sun, the warm
rays would fall upon her giving to her some hue of life, and
Pygmalion's heart would beat high with the hope that a miracle had
been wrought, and that his love at last had kindled a soul akin to his
own in the marble statue before him. With a cry he would put his arms
about her, but still she remained a cold, hard, unresponsive stone. So
day by day and week by week he grew more wretched; for there is nought
like a passionate love which is unreturned, and which never can be
returned, to take out the life from a man.

At last Aphrodite had compassion on him, when she saw that he had
suffered as much and more than most men at her hands, and that he no
longer held her in disdain. One night Pygmalion, as usual, had been
kneeling before the statue with his arm clasped about her feet, till,
tired out with longing, he had fallen asleep. On the breath of the
night wind Aphrodite came in, and she kissed the statue on the lips.

[Illustration: On the breath of the night wind Aphrodite came in, and
she kissed the statue on the lips.]

"Let love kindle life," she said. "Live, Galatea, thou milk-white
maid, and bring joy to the heart of Pygmalion."

Then she stole forth again through the moonlit casement, and Pygmalion
slept on unconscious. In the morning the sunlight streamed in through
the window, and fell full upon his face. With a start he awoke, and
looked up at the statue, and to his sun-dazed eyes it seemed to move.

"O Aphrodite," he cried, "mock me not! Thou hast deceived me so
often."

In despair he cast his arms about the image, certain that once again
he would find her a cold white stone. But lo! instead of unyielding
marble he was clasping in his arms a living woman. Her arms were about
his neck, her lips on his lips, and she looked into his eyes with a
fire that answered the fire in his own.

"At last, at last," said he, "my love has prevailed!"

"Even in the heart of a stone, Pygmalion," she said, "love can kindle
love. My form is the work of thy hand, and my soul is the child of thy
love. As long as stone can last, so long shall my body last; and as
long as thy love can live, so long shall my soul live also."

"My love," he said, "will live for ever."

"Then for ever," said she, "my soul will live with thine."

So as husband and wife they lived together for many a long year. The
cunning came back to Pygmalion's hand, and many a fair statue did he
make for the people of Cyprus. In time he died in a green old age. His
spirit fled away to the dwelling-place of souls, and with him the
spirit of Galatea, his wife; and her body returned to the form in
which Pygmalion first had made her--a fair white marble image. In the
garden where he, in his childhood, had learned to model the clay, the
Cyprians buried him, building a fair tomb over him, and in a niche
they placed the statue of Galatea. So the words she had spoken when
she came to life were fulfilled. Her form lived as long as stone could
live, and her soul lived as long as Pygmalion could love her. And
which of us can say that this could not be for ever, or that they do
not still live in the light of each other's love in the dwelling-place
of souls?

[Illustration]



The Divine Musician


North-West of the Ægean, where the cliffs of Pelion rise sheer out of
the sea, dwelt long ago Cheiron, the centaur, the wisest of living
things, half man, half horse. Many brothers had he, who in form were
like himself, but their hearts within were hard and wild, and because
of their untamed passions and their cruelty and lust they were hated
alike by gods and men. But Cheiron was gentle and mild. He knew all
manner of strange things; he could prophesy, and play upon the lyre,
and cure men of their hurts by means of healing herbs. He was brave
withal, and had been in many a bloody fight, and knew the arts of war
full as well as the arts of peace. Wherefore the old Hellenes called
him Cheiron, the Better One, and sent up their sons to live with him
that they might be taught all the things which man should know. In a
hollow cave on the mountain-side he had his home. Far up above him the
snow-capped peaks of Pelion kept watch over the nestling townships of
the plain, and far, far below the waves of the Ægean washed without
ceasing on the rocks of that pitiless coast, now soft and soothing as
the song a mother sings to her child, now loud and boisterous beneath
the lash of the storm-wind, when the seabirds fly screaming to the
shelter of the shore. All around were dark forests of chestnut, pine
and oak, where many a fierce beast had his lair. In the branches of
the trees the wild birds built their nests and filled the dark glades
with song. About the mouth of the cave the ground was trampled hard
beneath the tread of many feet, and paths led this way and that, some
into the heart of the forests, others down the steep cliff to the
shore.

Every morning at sunrise a troop of boys and youths would come forth
from the cave, and, dividing into groups, would go their several ways
to fish or to hunt, or to follow the course of some stream to its
unknown source in the mountains. Sometimes Cheiron himself would go
with them, if he thought they had need of his help; but more often he
left them to their own devices, to follow each one his own bent as
Nature prompted him. In the evening they would come home and tell him
of their doings in the day; and he would praise or blame them,
according as they had done well or ill, and show them how they might
do better another time. Then they would go to their couches of dried
moss and leaves, and sleep the deep sleep of youth and health, while
the cool night breeze blew in upon their faces from the mouth of the
cave, and put fresh life and strength into their tired limbs. In the
winter-time, when the night was longer than the day, and the snow lay
deep upon the hills, they would light a great fire in front of the
cave with logs they had stored in the summer months, and Cheiron
would take his lyre and sing to them of all things in heaven and
earth, while they lay round about and listened. The songs which he
sang to them then they never forgot, because Cheiron was wise, and
spoke to their souls in his singing. So they laid up his songs in
their hearts; and many a long year after, when they were grown men far
away, and some danger or difficulty stood in their path, the drift of
his teaching would come back to them in the words of a song, and their
hearts would grow brave and strong once more to act worthily of their
boyhood's sunny days on Pelion. Many a hero whose name still lives
among men had been trained by Cheiron in his youth--Peleus, who
married a goddess, and Achilles his son, the swiftest and bravest of
mortal men; and Jason, the leader of the Argonauts; and Asklepios, the
mighty healer; and, not least among them, Orpheus, the greatest of
Greek musicians and mystics, whose tale I will tell you now.

One day, as the shades of evening were beginning to fall, Cheiron
stood before the mouth of the cave waiting for the lads to come home.
Sooner than he expected he saw one of them far away coming down a path
from the mountains, and he marvelled that he should return so soon and
alone. As he came nearer Cheiron saw that he walked with his eyes upon
the ground, deep in thought. Every now and again he stopped and looked
round upon the peaceful hillsides stretching calm and smiling in the
golden glow of the evening; and when he had gazed for a moment he
sighed, as though he would breathe into his soul the beauty he saw
around him, and then went on his way once more with his eyes on the
ground. So he walked till he came close to the cave and saw Cheiron
standing in the entrance. Then he ran up to him and put his hand upon
his shoulder.

"My father," he cried, "look round upon the hills; hast thou ever seen
them so fair as they have been this day?"

Cheiron smiled at his words.

"Orpheus," he said, "the fair face of the earth changes but little. In
the soul of man it lies to look upon her and see her beauty or to be
blind."

"Till this day I have been blind, Cheiron," he said.

"And who has lifted the veil from thine eyes, my son?" asked his
master.

"I know not," he said. "But this morning, while yet it was dark, there
came to me a strange unrest and a longing to be alone. So I crept
forth from the cave whilst you were all sleeping, and climbed up the
mountain-side--up, up, in the grey light before dawn, till I came to
the place where the white snow lies like a cloak about the shaggy
shoulders of Pelion. There I left the track of my footsteps where no
feet but mine had trod, and climbed up upon a boulder and looked out
across the sea. And I saw the great sun rise out of the east. As I
looked it seemed that I beheld the face of God; and as the snow and
the sea and the forests awoke to life in the light of His glory, my
soul awoke within me. All the day long I wandered about the forests
and hills; and I saw the beauty of the trees and the grass, and the
grace of the wild deer as he bounded over the rocks, as I had never
seen it before. The wonder of this day lies like a burden on my heart
that I fain would ease, yet I have no words to tell of it."

Then Cheiron took up the lyre which was lying by his side and passed
his fingers gently over the strings.

"Orpheus," he said, "many a long year ago, when thou wast a little
lad, thy mother Calliope brought thee to me. And she put thy hand in
my hand, and said: 'Cheiron, make a man of my son. Make him brave and
fearless and strong, a worthy companion of the noble lads thou hast
around thee. When the right time comes I will breathe my spirit upon
him, and he shall be great, as few in this world are great.' This day
she has kept her word, Orpheus. She has breathed her spirit upon thee,
and has opened the eyes of thy soul and made them see."

"Who is my mother Calliope?" asked the lad.

"She is the Fair-voiced One who speaks through the lips of mortals by
music and song, Orpheus. With her sisters, she dwells for ever by the
sunlit streams of Helicon, where they follow in the footsteps of
Apollo, their lord, across the green lawns and the flowery meadows.
All knowledge, all music of sound and of words, comes to men by their
gift--those nine great sisters, the Muses. Happy art thou to be her
son. Take now this lyre from mine hand. Ease the burden of thy soul in
song, and learn how great is the gift she has given thee."

So Orpheus took the lyre from his master, and struck the chords, as
all the lads who dwelt with Cheiron knew full well how to do. But
instead of the old songs that he had learnt from his childhood, a new
song came to his lips, and he sang as he had never sung before. Far
away upon the hillsides his companions heard his voice, and they
stopped upon their homeward way to listen, as the evening breeze bore
the sound to their ears. When they knew that the voice came from home,
they hastened on and drew silently near, that no sound might disturb
the singer, and throwing themselves upon the ground at his feet,
forgot their weariness and hunger as they listened. On and on he sang,
forgetful of all else but his song, till the red glow of the evening
died away in the west and the stars shone pale in the twilight. There
was a strange magic about his music which drew all living things to
his feet, as a magnet draws the cold heart of steel. From the woods
and the forests they came, and from the bare hillsides--the lion, the
leopard and the trembling fawn. The snake came forth from his
hiding-place, the rabbit from his hole, and the wild birds wheeled
about his head and settled on the brow of the cave. The very trees
seemed to hear him, as they swayed their heads to and fro to the
rhythm of his song. As he looked round upon his comrades whilst he
sang, his heart grew strong within him, for he felt that a strange new
power had been born in his soul, which could bow the heads of men
beneath his will as the wind bows the rushes by the stream. So he sang
on as the twilight deepened into night, and all the stars of heaven
came forth to listen, till at length his song died upon his lips, like
a breeze lulled to rest at sunset. For a moment the creatures lay
spellbound around him; then one by one they crept back to their homes,
with their fears and their hatreds tamed for a while by the magic of
his singing. And his companions crowded round him with words of praise
and eager questions.

"Who taught thee thy magic song, Orpheus?" they cried.

"The sunrise and the snow," he answered, "and the teaching of Cheiron,
and my happy days with you, and the spirit of my mother Calliope--all
these have taught me my song."

But his answer was a dark saying to them, and not one of them
understood it, save Cheiron. He knew that it is the commonest things
in life that are the material of all that is beautiful and fair, just
as a temple may be built of common stone; but that the children of the
Muses are few, who can by music and art open the blind hearts of men
to see.

Thus did the gift of song fall upon Orpheus, so that he became the
greatest of all singers upon earth. All day long he would wander about
the woods and the hills, and tame the heart of every living thing with
the magic of his voice.

One day it chanced that he came into a wood where he had never been
before, and he followed a grass-grown track which led to the mouth of
a cave. On one side of the cave stood a tall beech-tree, whose
moss-covered roots offered a tempting seat, and close by a clear
stream gushed forth from the rocks. He drank eagerly of the water, for
he had wandered far and was thirsty; and when he had quenched his
thirst, he sat down on the roots of the beech-tree and began his song.
As before, the wild things gathered about him, and crouched at his
feet, tame and silent, as he sang; and from the shadow of the cave
crept a wood-nymph, and lay upon the grass, with her chin between her
hands, looking up into his face. For a time he did not see her, so
silently had she come; but at last the power of her eyes drew his
eyes upon her, and he turned his head and looked at her. When he saw
her, his arm fell useless by his side and his voice died away in his
throat, for he had never looked upon anyone so fair. Her hair was
black as the storm-cloud, but her eyes were blue as the summer sky,
and she lay like a white flower in the grass at his feet. For a long
moment he gazed into her face without speaking, as she gazed back at
him, and at last he spoke.

"Who art thou, maiden?" he asked.

"I am Eurydice," she answered.

"Thy hair is black as midnight, Eurydice," he said, "and thine eyes
are bright as the noonday."

"Are not midnight and noonday fair to thine eyes?" she asked.

"They are fair indeed, but thou art fairer."

"Then I am well content," she said.

"I know not thy name nor thy face, Eurydice," said he, "but my heart
beats with thy heart as though we were not strangers."

"When two hearts beat together, Orpheus, they are strangers no more,
whether they have known each other all their days, or have met as thou
and I have met. Long ago the fame of thee, and of thy singing, reached
mine ears, but I hardened my heart against thee, and said, 'It is an
idle rumour, and he is no better than other men, before whose face I
flee.' But now the gods have brought thy steps to the hollow cave
where I dwell, and thou, by thy magic, hast drawn me to thy feet, so
that I, who doubted thy power, must follow thee whithersoever thou
wilt."

[Illustration: From the shadow of the cave crept a wood-nymph, and lay
upon the grass.]

"Shall I sing thee a song, Eurydice--the song thou hast sown in my
heart?"

"Yes, sing me that song," she answered.

So he struck the chords of his lyre and sang her the song that was
born of her beauty. One by one the wild creatures stole back to the
forest, for that song was not for them, and they two were left alone
beneath the spreading boughs of the beech-tree. As he sang, Eurydice
crept closer to him, till her head rested on his knee and her long
black hair fell in a cloud about his feet. As she drew nearer his
voice grew lower, till it became but a whisper in her ear. Then he
laid his lyre on the ground beside him and put his arms about her, and
their hearts spoke to each other in the tongue that knows not sound
nor words.

So it came to pass that Orpheus returned no more to dwell with Cheiron
and his companions in the hollow cave below Pelion, but lived with
Eurydice, his wife, in her cave in the heart of the forest. But he
never forgot his boyhood's happy days, nor all that Cheiron had done
for him. He would come often to see him and take counsel with him, and
sing to the lads his magic song. For a few short years he lived a life
the gods might envy, till the dark days came, when not even music
could bring comfort to his heart. For one day, as he roamed with
Eurydice through the dark forest, it chanced that she unwittingly trod
upon a snake, and the creature turned upon her and pierced her white
foot with its venomous fang. Like liquid fire the poison ran through
her veins, and she lay faint and dying in his arms.

"O Eurydice," he cried, "Eurydice, open thine eyes and come back to
me!"

For a moment the agony of his voice awoke her to life.

"Orpheus," she said, "beloved, this side of the river of death we can
dwell together no more. But love, my dear one, is stronger than death,
and some day our love shall prevail, never again to be conquered."

When she had spoken her head sank down upon his breast, and her spirit
fled away, to return no more. So he bore the fair image of his wife in
his arms, and laid her in the depths of the cave that had been their
home. Above her head he placed a great pine torch, and all the long
night watches he sat with his arms about her and his cheek against her
cheek; and his heart groaned within him with a grief too great for
words. Ere the day dawned he kissed for the last time the lips that
could speak to him never again, and laid back her head on a pillow of
leaves and moss. Then he pulled down the earth and stones about the
mouth of the cave, so that no one could find the opening, and left for
evermore the home he had loved so well. Onward he walked in the grey
light of dawn, little caring where he went, and struck the chords of
his lyre to tell all the earth of his grief. The trees and the flowers
bowed down their heads as they listened, the clouds of heaven dropped
tears upon the ground, and the whole world mourned with him for the
death of Eurydice his wife.

"Oh, sleep no more, ye woods and forests!" he sang, "sleep no more,
but toss your arms in the sighing wind, and bow your heads beneath the
sky that weeps with me. For Eurydice is dead. She is dead. No more
shall her white feet glance through the grass, nor the field-flowers
shine in her hair. But, like last year's snow, she is melted away, and
my heart is desolate without her. Oh! why may the dried grass grow
green again, but my love must be dead for ever? O ye woods and
forests, sleep no more, but awake and mourn with me. For Eurydice is
dead; she is dead, dead, dead!"

So he wandered, making his moan and wringing the hearts of all who
heard him, with the sorrow of his singing. And when he could find no
comfort upon earth he bethought him of the words of his wife:

"This side of the river of death we can dwell together no more. But
love, my dear one, is stronger than death, and some day our love shall
prevail, never again to be conquered."

He pondered the words in his heart, and wondered what she might mean.

"If love is stronger than death," he thought, "then my love can win
her back. If I can charm the hearts of all living things with the
magic of my song, I may charm, too; the souls of the dead and of their
pitiless king, so that he shall give me back Eurydice, my wife. I will
go down to the dark halls of Hades, and bring her up to the fair earth
once more."

When hope was thus born anew in his heart he grew brave for any
venture, and pressed forward on his way till he came to the place men
called the mouth of Hades. Nothing daunted by the tales of horror they
told him, he entered the fearsome cave, which led deep down into the
bowels of the earth, where noisome vapours choked the breath in his
throat, and dark forms crouched in his path and fled shrieking before
him, till at last he stood by the shores of the ninefold Styx, that
winds about the realms of the dead. Then he shouted aloud to Charon,
the ferryman, to row him across in his boat. When the old man heard
his voice, he stopped midway across the stream.

"Who is it that calls me in the voice of the living?" he asked.

"It is Orpheus," he answered. "I am come to fetch back Eurydice, my
wife."

But the old man laughed, and his laugh cut the heart of Orpheus like a
knife.

"O beardless innocent," he said, "who gave thee power over life and
death? I tell thee that many have stood by the shores of this stream
and entreated me to take them across, that they might bring their dear
ones back with them. But no living soul shall sit in my boat, nor
shall the dead, who have sat in it once, ever return to sit in it
again. Go back to the earth, young man, and when thy time has come,
thou too shalt sit in my boat, never fear."

"That time has come, Charon," he said, "and I shall sit in thy boat
this day."

Raising his lyre, he struck the chords, and his love taught him the
tune and the words to sing. Steadfastly he gazed at Charon, and the
magic of his singing drew the old man towards him as surely as though
the rope of the boat were in his hands. Without ceasing his song, he
took his place in the stern, and in time to the music Charon dipped
his oars in the stream, so that the boat swung over the river as it
had never swung before. As it stranded in the shallow water, Orpheus
leaped lightly to shore.

"Farewell for the present, Charon," he cried; "we shall meet again ere
long."

He hastened on his way, playing and singing his magic song. Resting on
his pole, the old man looked after him with wonder in his heart, and
shaded his eyes with his hand. For a ray of the sun seemed to shine
for a moment in that cold grey land as Orpheus passed by. The pale
flowers of hell tossed their heads to and fro, as though the west wind
played through their leaves, and their colour and their scent came
back to them once more. With a sigh, Charon breathed in the perfume
from the air, and tossed back the grey locks from his brow and
straightened his drooping shoulders.

"It is long since I smelt the fresh smell of the earth," he muttered.
"Who is this young god, who can bring light to the darkness and life
to the realms of the dead?"

So till Orpheus passed out of sight and the sound of his singing grew
faint in the distance Charon stood looking after him, and then with a
sigh he sat down in his boat and bent to his oars once more.

And Orpheus went on his way, with hope beating high in his heart, till
he came to the portals of the palace of Death. On the threshold lay
Cerberus, the three-headed hound of hell, who night and day kept watch
beside the gate to see that no one passed in save those who had died
upon earth, and that those who had passed him once should pass him
never again. When he heard Orpheus coming, he sprang to his feet and
snarled and growled and bared his sharp white fangs; but as the
strains of music grew clearer he sank silent to the ground, and
stretched his three great heads between his paws. Orpheus, as he
passed by, bent down and stroked him, and the fierce beast licked his
hands. So did he enter into the gates of Death, and passed through the
shadowy halls, till he stood before the throne of Pluto, the king. A
dim and awful form did he sit, wrapped about in darkness and mist, and
on his right hand sat Persephone, his wife, whom he stole from the
meadows of Sicily. When he saw Orpheus his eyes gleamed like the gleam
of cold steel, and he stretched forth his gaunt right arm towards him.

"What dost thou here, Orpheus?" he asked.

"I am come to ask thee a boon, O king," he answered.

"There be many that ask me a boon," said Pluto, "but none that receive
it."

"Yet none have stood before thee in the flesh, as I do, O king, to ask
their boon."

"Because thou hast trespassed unlawfully on my domain, dost thou think
I will grant thee thy boon?"

"Nay; but because my grief is so great that I have dared what none
have dared before me, I pray thee to hear me."

Without waiting for an answer, he struck his lyre and sang to them the
story of his life, and of how he had loved and lost Eurydice. The eyes
of the pale queen brightened when she heard him, and the colour came
back to her cheeks, as the song brought back to her mind the days of
her girlhood and the sunlit meadows of Sicily. Then a great pity
filled her heart for Eurydice, who had left the green earth for ever,
and might not return, as she herself did, in the spring-time, living
only the dark winter months below. As Orpheus ceased his song she laid
her hand upon her husband's.

"My lord," she said, "grant his boon, I pray thee. He is brave and
true-hearted, and he sings as no man has ever sung before."

But the stern king sat with his head upon his hand and eyes cast down,
deep in thought. At length he spoke, and his voice was soft and kind.

"Orpheus," he said, "thou hast touched my heart with thy singing. Yet
it lies not with me to grant thee thy boon."

"But if the queen, thy wife, may return to the earth in the
spring-time, may not Eurydice, too, come back at thy command?" asked
Orpheus.

"The ways of the gods are not the ways of mortals, Orpheus; they walk
by paths you may not tread. Yet, though I have no power to give thee
back Eurydice, thou mayest win her thyself if thou hast the strength."

"How may that be?" cried Orpheus. "For the sake of Eurydice I have
strength for any venture."

"No strength of the flesh can win her, Orpheus, but the strength of a
faith unfaltering. I will send for her, and when thou seest her stand
within the hall, holding out her hands towards thee, thou must harden
thy heart, and turn and flee before her by the way thou camest. For
the love of thee she will follow, and she will entreat thee to look at
her and give her thy hand over the stony way. But thou must neither
look at her nor speak to her. One look, one word, will be thine
undoing, and she must vanish from thine eyes for ever. The spell of
thy song still rests upon the guardians of my kingdom, and they will
let thee and thy wife pass by. But think not by word nor deed to help
her. Alone she passed from life to death, and alone she must pass back
from death to life. Her love and thy faith can be the only bond
between you. Hast thou the strength for this?"

"My lord," cried Orpheus, "'tis but a small thing to ask of a love
like mine."

"It will be harder than thou thinkest," the king replied.
"Nevertheless, I will call Eurydice."

He signed to a messenger to fetch her. In a few moments he returned,
and behind him came Eurydice from the garden of Death. The dank dew
hung heavy about her, and she walked with her eyes upon the ground,
while her long black hair hid the paleness of her face. Thus did she
come into the centre of the hall, and, not speaking or moving, Orpheus
gazed upon her till she raised her eyes and saw him. With a cry she
sprang towards him.

"Orpheus!" she said.

But, remembering the words of the king, he turned and fled before her
through the misty halls and out by the great gate, where Cerberus lay
tamed with his heads between his paws. And he tried to shut his ears
to her pleading as they sped across the plain, but every word that she
said cut his heart like a stab, and more than once he almost turned to
answer her, so piteous was her cry.

"Oh, Orpheus, what have I done? Why dost thou flee from me? Oh, give
me one word, one look, to say thou lov'st me still."

But he remained firm in his resolve, and sat himself in Charon's
boat, and steeled his heart, whilst she sat beside him, but could not
touch him. For he was a living soul, and she was a shade, and might
not touch him if she would. But still she pleaded with him.

[Illustration: "Orpheus," she cried, in her despair, "thy hand."]

"O Orpheus, my heart is starving for one look, one word. I know thou
lovest me, but oh! to see thine eyes tell me so and hear thy lips say
it."

He longed to turn and clasp her in his arms, and tell her how he loved
her better than life. But still he refrained, and hugged his lyre
close to his breast in his agony; and as soon as the boat touched the
shore he leapt out and hastened up the steep, dark path, whilst the
sweat stood out in drops upon his brow, so hard was the way and so
stifling the air. Behind him followed Eurydice, and if the way was
hard for him, for her it was ten times harder. She had no strength for
words, and only by her sobs did Orpheus know she was following still.
So they went on, till at length the air grew pure and fresh, and the
daylight shone before them at the mouth of the cave. With eager steps
Orpheus pressed forward, longing for the moment when he might clasp
his wife in his arms and speak to her once more. But as the way grew
easier for him, it grew harder for Eurydice; since no one may pass
from death to life without sore travail and pain. So she struggled and
stumbled after him, and her heart gave way within her as she felt she
could follow no farther.

"Orpheus!" she cried in her despair, "thy hand."

Ere reason could restrain him, his heart had answered her sudden cry,
and he turned and held out his arms to help her. All too late he knew
his folly. For even as he was about to hold her she slipped away, and
as smoke is borne away on the wings of the wind, so was she borne
away, helpless and lifeless, to the realms of the dead, and her voice
floated back like the echo of a dream,

"Farewell, Orpheus. Alas! Alas! farewell!"

So for the second time did he lose Eurydice; and if his grief was
great before, it was ten times greater now. For as the cup of joy had
touched his lips it had slipped from his hand and broken, and he knew
that the chance the gods had given him once they would give him never
again, but that all his life long he must dwell in loneliness without
Eurydice his wife. Blindly he went forward with his lyre beneath his
arm. The strings hung broken and lifeless, for the rocks and thorns
had torn them as he passed on his way up from Hades. But he heeded not
nor made any effort to mend them, for the strings of his heart hung
broken too, and the music in his soul was dead. In black despair he
wandered on, and the sunshine to his eyes was darkness, and the fair
forms of earth were sadder than the phantoms of Hades had seemed to
him while hope still beat in his breast. As a colt that has wandered
far by unknown paths returns at last surely to his homestead, so did
his feet carry him back to Pelion and the dear home of his boyhood.
Not till he stood in the path which led up to the cave did he know
where he had come; but when he saw the mouth of the cave before him
his eyes were opened once more, and a faint joy stole into his heart
as he went on and sat down on a stone outside. All was silent and
deserted, and he sat for awhile alone with his own sad thoughts, till
he felt a touch upon his shoulder, and looked up into the face of
Cheiron standing beside him.

"O my master!" he cried.

"My son, thou hast suffered," said Cheiron.

"I have been down into Hades, Cheiron," he answered.

"My child," said Cheiron, "I know it all."

He gazed upon him, his great mild eyes full of pity, and Orpheus gazed
back at him, and knew that he understood, though how he had learnt his
tale he could not tell. His heart drew comfort from the sympathy that
understood without words, and was softened as the parched earth is
softened by rain, so that he took Cheiron's hands between his, and
bowed his head upon them, and wept.

Thus it came to pass that he returned to his boyhood's home, and dwelt
once more with Cheiron and his lads beneath the shade of snow-capped
Pelion. In time the bitterness of his grief was purged away, and he
remembered Eurydice as something bright and fair that had been woven
into the web of his life while yet it was young, and which could never
be taken away. As he listened again to the old songs which Cheiron had
sung to him and his comrades when they were lads, the fire and the
eagerness of his youth were born once more within him. When he saw the
elder ones go forth into the world and little lads brought up to take
their place with Cheiron, he felt how life stands ever beckoning and
calling to those in whose veins the blood of gods and heroes runs, and
they go forth to rule and to serve, to fight and to labour, in answer
to the call which the foolish do not hear. So one morning he took his
lyre, which for many a long day had lain silent, and putting fresh
strings for the ones that were broken, he passed his fingers lovingly
over them as of old. And the spirit of music sprang to life once more
in his heart, as the flowers spring to life when the winter is past,
so that once again he could charm every living thing by the magic of
his song.

When Cheiron knew that his power had come back to him he was glad.

"Orpheus," he said, "thou hast conquered. A weaker man than thou art
would have lain crushed beneath the foot of adversity. But those who
bravely rise again are stronger than before."

"Master," he said, "when I saw the broken strings of my lyre and felt
my voice choked within me, I said, 'With the breaking of this string
the music dies and becomes a voiceless echo of the past, just as now
Eurydice is a shade in the shadowy land while her body is dust upon
earth,' and lo! ere the strings were mended or the voice grew strong
again, the soul of song lived once more in my heart, as on the day
when first my mother Calliope breathed her spirit upon me. If music
may live without sound or words, may not the soul live too without
bones and flesh? This is a mystery, and I must seek the wide world for
an answer."

And Cheiron smiled upon him.

"It is good to seek," said he, "though thou find no answer in the
end."

"Yet will I find an answer," said Orpheus.

So when the call of Jason came soon after, for him to sail with the
heroes in the good ship _Argo_ for the finding of the Golden Fleece,
and to be their minstrel on the stormy seas, he went down right gladly
to Iolchos. At the sound of his song the gallant ship leapt over the
stones and into the sea like a charger ready for battle, though before
she had been too heavy to move. So he sailed with the heroes on their
perilous venture, filling their hearts with courage and hope, and took
them safely through many a danger by the magic of his song. But though
many had set out, there were few that returned, and he saw the wreck
of many a promising life on that terrible voyage, but found no answer
to his quest. He bowed his head in reverence to the memory of those
who, for the sake of adventure and honour and a noble name, had poured
forth their lives like water on a thirsty soil, knowing full well when
they set forth that the danger would be for all, but the prize and the
dear home-coming for few.

So, as soon as might be, he set forth again to wander the wide world
alone with his lyre. Some say he went to Egypt, others say to Crete,
but wherever he went he found at last the answer to his quest. For he
found the great god Dionysos, the god of many names--Bromios, Bacchos,
Zagreus--who fills men's minds with inspiration and divine madness, so
that they become one with him and with the life that lives for ever
behind the forms of things that die. He ate of the flesh of the mystic
bull, which is the god himself, and to the sound of his lyre the
Mænads danced over the mountains and through untrodden woods, and held
to their breasts young lions, and cubs of the untamed wolf. Far away
from towns and cities, where custom and language raise barriers
between man and man, on the breast of the untouched earth they danced
their mystic dance, and became one with Bacchos and with all things
that have life in the present, or have lived in the past. There
Orpheus found Eurydice again in the communion of soul with soul, and
learnt what she had meant when she said, "Some day our love shall
prevail, never again to be conquered." So it came to pass that he
became the priest of Bacchos, the mystic god, who is one with Life and
Love. And he wrote upon tablets the rule of life, by which, through
purity and initiation, men may become one with the god, and when they
have been purified by birth and re-birth in many diverse forms, they
may win, because they are one with him, the immortal life that
changeth not, like the life of the stars in heaven.

The tale goes of Orpheus that at last he came to Thrace and the wild
mountain lands that lie to the north of Greece. There he tamed the
fierce hill tribes with the magic of his song, and lived a life of
abstinence and purity and ecstasy of the soul. But the followers of
Dionysos who dwelt in those parts looked on him askance; for whereas
they worshipped the god with shedding of blood and rending of goats,
in the madness that is born of wine, the ecstasy of his worship was
born of music and beauty, and he would have no part nor lot in their
wild revels. And because there is no hate that is greater than the
hate of those who worship one god in divers way, there came a day when
the mad frenzy of the Mænads was turned against Orpheus himself. As he
sat looking forth on the sunrise and singing as he touched his lyre,
the raving band came up behind him, full of madness and of wine. And
they tore him limb from limb in their frenzy, as they had torn the
wild goats before, and cast his head into the Hebrus, thinking to
silence his singing for ever. But his head floated on the waves of
the eddying stream, fair and fresh as in life, singing as it floated
its magic enchanting song. Gently the river bore it along and down to
the sea, and the blue sea waves kissed it and passed it from one to
the other, till at last they cast it up, still singing, on the shores
of the Lesbian Isle. There the Muses came and buried it, and made of
its tomb a sacred shrine, where, for many a long year, men came from
far and wide to worship and consult the oracle. About that shrine the
nightingales sang more sweetly than in any other spot on earth, for
they learnt their song from the lips of Orpheus himself. And men bound
themselves in a holy brotherhood which they called by his name, and
lived by the rules he had written on his tablets. Some of those who
pretended to follow him were charlatans and rogues, and brought
dishonour and ridicule upon his name, while others kept the letter
without the spirit of his law; but among them were those of a pure
and blameless life, who kept his doctrines, and handed them down
from generation to generation, till in time they became the
foundation-stones of the great philosophies of Pythagoras and Plato.

Thus did Orpheus live and die, and pointed out to men the path to
immortality by purity and abstinence and ecstasy of the soul. There
were many of old who hated his doctrine, and many who hate it now;
and, indeed, it is not one by which every man can live. But there are
those to whom it brings peace and joy, though they call it by other
names than his; and these are the Bacchoi, the initiated, who have
seen the inward light, and their souls are at peace.



The Flight of Arethusa


Many, many hundred years ago a small band of colonists set sail from
Corinth to found for themselves a new home and a new city in the
far-away west. With a song upon their lips, the sailors bent to their
oars.

"Heave ho! Heave ho!" they sang, "for the three-cornered isle of the
west! Heave ho! for the fountain that fails not, and the whispering
willow-trees! Heave ho! for the waters that are wedded with the waters
of our own native land!"

Then, as the breeze filled their sails, they pulled in their oars, and
looked back for the last time at the home they were leaving for ever.
Proudly between two seas did the rock of Corinth raise her head,
encircled with a diadem of walls and towers. With tears in their eyes
they watched her sink, and soon all around them was nothing but the
waste of the grey sea waves. Thus did they leave the old land for the
new with joy and sorrow, hope and fear in their hearts, and sailed
away to the west, to the land of their dreams, the three-cornered isle
of which the oracle had spoken. For when Archias, their leader, had
consulted the priestess at Delphi, she had answered,

"To Trinacria the god bids thee go, the three-cornered isle of the
west. There on Ortygia, the sacred islet, shalt thou build thee a
home, by the side of the fountain that fails not, Arethusa, whose
waters are wedded with the waters of thine own native land."

So, in obedience to her words, Archias set sail with his little band.
And they found Ortygia and the spring Arethusa in the shade of the
whispering willows. There they planted the seed of that city, which
grew to be the greatest in all Sicily and the mistress of the
Mediterranean--Syracuse, proud Corinth's prouder daughter. For her
sake many a battle has been fought and many a weary war been waged;
for through long centuries men knew that whoever held the keys of
Syracuse held the keys of power in their hands.

But what did the priestess mean when she bade Archias go to the isle
whose waters were wedded with the waters of his own native land? And
how came it that when he and his band reached Sicily they found there
the flowers and the fruit of the home they had left, and streams that
ran in and out of the limestone rocks like the streams of the
Peloponnese? I will tell you.

Arethusa, around whose spring in Ortygia the whispering willows bent,
was once a nymph, who dwelt in the Arcadian woodlands and followed
Artemis the maiden huntress, over hill and over dale. Artemis loved
her above all the other nymphs who were her handmaids, and as a sign
of her favour she would let her carry her bow and her quiver full of
darts. On many a hot summer's day did Arethusa and her companions
bathe with their mistress in the cool deep mountain pools. Above their
heads the great oaks of the forest spread their branches, and the
grass beneath their feet was fresh and green. So long as they stayed
by the side of their mistress the nymphs were safe from harm, for no
god or goddess in all the land was so powerful as Artemis, and she
knew how to protect her own.

So it came to pass that, because Arethusa had never known what fear
was, she grew to think that there was no such thing, and one day she
left her mistress and her comrades, and wandered forth alone through
the woods. Her heart was gay and light, and she sang as she went. In
the gloom of the forest she was like a ray of the sun, and on the bare
hill-sides she was like a sparkling stream that leaves green grass and
flowers wherever it passes. But she thought nothing of her beauty, nor
feared any harm because of it. As soon would lily cease from growing,
because it feared to be plucked for the sake of its fair sweet flower.
So she wandered on happy and light-hearted on that bright summer's
day.

At last she came to a broad river that barred her path. High up above
her head the water fell leaping and roaring down the face of the
rocks, while below the swift current hurried along through swirling
eddies and foam. When she saw that she could go no farther, she sat
down on a rock by the edge of a stream, and let the cool water play
over her feet; then she bent down to fill her hand and drink. As she
did so her heart stopped beating, and her limbs grew stiff and numb,
and for the first time in her life she knew what fear was. For out of
the waters before her there rose up what seemed a great billow of foam
and spray, which stretched out a long arm towards her, and from the
tips of five great fingers the drops fell cold upon her shoulders.
With a cry, she drew herself together, and turned and fled; but she
had seen the form of the river-god grow clear in the billow, with the
water flowing down from his damp hair and beard, and the flash of his
eyes like the flash of lightning in the midst of the foam. It was
Alpheus, the king of all the rivers of Peloponnese. He had seen
Arethusa alone on the bank, and for love of her beauty he had risen
from the depths of the stream and stretched out his arms to gather her
to himself, and draw her down beneath the waves, to live with him and
be his for ever. But she had been too quick for him, and now she fled
before him as a deer flees before the hounds, whilst the fear that had
numbed her at first now lent wings to her feet. Over hill and over
dale she fled, swift as the rushing wind. Her bright locks flew out
behind her, and as she leapt from rock to rock her white robes gleamed
like the gleam of sunlit waters. Close behind her came Alpheus. The
deafening roar of his flood sounded like thunder in her ears, and his
misty breath blew cold upon her cheek. On and on she fled, with the
swiftness and strength of despair, till at last she could go no
farther; for before her stretched the blue waste of the cruel Ionian,
and the spray of the waves stung her face, while behind her the floods
of Alpheus rushed thundering down. Then she stretched forth her hands,
and cried out to the Maid of the Sea,

"O Dictynna, Dictynna, have mercy! In the name of great Artemis, whom
thou lovest as I do, help me now."

The Maid of the Sea heard her cry, and wrapped her about in a mist,
and her body and her limbs were unloosed and melted away, till she
became a spring of fresh, pure water that bubbled and danced over the
stones of the shore, and dived at last into the waves of the sea. But
behind her the flood of Alpheus still rushed leaping and foaming. He
had followed her over mountain and valley, and he followed her now
through the ocean. Down through the white waves they dived into the
depths of the sea, and passed like silvery currents of light through
the green sleeping waters, on and on, through forests of seaweed, and
over shell-strewn rocks, till they were stopped at last in their
flight by the roots of the three-cornered isle. There, through the
fissures and clefts, they forced their way up once more to the
sunlight, and side by side they leapt down from the rocks and the
crags--down towards the sea once again. But Arethusa fled no longer in
terror, and her fear of Alpheus was gone; for he pursued her no more
in a thundering, boisterous flood. Now he held out his strong white
arms, and called to her gently and low--as gently as the waves call in
summer as they dance to the shore.

"Arethusa, Arethusa, I love thee. Come, join thy waters with mine."

But she leapt away from him with a happy, mischievous laugh, and
tossed back the spray from her hair, so that it fell on his cheek like
a shower of kisses. Thus she leapt laughing, down over the rocks and
crags towards the sea, knowing full well that he played with her, and
that any moment he could make her his own. At last, as she hovered for
a moment on the brink of the cliff, he caught her in his strong
white arms, and together they dived once more into the salt sea waves,
so that their waters were mingled, and for evermore they were one. And
Arethusa showed her bright head again in the spring beneath the
willows of Ortygia, which is called by her name to this day. From the
time of her flight that spring never failed or grew dry, for from the
snows of the mountains Alpheus flowed always to meet her, bringing
coolness and plenty to the waters he loved. Men said, moreover, that
if a cup were put into the stream of Alpheus in the Peloponnese it
would find its way at last to the spring in Ortygia--which showed that
the waters of Arethusa and Alpheus were wedded and blended together,
so that they lived apart no more.

[Illustration: On and on she fled with the swiftness and strength of
despair.]

And that was the reason why Archias found in Sicily the flowers and
the fruit of the land he had left; for Alpheus had borne their seeds
in his stream from Peloponnese, and scattered them right and left as
he sprang through the rocks, that the winds of heaven might sow them
where they willed. To this day you will find in Sicily the olive and
the vine, and the blushing flower of the almond, and the narcissus
with its crown of gold, as you find them in Peloponnese; for is not
the water that feeds their meadows one stream that joins two lands?
And on the first coins of Syracuse you will find the head of the nymph
Arethusa, with the fish swimming round about; for was it not by the
side of her spring that the first stones of the city were laid, on the
sacred isle of Ortygia, round which the sea-fish swam?

Thus did Arethusa flee in terror from Alpheus, to be wedded to him at
last in a land across the sea.



The Winning of Atalanta


Once upon a time there ruled in Arcadian Tegea a proud-hearted king
named Schoenus. A tamer of horses was he, and a man mighty in the
hunt and in battle. Above every other thing he loved danger and sport
and all kinds of manly exercise. Indeed, these things were the passion
of his life, and he despised all womenkind because they could take no
part nor lot in them. And he wedded Clymene, a fair princess of a
royal house, because he wished to raise up noble sons in his halls,
who should ride and hunt with him, and carry on his name when he was
dead. On his wedding-day he swore a great oath, and called upon all
the gods to witness it.

"Never," he swore in his pride, "shall a maid child live in my halls.
If a maid is born to me, she shall die ere her eyes see the light, and
the honour of my house shall rest upon my sons alone."

When a man swears an oath in his pride, he repents full oft in
humility, and so it fell out now. For many a long year no child was
born to him, and when at last he had hopes of an heir, the babe that
was born was a maid. When he saw the child his heart was cut in two,
and the pride of a father and the pride of his oath did battle within
him for victory. The pride of his oath conquered, for he was afraid to
break his word in the face of all his people. He hardened his heart,
though he had held the babe in his arms, and its little hand with a
birthmark above the wrist had closed about his finger trustfully, and
gave orders that the child should be cast out upon the mountains to
die of hunger and cold. So the babe was given to a servant, who bore
it forth and left it on the slope of bleak Parthenius. But Fate made a
mock of Schoenus, of his pride and of his oath, for no other child,
either man or maid, was born to him in his halls. All too late he
repented of his folly, when he saw his hearth desolate and no children
round his board, and knew that not only his name, but his race, was
like to die with him, because of the rash oath which he had sworn.

Yet there was one who had pity on the babe, and whose heart was kinder
than the heart of its own sire. When Artemis, the maiden goddess, saw
the child cast forth to die, she was filled with anger against
Schoenus, and swore that it should live. For it was a fair child,
and a maid after her own heart, and no young life ever called to her
in vain for mercy. Wherefore she sent a she-bear to the place where
the child lay, and softened the heart of the beast, so that she lifted
it gently in her mouth and bore it to the cave where her own cubs lay
hid. There she suckled it with her own young ones, and tended it
night and day, till it grew strong and could walk, and the cave rang
with its laughter as it played and gambolled with the young bears.
When Artemis knew that the child was old enough to live without its
foster-mother, she sent her nymphs to fetch it away, and when they
bore it to her she was well pleased to find it fair and strong.

"Her name shall be Atalanta," she said to them. "She shall dwell on
the mountains and in the woods of Arcadia, and be one of my band with
you. A mighty huntress shall she be, and the swiftest of all mortals
upon earth; and in time she shall return to her own folk and bring joy
and sorrow to their hearts."

Thus it came to pass that Atalanta lived with the nymphs in the
woodlands of Arcadia. They taught her to run and to hunt, and to shoot
with bow and arrows, till soon the day came when she could do these
things as well as any of their band. For the blood of her father ran
hot in her veins; and not more easily does a young bird learn to fly
than Atalanta learnt to love all manner of sport. So she came to
womanhood in the heart of the hills, and as her form grew in height
and strength, it grew too in beauty and grace. The light of the
sunbeam lay hid in her hair, and the blue of the sky in her eyes, and
all the rivers of Arcadia bathed her limbs and made them fresh and
white. But she thought little of her beauty, or the power it might
have over the hearts of men, for all her delight was in the hunt, and
to follow Artemis, her mistress, over hill and over dale. Artemis
loved her, and delighted to do her honour; and when the land of
Calydon cried to her for mercy, because of the boar she had sent to
ravage it in her wrath, she decreed that none but Atalanta should have
the glory of that hunt. The tale of how she came to Calydon, and of
how the boar was slain at last through her, I have told you before;
and of how death came to Meleager, because he loved her, and would not
let any man insult her while he stood idly by. By the fame of that
hunt her name was carried far and wide through Hellas, so that when
she came to the funeral games of Pelias there was no need to ask who
she was. She ran in the foot race against the swiftest in the land,
and won the prize so easily that when she reached the goal the first
man had scarce passed the turning-point, though he was no sluggard to
make a mock of. When the games were over, she went back to Arcadia
without a tear or a sigh, but her face and her memory lived in the
heart of many a man whose very name she had not known; and when
presently the news went abroad that she would wed the man who could
win her, they flocked from far and wide, because they loved her better
than life; for they knew that the unsuccessful went forth to certain
death.

The tale of how Atalanta went back to her own folk, and of how she was
wooed and won, is as follows:

One day, when King Schoenus held a great hunt in the forest on the
edge of his domain, it chanced that Atalanta had come to those parts;
and when she heard the blare of the bugles and the barking of the
hounds, her heart leapt with joy. As a dog, when he hears the voice of
his master, pricks up his ears and runs swiftly to meet him, so did
Atalanta run swiftly through the woods when she heard the sound of the
bugles. Full often had she joined in a hunt on the uplands of
Arcadia, and run with the hounds; and when the hunt was over she had
fled back into the forest, away from those who had been fain for her
to stay. For she loved the hunt, but not the hunters; but, because she
was a mortal and born of a mortal race, she did not flee from their
eyes, as the wood-nymphs fled, but hunted with them for joy of the
hunt, and left them when it pleased her. So now she joined in the
chase as the stag broke loose from cover, and her white feet flashed
in the sunlight as she followed the hounds across the open moorland.
King Schoenus, when he saw her, was glad.

"It is Atalanta, the maiden huntress," he cried. "See that she be
treated with due courtesy, for she is the only woman on earth who is
fit to look a man in the face."

And he rode eagerly after her. But the best horse in all that company
was no match for Atalanta. Far ahead of them all she shot, like an
arrow from the bow, and when at last the stag turned at bay in a pool,
she was the first to reach him. When the rest had come up, and the
huntsman had slain the stag, the king turned to her.

"Atalanta," he said, "the trophy of this chase is thine, and my
huntsman shall bear the head of the stag whithersoever thou shalt bid
him. In token of our esteem, I beg thee to accept this ring. When thou
lookest upon it, think kindly of an old man whose heart is lonely, and
who would fain have a daughter like thee."

As he spoke he drew off a gold ring from his finger and held it
towards her; the tears stood in his eyes and his hand shook as he
looked on her fair young form, and remembered the babe he had cast out
on the mountains to die. If she had lived she would have been of an
age with Atalanta, and perchance as fair and as strong as she; and his
heart was bitter against himself for the folly of his oath.

When Atalanta heard his words, she had a mind at first to refuse his
gift. Many a man before had offered her gifts, and she had refused
them every one; for she had no wish to be beholden to any man. But
when she saw the eyes of the old king dim with tears, and how his hand
shook as he held out the ring, her heart was softened, and yearned
with a strange yearning towards him. Coming forward, she knelt at his
feet and took the ring, and held his hand and kissed it.

"May the gods grant the prayer of thy heart, sire," she said, "and
give thee a daughter like unto me, but fairer and more wise than I!"

As he looked down on the hand that held his own the old king trembled
more violently than before, for above the wrist was a birthmark like
the birthmark above the wrist of the babe he had cast forth to die.
And he knew that he made no mistake, for that mark had lived in his
mind as though it had been branded with red-hot steel.

"Atalanta," he said, "the gods have heard thy prayer. This is not the
first time thy fingers have closed about mine."

"What meanest thou, sire?" she asked.

"As many years ago as the span of thy young life," he said, "I held in
my arms a new-born babe, the child that the gods had given me, and its
little hand with a birthmark above the wrist closed about my finger
trustfully. But because of my foolish pride I hardened my heart. I
cast away the gift of the gods and sent the child to die upon the
mountains. But the birthmark on its wrist was branded on my brain so
that I could not forget it. Never till this day have I seen that mark
again, and now I see it on thy wrist, my child."

He bowed his head as he spoke, and the tears from his eyes fell upon
her hand, which lay in his as she knelt before him.

"Oh, my father!" she cried, and bent forward and kissed his hand.

When he found that she did not turn from him, though she knew what he
had done, he was more deeply moved than before.

"Atalanta," he said, "when I cast thee forth to die, I gave back to
the gods the life they had given me, and now I have no right to claim
it again. Yet would thy presence be as sunshine in my halls if thou
wert to come back to me, my child."

Thus did the call come to Atalanta to return to her own folk, and the
choice lay before her. On the one side was her free life in the
forest, with Artemis and her nymphs, the hunt, the fresh air, and all
the things that she loved; on the other was life within the walls of a
city, and the need to bow her head to the customs and the ways of men.
Her heart misgave her when she thought of it.

"My lord," she said, "will a young lion step into the cage of his own
free will, think you?"

The old king bowed his head at her words.

"Alas! what other answer could I look for?" he said. "I thank the gods
that they have shown me thy fair face this day. Perchance, when we
hunt again in these parts, thou wilt join us for love of the chase.
Till then, my child, farewell."

[Illustration: "Oh, my father!" she cried]

With trembling hands he raised her from her knees, and kissed her on
the forehead. Then he signed to his men to lead forward his horse, and
mounted and rode sadly home through the forest with his company. And
Atalanta shaded her eyes and stood watching them till they disappeared
from sight. When they had gone, she sighed, and turned and went upon
her way. But her eyes were blind and her ears were deaf to the sights
and sounds she loved so well, and that night she tossed restlessly
upon her couch of moss. For before her eyes was the figure of an old
man bowed with sorrow, and in her ear his voice pleaded, trembling
with longing and love.

"Thy presence would be as sunshine in my halls if thou wert to come
back to me, my child."

In the early dawn she rose up from her couch, and bathed in a stream
close by, and gathered up her shining hair in a coil about her head.
Then she put on her sandals and a fresh white tunic, slung her quiver
about her shoulders, and bow in hand went forth through the forest.
Looking neither to the right nor to the left, she went on her way till
she came to the white road that led to the city. Then she turned and
looked back at the forest.

"Dear trees and woods," she said, "farewell, and ye nymphs that dwell
in the streams and dance on the green sward of the mountains. When I
have trodden the white road and gone up to the city, I can live with
you no more. As for thee, great Artemis, who saved me in the
beginning, I will be thy servant for ever, and dwell a maiden all my
days, and a lover of the hunt."

She leant her head against a tree close by, and the tears stood in her
eyes. It seemed that the breeze bore her words on its wings, for she
heard a sigh from the forest, and the waters cried out to her,
"Atalanta, come back, come back!"

But she closed her ears, and stepped out bravely on the white highway,
and went up into the city. The people as they saw her pass marvelled
greatly at her beauty, and whispered one to the other, "Surely it is
Atalanta, the king's daughter. What doth she here?"

For the tale of how King Schoenus had found his child, and of how
she had refused to come home with him, had spread like wildfire
through the city; so that when they saw her, they knew full well who
she must be. She took no heed of them at all, but went straight
forward on her way till she came to the gate of the palace. The gate
stood open, and without knocking or calling she passed in, and went
across the echoing court and beneath the portico into the great hall,
as one who comes by right. When she had entered the hall, she stopped
and looked about her. At first all seemed silent and deserted, for the
folk had gone their several ways for the work of the day; but at
length she spied an old man sitting on a carved chair in one of the
alcoves between the pillars. It was the king, her father. He sat with
his head upon his hand and his eyes downcast upon the floor, and his
face was sad and full of longing, as of one who dreams sweet dreams
which he knows will not come true. Gently she drew near to him, and
thanked the gods who had timed her coming so that she should find him
alone. And she went and knelt at his feet. The old man gazed for a
moment in her face, as though he did not see her; then he started from
his chair and laid his hand upon her shoulder.

"Atalanta!" he cried.

"My father," she said, "I have come back to thee."

Then he gathered her up in his arms.

"Oh, my child, my child!" he said. "The gods are kind beyond my
desert."

"Thy voice cried out to me in the night-time," she said, "and I could
not shut my heart to thy pleading. The call of the free earth was
strong, but the call of my blood was stronger."

Thus did Atalanta come back to her own folk, and bring joy to the
heart of her father and the mother who had never held her in her arms.
A great feast was held in the palace in her honour, and through all
the city the people rejoiced because of her. For she was a fair
princess of whom any land might be proud, and her fame had spread
through the length and breadth of Hellas. Indeed, as soon as it was
known who she was, and how she had left the mountains to come and live
with her own kin, suitors flocked from far and wide to seek her hand
in marriage. But she treated them one and all with scorn, and vowed
that she would never wed. At first her father smiled upon her, and
looked on her refusal to wed as the sign of a noble nature, that was
not to be won for the asking of the first chance-comers. So he
gathered about him the noblest princes in the land in the hope that
among them all there would be one who could win her heart. But the
months passed by, and still she vowed that she would never wed. All
her delight was in running and hunting, and to ride by her father's
side. As for the young princes, she liked them full well for
companions in sport, but as soon as they spoke of love and marriage
she would turn her back upon them. At length the king grew anxious.

"Surely, my child," he said, "among all these princes there is one
whom thou couldst love?"

"I shall never love any man but thee, my father," she replied.

"Yet all the hope of our race lies upon thee, Atalanta," he said. "If
thou wilt not wed, our race will die."

"Our race died on the day on which thou didst cast me forth on the
mountains," she answered. "If I have lived, it is no thanks to thee or
to any of my people, but my life is hers who saved me on that day."

"What meanest thou?" said the king.

"When I left the forest and came back to thee I vowed a vow to
Artemis, who saved me in the beginning. I said, 'I will be thy servant
for ever, and dwell a maiden all my days and a lover of the hunt.' My
life belongs to her, and not to my race, not to any son of man."

"We vow rash vows in ignorance, Atalanta," said the king, as he
remembered the oath he had sworn on his wedding-day, "and Fate makes a
mock of us, and turns our nay to yea."

But Atalanta laughed at his words.

"When Fate mocks at me," she said, "it will be time enough for me to
wed and turn my nay to yea."

Nothing that he could say would persuade her to go back from her
resolve. But still he reasoned with her night and day, till at length
she grew so wearied of the matter that she bethought of a plan that
would rid her of all her suitors.

"My father," she said, "I will wed any man who shall ask for my hand,
if he will fulfil one condition."

"My child," cried her father, "I knew that in the end thou wouldst
listen to reason. Tell me thy condition, that I may spread it abroad
among those who are suing for thy hand."

"Tell them," she said, "that I will wed the first man among them who
will run a race with me. If he win, I will be his bride, but if he
lose, he must die."

The king's face fell when he heard her words.

"Surely thou speakest in mockery, Atalanta," he said. "No man in all
the world can run as swiftly as thou canst, and they know it. Thou
wilt drive thy suitors from thee; or if any be foolhardy enough to run
with thee, they will run to a certain death."

"No man will run to a certain death, my father," she answered. "When
they know that to sigh for me is to sigh for death, they will go back
to their own folk, and I shall be troubled with suitors no more."

Herein she spoke in ignorance, and knew not the fatal power of her
beauty upon the hearts of men. And her father sighed at her words. Yet
he thought within himself,

"Perchance there is more in her words than meets the ear. The deep
sea is easier to fathom than the mind of a woman. Either there is one
among her suitors whom she favours above the rest, and she will see to
it that he is the first to run with her, and will bridle her speed and
let him win; or else, Heaven knows, some god has put this whim in her
heart, and will send a champion we know not, who can run faster than
the fastest, and he will outspeed her and make her his bride. She will
never let men die because of her."

But herein he too thought in ignorance, and knew not how his own pride
and stubbornness lived again in Atalanta, so that she would abide by
her word, though it brought grief to herself and death to others. So
he published abroad among the suitors the condition she had made. When
they heard it there was great consternation among them, and they
consulted together as to what they should do, and some sent a
deputation to her to find out the meaning of her words.

"Lady," they asked, "when thou speakest of death thou speakest
perchance in parables. Those who run in the race with thee and are
outstripped must give up all hope of thee, and look upon thy face no
more. And this would be death indeed to them that love thee."

But she laughed in their faces.

"If you would hear parables," she said, "go to the oracle at Delphi. I
am no raving priestess to utter words that walk two ways at once. He
who courts death may race with me at daybreak, and at sunset he shall
drink the poison-cup without fail, and look neither on my face again
nor the face of any living thing. Have I spoken plainly now?"

The next day there was great confusion in the halls of King
Schoenus. There was shouting and bustling, and attendants ran this
way and that. Chariots clattered through the gateway and drew up in
the court, and baggage was piled high behind the horses. And Atalanta
laughed aloud at the success of her scheme; for suitor after suitor
came and kissed her hand and bade her farewell. They loved her much,
but they loved life better, and were content to go home and find mates
who, though less fair, were less ferocious, and were like to look upon
their lords with eyes more lowly and obedient than Atalanta.

That night the gathering about the board was scantier than it had been
for many a long day. Yet a few of the suitors remained, and seemed in
no haste to be gone. Day after day passed by, and each night Atalanta
said within herself,

"To-morrow they will surely go. They dwell in distant towns, and they
are waiting for a favourable day for their journey."

But favourable days came and went, and still they stayed in the halls
of King Schoenus. At last Atalanta could hide the dread in her heart
no longer.

"How long will it be, my father," she asked, "ere we are troubled no
more with strangers in our halls?"

"If thou wilt wed one of them, we shall be troubled with the rest no
more," he replied.

"They know full well I can wed no man of them, because of the
condition I have made," she said.

"They are waiting for thee to fulfil thy condition," said the king.

Then Atalanta herself went and pleaded with them,

"My friends," she said, "I pray you to be guided by me. The gods have
not fashioned me after the manner of womenkind, and I cannot give
myself nor my love to any man. Look upon me as one of yourselves, I
pray you, and think not to win me in marriage."

But they replied, "Lady, thou hast given the condition of thy
marrying, and we are waiting to fulfil it."

"But my condition means certain death," she cried.

"Nothing in this life is certain," they said, "save death in the end.
If it come soon or late, what matter? For thy sake we are willing to
face it now."

Thus was she forced to keep her word, and the lists were made ready
for the race, and the lots were cast among the suitors as to which of
them should be the first to run against her. In the early morning,
before the sun was strong, the race was run, and all the city crowded
to the course to watch it. The man ran well and bravely, but his speed
was as child's play to Atalanta. She put forth her strength like a
greyhound that is content to run for a while before the horses, but
when he scents a hare, can leave them far behind. Even so did Atalanta
run, and came in cool and fresh at the goal, whilst her rival ran in
hot and panting behind her.

Thus did it come to pass that the first man drank the poison-cup
because of his love for Atalanta. With a smiling face did he drink it,
as a man drinks at a feast.

"Farewell, lady," he said; "grieve not for me. With open eyes I chose
my fate. I ran for the sake of love and beauty, and I have won death.
Such is ever the lot of the nameless many. They fight for the glory
of the man whose name shall live. Good luck to my rival!"

And now a time of darkness and mourning fell upon the land, and many a
day in the year the city was hung with black for the sake of some
noble suitor who had chosen death rather than life without Atalanta.
And Atalanta's heart was sore within her, because of the rash
condition she had made in her ignorance. When she would fain have
recalled her words it was too late, for the suitors bound her to her
promise.

"Either give thyself of thine own free will to one of us, or else let
us take our chance of winning thee or death," they said.

And so she was forced to run with them. For in her heart she knew that
even death was happier for a man than to win her without her love.

Thus were the words of Artemis fulfilled when she said, "In time she
shall return to her own folk, and bring joy and sorrow to their
hearts."

One day it chanced that a stranger came to the city on a morning that
a race was to be run. The night before he had slept in a village near
by, and the people had told him the tale of Atalanta, and how on the
morrow another suitor was to run to his death. But he scoffed at their
words.

"No man would run to certain death," he said, "were the maid as fair
as Aphrodite."

"Go and see for thyself," they replied. "Soon we shall hear that thou
too wilt run in the race."

"Never," he said; "no woman can cheat my life from me."

But they shook their heads unconvinced.

"Many before thee have spoken likewise," said they, "and yet they have
run."

"If I run, I will run to win," he answered.

"Can a snail outstrip a deer?" they asked.

"It might so chance," said he.

"Thou art mad," they cried.

"Better to be mad on earth than sane in Hades," he replied.

But they shook their heads the more, and tapped wisely with their
fingers on their foreheads, to show that he was mad and spoke at
random.

"Well, well," he said, with a laugh, "we shall see what we shall see."

The next morning he set forth early for the city, and, mingling with
the crowd, he made his way to the racecourse, and found for himself a
place where he could watch the whole sight with ease. The race was
run, and ended as it always ended; and once again the city was hung
with black. But in the mind of the stranger an image remained which
had not been there before--the image of a maid whose white feet
flashed in the sunlight and her tunic swung to and fro as a flag
swings in the breeze.

"Great Heracles!" he thought within himself, "to run shoulder to
shoulder with her for a moment, even in a race for death, might be
worth the while after all. I will make myself known at the palace, and
see what the gods will give me."

For some days he lay hid in the city, till he thought the time was
ripe for him to go up to the palace of the king. Then he went for a
walk along the highway, and when he was covered with dust and grime,
he returned to the city and made his way at once to the palace. At the
door of the gateway he knocked, and the old porter came out to ask his
will.

"I am come from a distant land," he said, "and to-morrow I would
journey yet further on my way. I pray thee to crave hospitality for
one night for me from the steward of this house, whoe'er he be. I am a
king's son, and worthy to sit at any man's table."

The porter cast a doubtful eye on the travel-worn clothes of the
stranger. It seemed unlikely that a king's son would go on a distant
journey with no body-servant and no horse or baggage. Then he looked
in his clear blue eyes, which gazed back at him as innocent as a
child's, and he saw that for all his sorry raiment he was by no means
ill-favoured, but held himself well and proudly. So he opened the door
and led him across the court.

"Well, well," he muttered in his beard, "great folk have strange whims
in these days. Our king must needs slay his daughter, because she is a
maid, and she must needs slay her suitors, because they are men. After
that this fellow may well be, as he says, a king's son, who, because
he has a palace and plenty, must needs tramp over the face of the
earth and beg his bread. Praise be to the gods who put lowly blood in
my veins and sense in my head, else had it been better for the gate to
keep itself than to have me for a guardian."

Then he cast another look over his shoulder at the young man behind.

"At any rate, for one night he can do no harm," he muttered.

"What didst thou say, father?" asked the stranger.

"I said that for one night thou couldst do no harm," replied the old
man.

"On the contrary," said the stranger with a laugh, "in one night I
hope to do more good to this house than thou hast done in all thy
life."

"The young have ever a good conceit of themselves," said the porter.
"Thou art not like to keep this gate, winter and summer, day and
night, for close on three-score years, as I have done, young man."

"On the other hand," said the stranger, "thou art not like to marry
the king's daughter within the year, and have the city hung with red
instead of black in thine honour, as I am like to do."

"Sir," said the old man, "I know my place too well----"

"--and love thy life too much to aspire to the hand of the princess.
Is that not so?"

"Mayhap," said the old man, and shut his mouth with a snap. To all
further remarks which the stranger made he answered with a grunt. He
took him into the palace and delivered him into the hands of the
steward. As he turned to go back to his post, the young man clapped
his hand upon his shoulder.

"Good luck to thee and thy gate," he said. "When I come through with
the hand of the princess in mine, perchance thou wilt look upon me
with greater favour than now."

"Be warned in time, young man," said the porter, "and tarry not over
long in this palace, but go forth on thy journey in the morning, as
thou hadst a mind to do in the beginning. Those who tarry too long are
apt to go through the gate with nought but a cake in their hand."

This he said, meaning the cake which was put in the hands of the dead
for them to give to Cerberus, the watch-dog of Hades.

"Fear not for that," said the stranger: "I had as lief go
empty-handed."

Thereupon he turned to the steward, who welcomed him sadly to the
halls of King Schoenus. All strangers were looked upon askance in
those days, lest they came as suitors for the hand of Atalanta, and
wished to add to those who had run in the fatal race. When he heard
that the young man would depart on the morrow on his journey he was
glad, and gave him water to wash with and a change of raiment, and
showed him his place at the board, without so much as asking his name.
When Atalanta saw a stranger at the board her heart sank within her,
and she kept her eyes turned away, as though she had not seen him, for
she made sure that he too had come to run in the race with her. It
chanced that night that the company was scanty, and no man talked in
private to his neighbour, but the conversation leapt from one end of
the board to the other, as each one took his share in it and said his
say. The stranger, too, took his part with the rest of them, in nowise
abashed; and so shrewd were his words, and so full of wit, that soon
he had a smile upon the face of each one at the table. For many a long
day the talk had not been so merry nor the laughter so loud at the
table of King Schoenus. Atalanta, too, forgot her constraint, and
talked and laughed freely with the stranger; and he answered her back,
as though it had been man to man, and showed no more deference to her
than to the others of the company.

When the meal was over, the king approached the stranger, and Atalanta
stood beside him.

"Sir," said the king, "thy name and country are still hid from us, but
we are grateful for thy coming, and would be fain for thee to stay as
long as it shall please thee."

"I thank thee, sire," said the stranger, "but I am bound by a strange
vow. I may not reveal my name, nor accept hospitality for more than
one night from any man, till I come to a house where none other than
the king's daughter shall promise me her hand in marriage. From the
tales I have heard in the neighbouring country, I have learnt that I
may not hope to end my vow beneath this roof--though indeed," he said,
turning to Atalanta, "I would fain press my suit if there were any
chance of success."

But Atalanta threw back her head at his words.

"Thou hast doubtless heard the condition," she said, "by the
fulfilment of which alone a man may win my hand."

"Alas, sir!" said the king, "I would press no man to try his luck in
that venture."

"Since that is so," said the stranger, "I will go forth once more upon
my journey at break of day, and see what luck the gods will give me. I
thank thee for thy kindly hospitality this night, and beg thee to
excuse me. I have travelled far, and would fain rest now, as I must go
a long distance ere I can rest again."

Thereupon he took his leave of King Schoenus and his daughter. But
she, for all her pride, could not forget the man who seemed to bid her
farewell with so light a heart. He was well favoured, but it was not
because he was well favoured, or because he had a ready tongue, that
she thought on him. Indeed, when she asked herself why she should
remember one who by now had doubtless lost all memory of her, she
could find no answer. As she tossed on her couch with a troubled mind,
she determined that before he left the palace on the morrow she would
have some speech with him.

"He thinks no more of me than of a stone upon the wayside," she said
within herself, "wherefore I can do him no wrong by letting him speak
with me again before he goes."

It was her custom to rise early in the morning, before the rest of the
household was stirring, and to go forth alone into the woods; and it
was the lot of one of the slaves to rouse himself betimes to give her
food ere she went, so that when she appeared, as was her wont, he
thought nothing of it. The stranger had risen even earlier than she,
and the slave was waiting upon him. When Atalanta saw him, her heart
gave a sudden thrill, for she had not looked to see him so soon.

"Good-morrow, sir," she said. "It is not often I have a companion when
I break my fast."

Then she turned to the slave.

"Thou mayest get thee back to thy bed," she said, "and sleep out thy
sleep in peace. I will see to the wants of our guest and speed him on
his way."

The slave, nothing loth, departed. He was well used to strange
commands from his mistress; and, moreover, there was no need to invite
him twice to return to his couch.

Thereupon Atalanta sat down at the board beside the stranger, and they
fell to with all the appetite of youth and health; and as they ate
they laughed and joked, and talked of strange lands they both had seen
and adventures that had befallen them. In the space of one half-hour
they were as good friends as though they had known each other all
their lives, and suitors who had sat at her father's board day after
day were much more strangers to Atalanta than this man, who had craved
but one night's hospitality.

When they had finished their meal the stranger rose.

"I must bid thee farewell, lady," he said.

"Nay, not yet," she replied; "I will set thee on thy way, and show
thee a road through the forest that will bring thee to the city thou
seekest. I know every track and path as well as the wild deer know
them."

He tried to dissuade her, but she would not listen, and led him out
from the palace by a side-gate, which she unbarred with her own hands.
Down through the sleeping streets they went, where the shadows of the
houses lay long upon the ground, and out across the open downs into
the shade of the forest. The dew gleamed like jewels on the leaves, as
here and there the slanting rays of the sun shone through the trees,
and above their heads the lark sang gaily in the bright summer sky.
Yet they walked silently side by side, as though, in spite of the
brightness of the day, sorrow and not joy were sitting in their
hearts; and all their gay talk and laughter of the early morning was
dead. At length they came to a broad track that crossed the path they
were in, and Atalanta stopped short and pointed to the right.

"From here," she said, "thou canst not miss thy way. Follow the track
till it lead thee to the high-road, and when thou strikest the
high-road, turn to the left, and thou wilt come to the city thou
seekest."

Then she held out her hand to him.

"I must bid thee farewell," she said, "and good luck to the ending of
thy vow."

"Lady," he said, and took her hand in his, "if thou wilt, thou canst
release me now from my vow."

But she drew her hand away sharply and tossed back her head.

"Many kings have daughters besides King Schoenus," she said, "and
any one of them could release thee from thy vow as well as I."

"Atalanta," he said, "no king's daughter save thee shall ever release
me from my vow. That which all our laughter and our converse last
night and this morning strove to hide, our silence, as we walked side
by side, has revealed far better than I can tell thee. Thou knowest
that I love thee. From the first moment that I saw thee I have loved
thee."

His words made her heart thrill with a strange joy. But she showed no
sign of it, and answered him coldly. She was proud and wished to test
him.

"Doubtless the flood-gates of love are easily thrown open where a man
would be released from a vow. Thou knowest how thou mayest win me. Art
thou willing to run in the race?"

At this all his mirth returned to him, and his eyes shone with
merriment as he answered:

"Much good would my love do me if I had to drink the poison cup
perforce. Nay, nay," he said; "I love thee too well to put my death at
thy door. When I have some chance of winning the race, I will come
back and claim thee. In the meantime, lady, farewell."

And, bowing to her, he turned and went his way, without so much as
looking back at her, as she stood trembling with astonishment and
anger. It was not thus her other lovers had spoken. When he had gone
from sight, she turned suddenly and went back by the path they had
come. Her hands were clenched, and the tears sprang unbidden to her
eyes, as she strode forward with long, angry strides that took no heed
of where they went.

"He has made a mock of me!" she cried to herself--"he has made a mock
of me! He is a base adventurer who seeks release from his vow. He has
no heart and no honour. Fool that I was to treat him as a friend!"

Thus did she stride along in her wrath, till it had cooled somewhat,
and she was able to think more calmly of the stranger. Then his form
came back to her mind, as he had looked when they stood face to face
at the parting of the ways, when the sun had glinted down upon them
through the trees, and he had looked her straight in the face with his
clear blue eyes, and said: "Thou knowest that I love thee. From the
first moment I saw thee I have loved thee."

A great sob rose in her throat as she remembered.

"Ah, he spoke the truth!" she said; "I know that he spoke the truth."

Moreover, her heart told her that long before he had spoken the words
she had known that he loved her. Yet strange is the bond of love. Its
strands are certainty and doubt interwoven. Wherefore Atalanta, though
she had heard the words which were but the echo of the silent speech
of their hearts, had put him yet further to the test, and had driven
him from her side by asking of him a sacrifice she had no wish for him
to make.

"If he would come back and run with me," she sighed, "my feet would be
as heavy as lead against him."

But she sighed in vain. Day after day passed by, and he came not.

"He is a man of his word," she thought at last. "Till he has some
chance of winning he will not come back. And he is no fool. He knows
he can never run as I can run. He will never come back."

Yet for all this she watched for him night and day. When she went
forth into the road, or into the forest, she looked for his form at
every turn of the way. When she entered the great hall of the palace,
she looked to see his face at the board. But always she looked in
vain, and sometimes her heart grew bitter against him.

"If he were to come now," she would say to herself, "I would show him
no mercy. He who takes so much thought before he will risk his life
for my sake is not worthy to win me."

Then again she would grow tender, and stand looking down the path by
which he had gone, and sigh for him.

"Oh, my love, come back, come back! My pride is melted away like the
snow, and without any race I will give myself to thee."

Thus would she long for him, and grow near to hating him, because she
knew that she loved him. The weeks and months passed by, and still he
returned not; winter came and went, and once again the dewdrops shone
in the summer sunlight as Atalanta walked in the forest at break of
day. She walked with her eyes upon the ground, thinking of the summer
morning a long year ago when he had walked by her side in silence
along that very path. When by chance she raised her eyes, there, at
the parting of the ways, he stood, as though in answer to her
thoughts. With a cry she stopped short and gazed at him, and he came
forward and bowed to her.

"I have come back, lady," he said.

"Oh!" she cried from her heart, "I am glad thou hast come back."

Then he bent and kissed her hand. So once more they walked in silence
side by side along the path they had walked before; and once again the
bond of love was knit strong between them, with its strands of
certainty and doubt. As they drew near to the edge of the forest,
Atalanta was the first to speak.

"And thy vow," she asked--"hast thou found release from it?"

"Not yet," he answered. "I am come back to run the race, that I may
win release."

Once again the spirit of perversity came upon her.

"Where hast thou learnt to run like the wind?" she asked.

"I have not learnt to run like the wind," he replied. "I have learnt
something better than that."

"Few things are better in a race than swiftness," she said.

"True," he answered; "yet I have found the one thing better."

"What is this strange thing?" she asked.

"When we have run the race, thou wilt know," he said.

"I have grown no sluggard," she said, with a toss of her head, as
though to warn him that her speed was not a thing to be despised.

"That I can see," he said, as he cast a glance at her straight white
limbs and the easy grace of her bearing as she walked beside him. Then
they talked of indifferent matters, and each one knew that what they
had nearest their hearts they were hiding from each other.

So they came to the palace, and from the lowest to the highest the
inmates greeted the stranger with joy. For he had won the hearts of
them all by his wit and his genial smile. But they sighed when they
heard that he too had come to run in the fatal race.

"Alas!" said the old king, shaking his head, "I had rather not have
looked upon thy face again than see thee back on such an errand."

The young man laughed. "He who runs with a fair hope of winning runs
swiftly," he said. "The others were dragged down by the shackels of
their own despair."

"Thou dost not know my daughter," said the king.

"Mayhap I know her better than thou thinkest, and better than thou
knowest her thyself," said the stranger.

No arguments or entreaties would turn him from his purpose.

"I must win release from my vow," he said. "I cannot live all my life
a nameless wanderer. Yet will I not wed any woman I love not, for the
sake of my release. Atalanta alone can save me, for I love none
other."

So the lists once again were prepared, and the course made smooth for
the race. With trembling fingers Atalanta tied her girdle about her,
and bound her sandals to her feet. Though her heart was crying out for
the stranger to win, and praying that her feet might fail her at the
last, yet her pride, too, lifted up its head.

"He makes so sure of winning," she thought, "he despises my swiftness.
He shall see that nothing he has learnt can teach him to run as I can
run. And yet--oh, cursed be the condition I thought so cunning in mine
ignorance! Oh, would that he could win me without first outspeeding
me!"

Thus did her pride and her desire pull two ways at once.

And now the folk were gathered together round the course, and Atalanta
and the stranger stood ready and waiting for the word to be given. She
had made it a condition of the race that her rivals should have a good
start of her, and she stood with her eyes upon the stranger's back, as
he waited many paces before her. All too soon the word was given, and
he sprang forward from his place, like a dog which has been straining
at his leash springs forward when the hook is unloosed. And Atlanta,
too, sprang forward; but whereas the man ran like a hunted thing that
strains every muscle to save its life, she ran with the swinging
grace of the wild deer that, far away from the hunters and hounds,
crosses the springing turf of the lonely moor, fearless and proud, as
he throws back his antlers in the breeze. Thus did Atalanta run, as
though she had no thought of the race, or of the man who ran for his
life. Yet, though she seemed to make no effort, she gained upon her
rival at every step, and now she was running close behind him, and now
she was almost shoulder to shoulder, and out of the corner of his eye
he could see the gleam of her tunic. Then for a moment he slackened
his pace, and it seemed that she would pass him, and on every side the
people shouted out to him, "Run, run! Faster, faster! She will pass
thee."

[Illustration: Out of the corner of his eye he could see the gleam of
her tunic.]

But he put his hand into the opening of his tunic, and drew forth
something from his breast. Then his hand swung up above his head, and
from it there flashed a dazzling fiery apple. Up and down through the
air it flashed like a meteor, and rolled along the grass, till it
stopped far away in the centre of the course, and lay shining like a
jewel in the rays of the sun. Every eye was turned from the race to
watch its gleaming flight, and Atalanta stopped short and watched it
too. When she saw it stop still in the middle of the course, flashing
and sparkling in the grass, a great desire sprang up in her heart to
have it--a mad, unreasoning desire that she could not resist. And she
darted aside out of the path of the race, and went and picked up the
shining golden apple and put it in the bosom of her tunic. Meanwhile
the stranger had lost no time, and when Atalanta came back to the spot
she had left, he was far ahead upon the course, and she had to run
with a will if she wished to overtake him. But once again she gained
upon him, and the space between them grew less and less, till they
were running wellnigh shoulder to shoulder. And once again he saw the
gleam of her tunic beside him; and again he slackened his speed for a
moment, and sent a second gleaming apple into the air. Once more the
mad, unreasoning desire sprang up in Atalanta's heart, and, leaving
the course, she picked up the second apple and put it in the bosom of
her tunic beside the first. By the time she had returned to the path
the stranger had rounded the turning-point, and was well on his way
towards the goal, and she put forth all her strength to overtake him.
But the ease of her running was gone. She ran as one who runs bearing
a burden, yet she would not cast away the golden apples in her bosom;
for though they hampered her, she gained upon her rival, and for the
third time they were running almost shoulder to shoulder. And again,
the third time, the same thing happened, and Atalanta left the course
to pick up the shining fruit. This time when she returned to her place
the stranger was close upon the goal, and all around the people were
shouting and waving their hands. Blindly she pulled herself together,
and with all the strength that was left in her she made a great spurt
to overtake him. If she would cast away the golden apples, she might
yet win the race; but the same mad desire which had spurred her to
pick them up forbad her now to let them go. As she ran they seemed to
grow heavier and heavier in her bosom; yet she struggled and panted
on, and step by step did she gain upon him, though her eyes were
darkened to all but his form and the goal ahead. On every side the
people shouted louder than before, for they knew not now which of them
would win. As they drew near to the goal they were again almost
shoulder to shoulder, and the stranger saw once more the flash of
Atalanta's tunic beside him, while there were yet some paces to run.
Then he gave a great spurt forward, and leapt away from her side. She
tried to do likewise, but her strength was gone. She had made her last
effort before. Thus did it come to pass that the stranger ran in first
to the goal, and, running close upon his heels, Atalanta fell
breathless into his arms as he turned to catch her. She had run twice
as far as he, but what matter if he had not outsped her? He had won
the race, and held the woman he loved in his arms. The tears shone in
her eyes, but he knew they were not tears of grief; and in the face of
all the people he kissed her.

Thus was Atalanta, the swiftest of all mortals, beaten in the race by
the stranger, and learnt from his lips what it was that he had found
on his travels that had made speed of no avail in the race.

For after they had come back to the city, surrounded by the joyous
folk, and had passed hand in hand beneath the gateway, and the
stranger had nodded with a smile at the old porter, who stood bowing
before them; after he had revealed to them all that he was Meilanion,
the son of Amphidamas, and the old king had fallen on his neck and
given him his blessing, because he proved to be the son of his own
boyhood's friend, and the man of all others he would have chosen for
his son-in-law--after all this, when the speeches and the merrymaking
were over, they two walked alone in the moonlit court of the palace.
At last Atalanta had decked herself in the long saffron robes of a
bride, and in her hands she bore the three shining apples. Meilanion's
arm was about her, as they walked for a while in silence, but at
length she spoke and held out the fruit in her hands.

"Tell me their secret," she said.

"Their secret lies in thy heart, Atalanta," he answered.

"What meanest thou?" she asked.

"I mean that if thou hadst not loved me, they would never have filled
thy soul with longing to have them, and thou wouldst never have turned
aside from the race."

"And, knowing this, thou didst stake thy life on my love?" she said.

"Knowing that, I staked my life on thy love," he answered.

"Then that was the one thing better than speed in the race?"

"Yes," he answered, "I learnt to trust in thy love."

There was silence for a moment between them, and then again Atalanta
spoke.

"And whence came the apples?" she asked him.

"When I left thee at the parting of the ways," he said, "I travelled
many a weary league by land, and on the road I passed many a shrine of
Aphrodite. But I never passed them by without lifting up my hands in
prayer to the goddess, for I knew that she could help me if she would,
and I knew that to them that love truly she is ever kind in the end.
But I wandered till I was footsore and weary, and yet I had no sign.
At length I came to the seashore, and took ship for the pleasant isle
of Cyprus, which is her own dear home. There at last she came to me,
walking on the waves of the sea, As I lay on the shore in the
night-time, I saw her as a great light afar, and she drew near to me
with the foam playing white about her feet. In her hand she bore three
shining golden apples. And she came and stood beside me, and I hid my
eyes at the sight of her beauty. But she spoke to me in a voice that
was soft and kind, and the melody of it touched my heart like the
melody of music.

"'Fear not, Meilanion,' she said; 'I have heard the cry of thy heart.
Here are three apples from mine own apple-tree. If she whom thou
lovest loves thee in return, she cannot resist the spell of their
golden brightness. When thou runnest against her, cast them one by one
into the middle of the course. If she love thee she will turn aside to
pick them up. For her they will be heavy as the gold they seem made
of. For thee they will be light as the fruit whose form they wear.
Farewell, and good luck to thy race.'

"Thereupon darkness came over my eyes, and I could find no words to
thank her. When I awoke I thought it had been a dream, but lo! by my
side upon the sand lay the apples, shining in the sunlight."

"And thy vow?" asked Atalanta. "How camest thou to make such a vow?"

He laughed at her words.

"When a hare is hunted," he said, "thou knowest how he will double and
turn, and take a line he has no mind to pursue to the end. So was it
with me. Long ago in my father's house I heard of thee and of thy
beauty, and how thou couldst cast such a spell upon the hearts of men
that for thy sake they would fling away their lives. And a great
desire came upon me to see this thing for myself, for I could scarce
believe it. So I set forth alone to find thee, and hid my name from
all men as I journeyed, for thus could I be more free to act as seemed
best in mine own eyes. And I saw thee run in a race, and that glimpse
was enough to tell me that I too one day must run with thee. Yet was I
more wary than my rivals. I knew that to come as a suitor was the way
to turn thy heart to stone. Wherefore I pretended to be bound by a
vow, which would bring me as a passing stranger before thee. Canst
thou forgive the lie?"

She smiled into his face.

"It was a daring venture," she said.

"I knew I was as one who treads unknown paths on a moonless night," he
answered. "Yet deep in my heart I felt that when a man desires one
thing on earth above every other--when he loves that thing better than
life itself, he is like to win it in the end, if he walk patiently
step by step in faith. He will win that thing, or death in his
struggle for it; and he is content that so it should be."

Such was the winning of Atalanta. As for the golden apples, she placed
them in a precious casket, and guarded them jealously all her days,
for a memorial of the race that she had failed to win.



Paris and OEnone


When Peleus the mortal married silver-footed Thetis, the fair nymph of
the sea, great was the rejoicing among gods and men; for Peleus was a
brave warrior and a mighty man, and well deserved to have for wife a
child of the Immortals. To his marriage-feast he bade all the gods and
goddesses, and they left their seats on calm Olympus, and came down to
Pelion where he dwelt, a band of shining ones, to do honour to the
mortal whom they loved. One alone of them all he had not asked--Eris,
the black-browed Goddess of Strife, for at his wedding-feast he wished
to have happiness and joy, and no dark looks to mar the gladness of
his board. But he looked to find shame in the heart of one who knew
not shame. As it was, she came unasked, and great was the sorrow that
her coming brought, both to him and to his wife and all the fair land
of Hellas. For she sowed the seed of discord which blossomed to the
blood-red flower of war, in which the mightiest and the best of two
great nations fell through ten long years of strife, and among them
was Achilles, the swiftest and bravest of mortal men, the son whom
Thetis bore to Peleus to be a comfort to him in his old age, and to
succeed him when he died. But as it was, Achilles died in battle far
from his native land, in the prime and flower of his manhood.

Now the manner in which Eris wreaked her vengeance was in this wise.

When the marriage-feast was drawing to its close, and the gladdening
wine had unlocked the lips and opened the hearts of the revellers,
above all the din and clatter there rang through the hall a harsh,
discordant laugh like the rattle of thunder before a storm. A dead
silence fell upon them all, and every eye was turned towards the place
from whence that fearful laugh had come. In the shade of the doorway
stood a tall gaunt figure wrapped all about in black. Above her head
she held a blood-red torch that flickered madly in the breeze, and
cast upon her face the shadow of her wild elf-locks. Her cheeks were
pale as ashes and her lips were thin and blue, but her eyes shone
bright as red-hot coals. When she saw the hall silent and trembling
before her, she laughed aloud once more and waved the torch above her.

"Ha! ha!" she cried. "You give me a cold welcome, my masters. But I am
kinder than you. I give, and take nothing in return. See here, I bring
a seasoning to your feast, and much joy may you have of it."

Thereupon she drew from her bosom an apple all of gold, and hurled it
in their faces on the board. It rolled along the table like a ball of
light, and stopped in the centre before Peleus, the king of the feast.
The eyes of all the guests followed it full of amazement and delight,
for it was wondrous fair to look upon.

"I see you like my gift," cried Eris. "Let her keep it who deserves it
best. Farewell. I stay not where I came unbidden."

Then she turned upon her heel, and strode away into the blackness of
the night.

When she had gone, Peleus put forth his hand and took the apple. It
was all of pure gold, the outermost parts of white gold pale as straw,
and the cheeks of red gold bright as poppies, and across it was
written in shining letters, "For the Fairest."

As Peleus read the words aloud he looked slowly round the board.

"O lady goddesses," he asked, "to which of you shall I give it?"

Thereupon arose a strife of tongues, and all the harmony and
good-fellowship of the feast was gone, for one said one thing and one
another, and each one in her heart wished to have it for her own. But
the claim of three stood out above that of all the rest.

"I am the Queen of Heaven," said Hera, "and the mother of gods and
man. The apple is mine by right."

"I am the giver of knowledge and wisdom," said Pallas Athene, "and
through me all things are perfected, and the wrong is put to right.
The apple should be mine."

"I am the Goddess of Love," said Aphrodite, "I am life itself. My
claim is the best of all."

As Peleus looked on them he knew not to which of them he should give
it, for each in turn seemed fairest. And he was wily withal, and knew
he could not give it to one without angering the other two against
him. So he said,

"O lady goddesses, who am I that I should judge between you? Choose
you your own judge from among the sons of men, and he shall give the
apple to her he deems the fairest."

Then they consulted together, and chose Paris, the son of Priam, King
of Troy; for he was the fairest of all mortal men, and would know how
to judge between them. And they left the halls of Peleus with a smile
upon their lips, but in their hearts was envy and hatred where there
had once been sympathy and love; for the apple of discord had
fulfilled the purpose of her who gave it.

Now Paris was the second son of Priam and Hecuba, and brother of
Hector, the pride of Troy. The night before he was born his mother
dreamed a dreadful dream--that she had given birth to a firebrand
which set all Troy aflame. In terror she sent for her child Cassandra,
the priestess of Apollo, whose word came always true. And she told her
dream, and asked what it could mean. Then Apollo raised from
Cassandra's eyes the veil that hides the future, and she told her
mother the meaning of that dream.

"In mine ears," she cried, "there sounds the din of battle and the
clash of arms. I see round Troy the foe-men's tents, and their ships
drawn up upon the shore. I see Scamander's stream run red with blood.
Through the desolate streets slinks one whose manhood has departed,
and who shuns the eyes of his fellow-men, for he prized a woman's arms
above his country's honour. That man is the son that thou shalt bear,
and he shall be the curse of Troy."

When Priam the king heard these words his heart was filled with anger.

"No son of mine," he cried, "shall bring shame and destruction on my
city. When the child is born he shall be cast out upon the mountains
to die ere his eyes can see the light."

So, notwithstanding his mother's entreaties, as soon as the child was
born he was given to Agelaus the herdsman to cast out upon the hills.
And he took him up to Gargarus, the topmost peak of Ida, and there he
left him to die of cold and hunger, or to be torn in pieces by the
beasts of prey.

But when the Fates have spoken, their word shall surely come to pass,
whatever man may do. And so it fell out now. A she-bear, whose cubs
the hunters had killed, found the child, and for five days and five
nights she suckled him, and kept him safe and warm. On the sixth day
Agelaus passed that way once more, looking to find the child dead, if
any trace of him remained. But lo! nestled in the moss and fallen
leaves, the babe lay sweetly sleeping. Then he marvelled greatly in
his heart.

"Surely," he thought, "this can be no common babe, and it is the will
of Heaven that he should live."

So he picked him up in his arms, and carried him home to his wife, for
long had they prayed the gods in vain for children. And they brought
him up as their own son, and called his name Paris. As soon as he
could walk, he would go out with his foster-father on the mountains,
and keep watch over the flocks and herds, and he grew to be a tall and
comely lad. For he breathed the pure sweet air of heaven, and bathed
in Ida's rippling streams. Nor did he lack courage and strength
withal. If ever a mountain lion, made bold by hunger, came down upon
the flocks and carried off a sheep or a goat, whilst the herdsmen fled
in terror for their lives, he would up and fight him single-handed
with his knife and his shepherd's staff, and it was not the lion that
came off best in that fight. So famous did he become for his strength
and prowess that all about the countryside men called him Alexander,
defender of men.

Now it came to pass one summer's day that he had walked for many a
long mile across the treeless downs, and at length he turned, hot and
thirsty, into the shade of the forest. Soon he came upon a mountain
stream that danced foaming over the stones, and he drank of its waters
gladly, and bathed in a clear brown pool; then, tired out, he cast
himself upon the bank and fell asleep.

When he awoke, the trunks of the pine-trees stood out purple against
the sunset, and the evening light cast over all things a glamour of
mystery. He rubbed his eyes, thinking he must still be dreaming; for
out of the stream beside him there rose a wondrous form of a maiden
clad all in misty white. Her hair was like fallen beech-leaves when
the sun shines on them through the trees, and her eyes were like the
changing river that reflects the light of heaven. She stood before him
motionless, and gazed down upon him where he lay.

"O most wonderful," he whispered, "who art thou?"

"I am OEnone," she answered, and her voice was like the music of the
brook--"OEnone, the daughter of Cebren, the river god, whose stream
runs dancing at your feet from the side of wooded Ida. O fairest of
mortals, I am lonely in these mountain glades; let me watch thy flocks
with thee."

Then she came towards him with both her hands outstretched. And
Paris took her cool white hands in his. Fair as the crescent moon, she
bent over him and raised him from his knees, and they looked deep into
each other's eyes and loved, as the young and pure alone can love.
From that day forth they watched his flocks together on the wooded
slopes, and wandered hand in hand through the forests and across the
smooth green lawns of Ida.

[Illustration: Out of the stream beside him there rose a wondrous form
of a maiden clad all in misty white.]

Meanwhile, since the day when Priam had given his child to be exposed
upon the mountains, many a circling year had passed, and the day drew
near on which, if his son had lived, he would have held great games
and feasted in honour of his reaching years of manhood. And Priam's
heart within him smote him when he thought of the innocent babe, and
he cast about in his mind how he yet might do him honour.

"Perchance I acted hastily," he thought, "and by care and good example
my son might after all have been a blessing to his city and to me. But
the dead are dead, and I cannot call him back to life. Yet will I
honour him as best I may, that in the world below they may know he is
a king's son and not utterly forgotten."

So he ordered great funeral games to be held in honour of his son, who
had died without a name upon the mountains. Far and wide throughout
the land the tidings went, and the lists were made ready, and rich
prizes brought together for the victors. Among them was to be a bull,
the strongest and finest from all the herds of Priam. The herdsmen
drove down their finest cattle to the city for the king himself to
chose, and he choose out a mighty beast which Agelaus had bred and
reared. Now it chanced that this bull was the favourite of Paris out
of all the cattle under his charge, and he loved him as some men love
a dog. When he heard that Agelaus had given him to be a prize in the
games, he waxed exceeding wrath.

"If he is to be any man's prize," he cried, "I shall be that man."

But Agelaus laughed at him.

"Who art thou," he said, "a foundling and a shepherd's foster-son, to
enter in the lists against the sons of kings?"

"Sons of kings or sons of crows, I care not," he answered. "My arms
are as strong and my feet are as swift as theirs any day. I shall
enter for the lists."

The old man chuckled at his words, for he loved the lad, and was proud
of his strength and beauty.

"The gods be praised!" he muttered. "The mountain air has not dulled
his spirit, nor dried up the royal blood in his veins."

But OEnone was sad when she heard of his resolve.

"Ah, Paris," she begged, "as thou lovest me, leave me not to enter for
these games."

"But I will come back to thee, beloved. What difference can it make?"
he asked.

"In my heart pale fear is sitting," she replied. "I know that if thou
goest, it will be the beginning of woes for thee, and for me, and for
all thy native land."

"Nay, thou art over fearful. Thou shalt see, I will come back with my
bull, and thou and I will be happy together, as we have always been."

"Paris," she said, "that I know will never be, if once thou joinest in
the games. I can see but dimly into the future, but this much at least
I know: that if thou goest, war shall beat about the walls of Troy
like a wave of the sea, and from the midst of the battle I see thee
earned forth wounded unto death. Ah, Paris, leave the bull for a
weaker man, and go not down!"

"Nay, I cannot hearken to such foolishness. What war can come if I go
to Troy for the sake of a bull?"

"The cause of the war I know not, but come it surely will. O Paris, in
that day come back to me, and I will heal thee of thy hurt! I know the
use of herbs, for many a strange charm has my father taught me, and if
any life is left in thee, I will call it back. But best of all, stay
with me now, and go not down to the games."

And, weeping, she threw her arms about his neck; but nothing she could
say would stop him.

So when the day came he went down into the city, and entered for the
lists with the flower of the land, and all the folk marvelled who he
might be. For he was tall and exceeding fair, and they had never seen
his face before. When the turn came for his match, he set his teeth
and wrestled like a young lion, for the bull that was the pride of his
flock; and the strength of his adversaries was turned to weakness.
With joy in his heart, he came forward to take his prize; and a loud
cheer rose to heaven, for the people were glad that he had won. And
the king's heart went out to him as he gave the prize, for he was the
age his son would have been had he lived.

"Young man," he said, "who art thou, and who is thy father?"

"I am Paris, the foster-son of Agelaus the herdsman," he answered.

"Is thine own sire dead, then?" asked Priam.

"O king, thou askest me riddles I cannot answer," said Paris, "seeing
I know not even who mine own sire may be."

"This is a strange matter," said the king, and in spite of himself his
heart beat fast within him.

Now Cassandra the prophetess, his daughter, was standing by his side,
and the time had come for her to speak.

"O king," she said, "thou hast not far to seek for the father of this
lad."

"What meanest thou?" said Priam.

"Put thy hands upon the lad's shoulders, and look into his eyes, and
thou shalt see the image of his father," she answered.

Trembling between hope and fear, the old king bent forward from his
seat and put his hands upon the young man's shoulders.

"Can it be--can it really be my son?" he asked.

"Thy son he is," replied Cassandra, "and no other man's. The Fates
decreed that he should live, and he has lived."

"My son, my son!" cried the king, and fell upon his neck. "How I have
longed for thee, and my soul has been weighed down with the burden of
thy death! Now in mine old age the gods have given thee back to me,
and my heart is glad. For thou art brave and fair, my son, and any
father would be proud of thee, nor fear that ever thou shouldst bring
dishonour on the land."

Once again the old man fell upon his neck and kissed him; and Hecuba,
his mother, held him in her arms, and wept tears of joy over the
child she had given up for dead. His brothers and his sisters crowded
round, and all the people; and some raised him on their shoulders, and
with songs and shouts of joy they took him to the palace of Priam.
There they clothed him in rich raiment, as befitted a king's son, and
held a great feast in his honour; for every man was glad that one so
fair and noble had been spared to bring honour to the land of Troy.
Cassandra alone sat silent amidst the revelry, for her heart was cut
in two. When she looked upon her brother's fair young face, she was
glad that he had lived; yet ever before her eyes there floated the
vision she had seen the night before he was born--a vision of war,
unmanliness and death--and she knew that vision would come true. When
she thought of it she shuddered and almost wished him dead, and in her
heart she cursed that fatal gift of prophecy which brought her nought
but grief. Verily in her case knowledge was not a thing of joy.

When the guests had departed, the old king took his son aside.

"I have set a place apart for thee, my son," he said, "and from this
day forth thou must live with thy kinsfolk in the palace."

"I will live with thee right gladly, my father," he answered, "but my
days I will spend upon the mountains as of yore, and keep watch over
thy flocks and herds. For I love the beasts and the mountain air, and
methinks in a city I should pine for want of my old free life."

The form of OEnone rose up before his eyes; but that he hid from his
father.

"Thou mayest live as best pleases thee, my son," said Priam, "and I
will give thee many goodly flocks and herds of cattle for thine own."

So it came to pass that, though Paris was a prince and son of the King
of Troy, there was small change in his manner of life, save that now
he lived in his father's palace instead of the herdsman's hut. For in
those days it was thought no shame even for a prince to be a shepherd,
and keep watch over his own flocks and herds.

It was soon after this that the strife arose among the goddesses about
the apple that Eris had cast in their midst at the marriage-feast of
Peleus. And Zeus sent down Iris, the swift-footed messenger of Heaven,
to tell Paris of the charge that was laid on him, and to bear him the
golden apple. Down the path of the rainbow she sped, the road whereby
she always went to and fro betwixt gods and men. Her shining robes
flew out behind her, and the wings upon her feet and shoulders glanced
like lightning in the sky. At early dawn, while the dew lay bright
upon the ground, she came and stood in the path as Paris was driving
his flocks to pasture. In one hand she held the staff that Zeus had
given her, to show she was the messenger of Heaven, and in the other
she held the golden apple.

"O fairest of mortals," she said, "I have been sent to thee by Zeus,
who rules on high. In heaven there is war between the three great
goddesses as to which of them shall have the prize for beauty, this
apple thou seest in mine hand. And they have appointed thee to be the
judge between them. Hold thyself ready, then, for this day at noon
they will come to thee here on the lonely heights of Ida."

She spoke, and threw the apple to him, and he caught it deftly, as a
player catches a ball. And wind-footed Iris sped back by the rainbow
path as swift as she had come.

"This is passing strange," thought Paris, as he gazed at the apple in
his hand, and read the words inscribed upon it--"For the Fairest."
There it lay, smooth and shining, a sure token that he had not been
dreaming. So he took it and showed it to OEnone, and told her what
Iris, the messenger of the gods, had said to him. When OEnone heard
it she was filled with fear.

"Cast it at their feet, Paris, when they come to thee," she begged,
"and say thou canst not set thyself up to be a judge of the
Immortals."

"Nay, that would anger them against me," he said; for in his heart he
was proud to have been chosen out of all the sons of men.

"I tell thee it will bring thee trouble if thou doest it, and to me
sorrow unspeakable," said she.

"Did the winning of the bull bring sorrow either to thee or to me?" he
asked scornfully.

OEnone was silent under his rebuke, though she knew her foreboding
would come true. When the sun was almost high in the heavens, she came
to him softly where he lay on the grass and kissed his hand.

"Zeus grant thee wisdom in thy judgment, Paris," she said, and glided
away swiftly through the trees, that he might not see the tears in her
eyes.

Then his heart smote him for his scornful words, and he rose up
hastily from the ground and called to her,

"OEnone, OEnone!"

But she answered him not, and when he looked for her among the trees,
he could find no trace of her. Now it was close upon noon, and he
hastened back to the glade, where Iris had bidden him stay, and waited
for the coming of the goddesses. In the clear bright light of noontide
they came and stood before him in the shade of the forest trees; and
he fell on his knees before them, filled with wonder and awe, and cast
his eyes upon the ground, for he was afraid to look upon such majesty
and beauty. Thereupon they drew near to him and bade him not be
afraid, but rise and give his judgment. So he rose from his knees and
looked upon them; and minute after minute passed, while still he
gazed, for he could not make up his mind, so passing fair was each.

"Ah, lady goddesses," he said at last, "take the apple and divide it
into three, for I cannot say who is the fairest among you."

"Nay, that may not be," they said; "thou must give it to one, and one
alone."

As he still hesitated, Hera spoke.

"Look well upon me, Paris," she said. "I am the Queen of Heaven, and
wife of Zeus almighty, and all power and might is in my hands. I can
give thee kingship and sovereignty, and dominion over many peoples.
See to it that my might is for thee, and not against."

As she spoke his heart turned cold with fear, and from terror he would
have given her the apple. But as he was about to stretch forth his
hand, Pallas Athene spoke.

"O Paris, what is power without wisdom? Purple and gold, and to sit
where others kneel--all these things make not a king. But to walk by
the light of knowledge where others grope in darkness--this can make
a slave a ruler of kings. This can I give thee."

Then the voice of reason within him prompted him to give the apple to
her; but once again he was withheld, as Aphrodite spoke.

"Power and wisdom, Paris? What are these but empty words at which men
vainly grasp? I can give thee that which all men covet--the fairest of
women for thine own."

The music of her voice made the blood rush like fire through his
veins, and his heart was melted within him.

"O Aphrodite," he cried, and fell at her feet, "thou art fairest.
Beside love, what is power, what is wisdom? I give thee the apple, O
thou fairest among the fair!"

As she stretched forth her hand towards him to take the apple, a mist
fell over his eyes, and he knew no more. When he awoke the apple and
the goddesses had vanished away, and OEnone was bending over him
weeping.

"Alas," she said, "my father, whose stream runs at thy feet, has told
me thy choice, Paris, and I am come to bid thee farewell."

"Farewell, OEnone? Why farewell?" he cried, and stretched out his
arms to her. The flame of Aphrodite still burned in his heart, and to
his eyes OEnone had never looked more fair than now.

"Because of Aphrodite's promise," she answered.

"Ah, OEnone!" he cried, and took her in his arms, "now I know what
that promise meant. Thou art the fairest of women, and thou art mine,
beloved, and Aphrodite's promise was fulfilled ere she made it."

"Nay, nay, that is not what she meant. I may be fair, Paris, yet I am
no woman, but a child of the mountain waters. One day thou wilt forget
me, and thy heart will turn to thine own kind. In that day Aphrodite
has promised that the fairest of women shall be thine, and she will
surely keep her word."

"Thou art woman enough for me," he said, "and I shall never want any
other than thee." He kissed her, and comforted her as best he could.
The hours fled by like minutes, the moon rose high in heaven, and one
by one the stars came out, yet still they sat and talked of love, and
of how they would be faithful to each other always. In like manner day
after day passed by, and no two lovers in all the land were happier
than Paris and OEnone.

Now it chanced that about this time Menelaus, King of Sparta, came to
Troy, at the command of the oracle at Delphi. For a year past his land
had been laid waste by a grievous famine, and when he inquired the
cause of it, the oracle bade him go to Troy and offer sacrifices at
the tomb of Lycus and Chimæreus, the sons of Prometheus, for until
their spirits were appeased the land of Sparta would be barren, and
her sons would die of hunger in her streets. So Menelaus set sail for
Troy, and Priam and all his house received him with joy. They held
great feasts in his honour, and treated him hospitably, as befitted
the king of a mighty people. When he had performed his task, and the
time had come for him to return, he said to Priam,

"My friend, thou hast treated me right royally, and I in my turn would
fain do thee some service. Say, wilt thou not sail with me to Sparta,
and see my palace, which shineth as the sun for splendour, and Helen,
my wife, who is the fairest in a land where the women are fairer than
all other women?"

But Priam shook his head.

"I am an old man, Menelaus, and my travelling days are done. But if
thou wouldst truly do me a service, thou wilt take with thee my son
Paris as thy guest. He is of an age now to travel and see strange
lands, and I could not entrust him to better hands than thine. Say,
wilt thou take him or no?"

"I will take him right gladly," answered Menelaus, "seeing that since
I cannot have thyself, no other man would please me so well as thy
son. Bid the young man be ready, and he shall sail with me and my
folk."

When Paris heard the news, he was glad; for never in his life had he
set foot outside the land of Troy, and he longed to see the riches of
Menelaus and all the wonders of his palace in Sparta. Ere the sun had
risen he was in the woods of Ida telling OEnone of the voyage he
must take.

"Nay, grieve not, beloved," he said, as she turned her face sadly
away; "for a few short months I must leave thee, but I will come back
to thee with many a long tale of the wonders I have seen. There is
nought like travel to make a man hold up his head among his fellows,
and the seeing of strange things that others have not seen."

"There is nought like travel," she said, "to make a man forget his
home, and love the new things better than the old."

"Dost thou think me so faithless, OEnone?"

"Many men are faithful till they meet temptation," she replied.

"Had I listened to thee, I should still have been a shepherd on the
mountains, knowing neither kith nor kin."

"It would have been happier so," said she.

"OEnone, I must not heed thy fears. Remember, I am a king's son, and
I must live my life as befits a man, and not be ever held back by a
woman's arms."

"The gods grant thou mayest always think so, Paris. Fare thee well,
then; I will stay thee no longer, but I will watch for thy coming as
never woman watched before. If evil fortune befall thee, Paris, come
back to me, and I will save thee."

So, with many a promise not to forget her, but to come back to her as
soon as might be, he left her and set sail with Menelaus.

And they crossed the blue Ægæan and came to glorious Sparta, lying low
among the circling hills. And Menelaus made his guest welcome, and
showed him all the splendours of his palace, with its inlaid columns
and its frieze of gold and blue. His stable and horses did he show
him, and the stadium where the races were run and his treasure-house
beneath the ground. Last of all he took him to Helen, his wife.

Now Helen, fairer than the sun in heaven, was sitting among her
maidens, and when her lord and Paris entered, she rose from her chair
and came forward with a smile to greet them. In the curve of her neck,
in the gleam of her hair, there was magic, and a witchery about her
face and form that no man could withstand; for she was the fairest of
all women under the sun, that ever had been or ever should be in time
to come. Many a man in his day loved Helen of Sparta, and many a man
did she love in return; for so the gods had made her, exceeding fair
and exceeding fickle, a joy and a curse among men.

As Paris looked upon her, her beauty reached his heart like the fumes
of wine, and he forgot himself and his native land and OEnone; he
forgot all pride and manliness, and the ties of honour that bound him
to his host--all but his passion for Helen. Day and night he thought
of her and of her alone, and of how he might make her his own; and day
and night he plotted and planned, and at last he gained his end. For
Aphrodite, true to her word, helped him, as she alone could do, and
kindled in the heart of Helen an answering flame, making her for the
time being love Paris more than Menelaus, her lord, or any other man.
And she cast dust in the eyes of Menelaus, so that he saw not how the
two lived only for each other, nor suspected his guest of any
treachery. So one dark night they fled away together to Gythium, and
from thence they sailed to Cranaë, and were wedded, and had joy of
their love, forgetful of all else.

OEnone, meanwhile, wandered lonely about the woods and groves of
Ida. With a heavy heart she had watched the ships of Menelaus sail
away, and now, day by day, she would go down to the shore and look out
across the sea towards Hellas. High up upon a rock she would sit and
sigh for him.

"Ah, Paris, between thee and me lies many a weary league of barren
waters and many a misty mountain chain. But my heart is with thee in
that strange new land. Oh, Paris, forget me not, but come back to me
soon, beloved."

Thus would she sigh day by day; but he came not. Month after month
passed by, and still he came not, nor any news of him, and his father
and all the city were troubled to know what might have befallen him.
So they manned a ship, and sent it out to Sparta to get news, and in
time it returned home to tell how Paris and Helen had fled from
Menelaus, and how Menelaus had set out in pursuit, and had followed
them to the land of Egypt. After that no man knew where they had gone,
or whether, perchance, Paris and Menelaus had met in deadly battle and
fallen each by the other's hand, or what might have chanced. All the
land was plunged in woe to think that Paris had so far forgotten his
honour as to steal away the wife of his host. But still they kept
watch by day and by night, in case he should come back and be
persuaded to give her up and make what amends he could.

Paris, meanwhile, with Helen, had fled before Menelaus from Egypt, and
had taken refuge in Phoenicia; and when he traced them there, they
fled once more and took ship to return to Troy; for they could not
live for ever as wanderers on the face of the earth. With the silence
of shame the folk received them at the harbour, and amid silence, that
spoke more than words, they made their way through the city and came
and stood before Priam in his halls, with eyes downcast upon the
ground. Now Priam had heard of their coming, and had prepared in his
mind a wrathful speech wherewith to greet his son and the woman who
had led him astray. But when he looked upon Helen his wrath melted
away like frost before the sun; for she stood like a fair lily that
some careless hand has half plucked from its stem, so that its head
hangs drooping towards the dust. Even so did she stand, with the
tear-drops falling from her eyes. And all the wrathful words faded
from his mind, so that he spoke quite otherwise than he had planned.

"My children," he said gently, "come hither to me."

They came and knelt before him, and he laid his hands upon their young
shoulders, as they bowed their heads and wept upon his knees.

"Ye have grievously sinned, my children," he said, "and ye are
learning, all too late, how bitter is the fruit of sin. There is but
one course before you. Paris, give back the woman thou hast stolen,
and make what honourable amends thou canst. And thou, Helen, go home
with thy lord when he comes for thee, and be a faithful wife to him
always, and make him forget that ever thou didst play him false."

"O King," she said, "thou knowest not what thou askest. If thou givest
me up to Menelaus he will slay me, or else my life will be a dog's
life in his halls; for his heart is no softer than a flint, though his
tongue be smooth. O my father, cast me not out from thy halls. If I
have sinned in leaving Menelaus, shall I not sin again in leaving
Paris? Or shall my sin be less if I flee from the man I love, to go
with him I love not? Who maketh two hearts to cleave together? Who but
Aphrodite all-powerful? Must we set at nought the will of Heaven for
the sake of laws that man has made? O Priam, my father, forsake me
not, but keep me in thy halls."

And she clasped her hands about his knees and looked up into his face.
Beneath her gaze all his resolve gave way, and he took her face
between his hands and kissed her.

"My daughter," he said, "thou shalt stay with me as long as it shall
please thee."

Thus did it come to pass that she made her home in Troy, and Priam,
the king, became an accomplice in her sin; for the gods had so made
her that the hearts of men were as wax between the fingers of Helen of
Sparta.

In time came Menelaus, and stood in the halls of Priam, and demanded
back his wife. And they offered him a ransom--gold and precious
stones--but he flung it back in their faces.

"Think you that gold can pay for a living soul?" he cried. "Only a
life can pay for a life, and many a life shall you pay for the sake of
Helen. Look to your battlements and towers, O Priam; they must be
strong indeed to stand against the host that I shall bring behind me
from Hellas. Farewell, till we meet again in battle."

And he strode from the hall in anger, and sailed away to Sparta, to
rouse up all the heroes of Hellas to take part in his quarrel with
Troy.

Meanwhile in Troyland the forge fires burnt night and day, and the
hammer rang loud upon the anvil. The red-hot iron was drawn from the
furnace and bound hissing about the chariot-wheel; shields were
stretched and swords were fashioned, and the ash-tree was felled upon
the mountain for the handle of the tapering spear. Among the men many
a heart beat high with hope; for what is there like war, if a man is
brave and strong, to bring him renown, and make his name live among
his fellows? But in the women's hall many a silent tear was shed; for
what is there like war to bring sorrow to a woman's heart, when she
sees her dear ones going forth to battle and knows not whether she
shall ever look on their faces again, or, perchance, see them carried
home with a gaping spear-wound in the side? And when the battle is
raging she can do nought but pray. So they cursed Helen and her beauty
in their hearts, and wished that even now King Priam would send her
back and stave off the war from Troy.

But Paris and Helen cared for none of these things; while others
worked and wept, they dallied in each other's arms and forgot all
else, or hoped that when Menelaus reached home his anger would cool,
and that he would find the kings of Hellas none too willing to leave
their lands for the sake of another's wife. But in this they hoped in
vain, and reckoned not how dear a man may hold his country's honour.
For one dark night the hosts of Hellas pulled in to shore, and drew up
their boats upon the beach and pitched their camp, and when the
morning dawned their men were thick as flies about the walls of Troy.

So did it come to pass that Cassandra's words came true, and for many
a weary year the tide of war surged about the city like a wave of the
sea, and Paris slunk through the streets like a beaten cur, not daring
to look his fellows in the face. For they hated him because he had
brought war upon his country, and yet, though the quarrel was of his
own making, he was ever the last to take the field and ever the first
to retreat. So low had his manhood sunk that he thought far more of
reaching Helen with an unbroken skin than of winning fame upon the
field of battle.

But one day matters reached a pass when Menelaus met him face to face
upon the field, and challenged him to single combat beneath the walls
of Troy. He who should kill his man should have Helen for wife, and
the war should end, and no more lives be spent in vain for the sake of
a quarrel that concerned but two. But Paris thought of Helen waiting
in her chamber, and looked upon Menelaus, standing sword in hand
before him, strong as a lion in his wrath. Then his heart gave way
within him, and he turned and fled from the face of his foe back into
the ranks of the Trojans. He would have fled from the fight
altogether, but that in the path of his retreat stood Hector; the
nodding plumes waved terrible upon his helmet, and he leant on his
two-handed sword and frowned upon his brother, for he had seen how he
fled from Menelaus. When Paris saw him he fell back ashamed, but
Hector stood aside to let him pass.

"Thou chicken-hearted mannikin," he cried, "get thee gone, and let
others fight thy battle, that the courage of the Trojans be not a
by-word among the nations."

And Paris slunk past him with his eyes upon the ground, and went home
to Helen in her chamber.

But when the fight was over Hector came and dragged him from his
hiding-place as a dog drags out a rat into the light.

"Thou smooth-faced deceiver," he said, "is this the way a man should
fight when he has sailed across the high seas, and stolen away the
fairest of women from a man mighty in battle? Are we to make the name
of Troy a laughing-stock among our foes, and hang our heads in shame
when men shall say, 'In strength and might they are like the immortal
gods, these Trojans, but their courage is the courage of the deer,
that flees swiftly through the forest when he hears the bark of the
hounds? Thou coward, would thou hadst never been born, or hadst died
upon the mountains ere there was time to bring dishonour on thy
country."

And Paris trembled before his brother's wrath, but some of his old
manhood returned to him.

"Thou speakest as all men speak who know not Aphrodite's power," he
said. "Nevertheless, if thou wilt have it so, send forth a herald to
Menelaus, and tell him I accept his challenge, and will fight him for
the sake of Helen, his wife. And let the hosts of the Achæans and the
hosts of Troy lay down their arms, and we two will stand up alone
between them, and whichsoever of us shall fall in death, his side
shall give up Helen to the victor; and the war shall cease, and peace
be made between the nations."

So Hector sent forth a herald to Menelaus, and the two hosts drew
close together on the plain till there was but a narrow space between
them, and they laid aside their arms, and some lay upon the ground or
sat, and others stood behind to watch the fight in the midst. And
Paris put on his shining armour and his helmet with the nodding
plumes, and went and stood face to face with Menelaus. In the sight of
all the people Hector prayed,

"O Zeus, who rulest from on high, grant that he who is the offender
may fall in the fight, and his spirit flee away to Hades, that the
land may have peace and the people rest from war."

And every man in his heart prayed likewise, for all were sickened at
the long years of fruitless strife.

Then Hector shook the lots in his helmet, to see who should be the
first to hurl his brazen spear, and the lot of Paris fell forth upon
the ground. And he brandished his spear above his head, and hurled it
with all his might, and it crashed against the shield of Menelaus; but
the stout shield turned it aside, and it fell powerless upon the
ground. Thereupon Menelaus in his turn hurled his spear, and it
pierced through the shield of his foe, and would have brought black
death to his heart had he not swerved aside, so that the point but
grazed his corselet. But Menelaus, seeing his advantage, drew forth
his sword and rushed upon him, and felled him a mighty blow upon his
helmet, hoping to cleave it in two. But the sword shivered to pieces
in his hand as he struck. Then, with an oath, he cast aside the hilt
and leapt upon Paris, and seized him by the horsehair plume upon his
helmet, and dragged him down. And the leathern thong that held the
helmet was drawn tight about his throat, so that the breath was
wellnigh squeezed out of him, and Menelaus was bearing him in triumph
towards the Achæan host. But Aphrodite was mindful of her favourite,
and, ere it was too late, she made the stout ox-hide give way beneath
the weight of his body, and the helmet slipped off his head. Then she
wrapped a mist about his body, so that no man should see him, and bore
him away through the midst of the Trojan host, and laid him upon his
bed. In the likeness of an aged dame she went and stood beside Helen
on the battlements, where she leant with the other Trojan women
looking down upon the plain, and she told her how she had borne forth
Paris from the fight and saved him, and that now he lay upon his bed
and longed for her. So straightway Helen left the others, and went and
sat down by Paris. When she saw him lying there, without so much as
a scratch upon his body, she was ashamed for him, and began to upbraid
him.

[Illustration: Menelaus was bearing him in triumph towards the Achaean
host.]

"So thou hast come back from the battle, Paris, and couldst not endure
to stand up to god-like Menelaus. Would that he had taken thee, for he
is a better man than thou art! Go forth now, thou craven, and
challenge him once more to battle, and stay thy ground like a man. Lo!
thou art vanished away like smoke from the field, and both the hosts
are making mock of thee."

Then her heart smote her for fear he should take her at her word and
go back, and she fell upon her knees beside him, and took his hand in
hers and wept.

"Ah, Paris," she cried, "go not forth, I pray thee, but stay with me.
I, even I, do bid thee stay, lest thou fall by the hand of Menelaus,
and I be left all desolate without thee."

"Ah, Helen," he said, "upbraid me not, for I love thee above all else.
Some other day I will return and fight with Menelaus, but now I will
stay with thee, and we will have joy of each other and forget all
else,"

So whilst Menelaus searched raging through all the host, like a lion
seeking for his prey, Paris and Helen dallied in each other's arms,
hidden from the eyes of men. An ill reckoning would it have been for
Paris had the men of Troy known where to find him, for they hated him
like black death, and would have given him up to the hands of
Menelaus, to do by him as he would.

From that day forth Paris scarce dared to show his face among his
fellows; but when Hector urged him, and he could stand out against his
taunts no longer, he would go forth into the battle, but disguised as
a common soldier, with no mark upon him of his rank and birth. So did
he hope to escape death and flee home as swift as might be to the arms
of Helen. In this he succeeded full well for a time, but a day came
when no disguise could save him and he could not flee away. For in the
ranks against him stood mighty Philoctetes, with his bow and his
poisoned arrows. And he drew his bow and prayed to Zeus in his heart,

"O Zeus almighty, that drivest the black thundercloud before thee, do
thou guide mine arrow aright, that it may work havoc among our foes
and bring glory to the host of the Achæans. In thy hands I leave it."

Then he drew back the string, so that the mighty bow was wellnigh bent
in two, and the arrow sped with a whirr far over the foremost ranks of
the Trojans to the rear part of the host. And it fell upon Paris, and
pierced between the joints of his armour right through into his side.
With a groan he fell, and black night came over his eyes, and he lay
as one dead upon the field. When the fight was over, and either side
was gathering up the dead and wounded from the plain, they came upon
Paris among the rest; but till they had drawn off his helmet they knew
him not, for he was dressed as a common soldier. When they saw who it
was, they put him reverently on a bier apart, for he was a king's son,
and had been a brave man once, and death can wipe out many an old
score of bitterness and hatred. So they bore him upon their shoulders
silently to the palace of Priam his father, and laid him upon his
couch. And they brought him wine and cordials, for his heart beat
faintly still within his breast. For a moment he revived, and spoke in
broken whispers.

"My friends, I am dying," he said, "and I would die in the pure free
air of heaven, away from cities and from men and from my shame. O my
father, bid them carry me forth upon Ida, and there let them leave me,
and return no more till they know the last breath must have gone from
my body. Then let them burn me there, where once I was brave and free;
and as the fire of my burning shall die out, so let my name die out
from among you--my name and my dishonour."

So did he speak, and fell back exhausted, with the vision before his
eyes of the groves of Ida and of OEnone, and of how she rose from
the waters and loved him in the days of his innocent youth. And he
remembered her words:

"O Paris, in that day come back to me, and I will heal thee of thy
hurt."

And he wondered whether she would keep her word and forgive him and
heal him, so that they could go back to their old life upon the
mountains. But even if she would not, he felt that he would rather die
there than in the airless city.

So they wrapped him about in warm coverings--for it was winter-time,
and the snow lay white upon the ground--and carried him forth upon
Ida. And they placed a blazing torch above his head and left him on
the lonely heights, and the whispering pine-trees kept watch above him
as they tossed their arms in the cold north wind.

From the shadow of a boulder OEnone watched the procession wind back
down the mountain-track, and when they had passed out of sight she
came forth from her hiding-place. The tale of Paris and Helen she
knew full well, and the reason of the war, for she had listened to the
talk of the shepherds on the mountains. But still in her heart she
loved Paris; and when she saw him carried forth to die, she remembered
how she had promised to heal him of his hurt, for she knew many a
magic charm, and she could heal him if she would. So now she drew near
to him out of the forest, and bent over his couch, and her red-gold
hair fell soft about his face. But the fire of fever burnt hot within
him, and he knew her not; but the face that came before his wandering
mind was the face of Helen.

"Helen!" he whispered, "Helen!"

At the sound of that hated name a great bitterness came into the heart
of OEnone.

"Must I heal thee for the sake of Helen?" she cried, and turned and
fled through the darkened pines, on, on, she knew not where, and threw
herself at last upon the grass and wept.

And so the torch burned low above his head and cast a dim red glow
upon the snow, and he died alone of his fever upon the mountains, and
she healed him not of his hurt.

The next morning came the young men from the city, and the sons of
Priam, and the old king himself, to the place where Paris lay; for
they knew full well that he could not have lived out that night upon
the mountains. And they gathered together the pine-trunks which the
woodmen had left felled upon the ground, and heaped up a great pyre,
high up upon the hills, so that the burning of Paris might shine like
a beacon fire in the sight of Troy and of the Achæan host. When the
pyre was built they placed the body on it, and poured out wine and oil
upon the wood, and the old king stood and lifted up his hands above
his son.

[Illustration: Cast herself upon the body of Paris, and put her arms
about his neck.]

"O father Zeus," he prayed, "who rulest upon Ida, before thee do I
burn the body of my son, and before my friends and before my foes,
that they both may see it. May the wine which I pour forth upon his
body be a libation of peace, that by his death he may join together in
friendship those hands which by his sin he made to draw the sword upon
each other. O Zeus almighty, grant my prayer!"

The people bowed their heads as they heard, and the old man poured
forth the last libation. The salt tears ran from his eyes and fell
upon the body of his son, and washed away from his mind all memory of
his sin and cowardice, and only the image of him remained as he had
been when he came in his youth and beauty for the winning of the bull.
So can the hand of death wipe out all ugliness and wrong.

When the last libation had been poured, they set the pyre alight, and
in time it burned up bravely, for the oil and the wine, and the breath
of the north wind blowing bleak across the mountain, made the flame
burn bright and clear; and the pyre of Paris shone like a flaming star
against the dull grey sky and over the hills and plain lying silent
beneath their pall of snow. Far away across the valley OEnone saw
the light, and knew that the body of him she loved, and might have
saved, lay perishing within the flames. All too late, the bitterness
in her heart died out, and only the love remained, and she would have
given all she knew to have healed Paris of his hurt. With a wild cry
she rushed, on the wings of the storm-wind, down the valley and up the
hillside, and her white robes flew out behind her and the long locks
of her red-gold hair. Through the ranks of the mourners she rushed and
over the melting snow, through the flames of the pyre, and cast
herself upon the body of Paris and put her arms about his neck. There,
on his last resting-place, she lay with him, and the stifling smoke
closed about her, and her spirit fled away there, where his had gone
before. The people heard her cry, and saw her as she flew through
their midst; but they thought it was the shriek of the north wind
rushing over the hills, and to their eyes her white robes and her
flowing hair seemed but the snowdrift, and last year's dead leaves
whirled madly on the wings of the storm. And so they knew nought of
the love of Paris and OEnone, or of how she watched his flocks with
him when he was brave and free, or of how she forgave him, all too
late, and died with him in the pyre which burned for a beacon of peace
upon the snow-clad hills.


    THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

_Wells Gardner, Darton, & Co., Ltd._

Selected List of their

_Fine Art Series_

Specially adapted for Presents, Prizes, &c.

Illustrated by Margaret Clayton

A WONDER-BOOK _of_ BEASTS

[Illustration]

Edited by F. J. HARVEY DARTON

[Illustration]

Besides numerous Black and White Illustrations, the Title-page and
Frontispiece are daintily coloured.

_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._

Illustrated by F. D. Bedford

CENTENARY EDITION.

THE 'ORIGINAL POEMS' AND OTHERS

By JANE and ANN TAYLOR And ADELAIDE O'KEEFE

Edited

By E. V. LUCAS

     _'The quality of the poetry of the Misses Taylor has been
     praised by such great judges that any praise from ourselves
     would be superfluous. No other writers of children's poetry
     have written of childish incident with all the child's
     simplicity._--SPECTATOR.

     _'Mr. Bedford's illustrations are not only very well drawn, but
     inspired by just the right feeling. It may be added that the
     Taylors were really the founders of a school. They gave a form
     and character to nursery verse which have become classic, and
     have been followed more or less by a long line of later
     writers.'_--STANDARD.

     _'Thanks are due to that delicate lover of literature and of
     children, Mr. E. V. Lucas, for reprinting this veritable
     classic.'_ TIMES OF INDIA.

[Illustration: 'Why should you fear to tell the truth?'--_p. 71_.]

Large Crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.

WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON

Illustrated by F. D. Bedford

RUNAWAYS & CASTAWAYS

Edited with Introduction by E. V. LUCAS

[Illustration: "Hands his lady out, and gives the guard something for
himself;"]

Besides profuse black and white illustrations, the frontispiece and
title-page are daintily coloured.

     _'Mr. E. V. Lucas has deliberately set himself to capture
     hearts while young and tender.... In twenty years he will have
     become such a power in the land as to be a national danger, and
     his new work, "Runaways and Castaways," is only another step
     towards this enviable destiny.'_--TIMES.

     _'A collection of the most exciting and delightful runaway
     stories in the world.'_ NATION.


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._


Illustrated by F. D. Bedford

ANOTHER BOOK OF VERSES FOR CHILDREN

Selected and Edited by E. V. LUCAS

[Illustration: We know not who in olden time It was who first invented
rhyme]

But few have done as much as he To brighten things for you and me.]

Profusely Illustrated in Black and White, with Frontispiece and
Title-page beautifully printed in Colour.

    '_A delightful compilation, and noticeably excellent in the
    method of its arrangement._'

    ATHENÆUM.

    '_We may briefly and emphatically describe it as the most
    charming anthology for children that we have seen, original in
    choice and arrangement, beautifully bound, and owing no little
    to Mr. F. D. Bedford's delightful and sympathetic
    illustrations._'

    GUARDIAN.

    '_Most happily selected, Moreover, the light and humorous
    verse--verse harmless without any obvious moral--is too much
    neglected, for children like to be amused, and this need is
    sometimes forgotten._'

    SPECTATOR.

    '_The volume is in itself a real gift-book, being admirably
    bound, printed, and illustrated._'

    THE WORLD.


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

FAIRY TALES FROM GRIMM

    '_Of new editions of old favourites the palm must be given, we
    think, to this collection of Fairy Tales from Grimm.... We do
    not think a better edition has appeared._'

    REVIEW OF REVIEWS.

    '_No more acceptable edition of some of Grimm's Stories has been
    published._'--STANDARD.

    '_Altogether delightful. The illustrations are full of charm and
    sympathy._'--SATURDAY REVIEW.

[Illustration]

    '_A fairy book beyond reproach._'--GRAPHIC.

    '_We have nothing but praise for this collection._'--SKETCH.

    '_Grimm is always delightful, but in his present new dress he is
    more delightful than ever. Mr. Gordon Browne charms us always
    with his dainty pictures._'--GUARDIAN.

    '_All the illustrations are simply inimitable._'

    QUEEN.

[Illustration: 'The Prince who was afraid of Nothing.'--_p. 216._]


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, &. CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by A. G. Walker

A BOOK OF BALLAD STORIES

Selected and Edited by

MARY MACLEOD

With Introduction by

EDWARD DOWDEN

[Illustration:

    'Beyond it rose a castle fair
      Y-built of marble stone;
    The battlements were gilt with gold,
      And glittered in the sun.'--_p. 129._
]

    '_Miss Mary Macleod has succeeded admirably in keeping much of
    the spirit of the originals in her prose versions of the best of
    the old ballads._'

    TRUTH.

    '_Should take a high place. In this work the famous ballads have
    been done into prose so skilfully, and have been so artistically
    illustrated, that it forms a volume to be highly
    prized_.'--STANDARD.

[Illustration: 'She stoutly steered the stots about.'--_p._ 110.]


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._


Illustrated by F. D. Bedford

[Illustration: 'Sat him astride of the saddle of mutton.' _p. 126._]

OLD-FASHIONED TALES OF LONG AGO

Edited with Introduction by

E. V. LUCAS

Besides numerous black and white Illustrations, the Frontispiece and
Title-page are beautifully printed in Colours.

    '_A charming book. The one ambition of Mr. Lucas' authors is to
    be interesting, and they succeed very well._'--DAILY TELEGRAPH.

    '_Beautifully printed, illustrated, and bound._'--SCHOOLMASTER.

Tales are given from the following Popular Authors:--Thomas Day, Maria
Edgeworth, Mrs. Sherwood, Anne Letitia Barbauld, Charles and Mary
Lamb, Jacob Abbott, Alicia Catherine Mant, Caroline Barnard, Peter
Parley, Catherine Sinclair, Dr. Aiken. The authors of some of the best
tales in the volume are unknown.

[Illustration: 'A large hole burst open in the wall.' _p. 381._]


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._

Illustrated by Gordon Browne

[Illustration: 'And your experience makes you sad?'--_p._ 152.]

THE SHAKESPEARE STORY BOOK

By MARY MACLEOD

With Introduction

By SIDNEY LEE


    '_Mr. Sidney Lee, a quite unimpeachable authority, strongly
    recommends this new volume, for which indeed Miss Macleod's
    literary reputation will commend a favourable hearing. This new
    rendering has been very well done. Mr. Gordon Browne's
    illustrations add another charm to a very attractive
    book._'--SPECTATOR.

    '_Miss Macleod has followed the plot more closely than Mary and
    Charles Lamb, and a charming book of stories is the
    result._'--TRUTH

=Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=

[Illustration: 'Some have greatness thrust upon them.'--_p._ xiv.]

WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON

Illustrated by Hugh Thomson

TALES OF THE CANTERBURY PILGRIMS

RETOLD FROM CHAUCER AND OTHER WRITERS

By

F. J. HARVEY DARTON

With Introduction

By Dr. F. J. FURNIVALL

[Illustration: 'The cow ran, the calf ran, and even the very hogs
trotted.'--_p._ 122.]

=Large 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards,=

WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

FAIRY TALES FROM HANS ANDERSEN

Introduction By EDWARD CLODD

=Large Crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, fancy cloth boards.=

[Illustration: Reduced facsimile of cover.]

    '_The illustrations leave nothing to be desired._'--STANDARD.

    '_This is really a seasonable for all Christmases._'--PUNCH.

    '_A delightful gift for children._'--TIMES OF INDIA.

[Illustration: From 'The Ugly Duckling.' _p. 110._]


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

_AN IMPROVING HISTORY FOR OLD BOYS, YOUNG BOYS, GOOD BOYS, BAD BOYS,
BIG BOYS, LITTLE BOYS, COW BOYS, AND TOM BOYS_

[Illustration: 'I create you General of the Commissariat.'--_p. 171._]

THE SURPRISING ADVENTURES OF SIR TOADY LION

WITH THOSE OF General Napoleon Smith

By S. R. CROCKETT

    '_When we say it is one of the most delightful stories about
    children we have ever read, we are still short of the mark._'

    DAILY CHRONICLE.

    '_It is distinctly the best Christmas book of the
    season._'--DAILY MAIL.

    '_In this excellent book for children, which the elders will
    enjoy, Mr. Crockett comes right away from kailyard into a
    kingdom of obstreperous fancy, and is purely, delightfully
    funny, and not too Scotch.... Mr. Gordon Browne's illustrations
    are as good a treat as the story; they realise every thought and
    intention of the writer, and are full of a sly and
    characteristic drollery all the artist's own._'--WORLD.

[Illustration: 'How quaint.'--_p. 375._]

=Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by A. G. Walker

[Illustration: Reduced Cover Design.]

    '_A very beautiful gift-book. Deeply interesting to any
    intelligent child, and the beauty of the old romances will
    appeal strongly to any imaginative mind, young or old._--THE
    WORLD.

    '_Very well re-told ... an excellent introduction to the
    treasures of the old literature._'--DAILY MAIL.

A WONDER BOOK OF OLD ROMANCE

By F. J. HARVEY DARTON

CONTENTS

    WILLIAM AND THE WEREWOLF.
    KING ROBERT OF SICILY.
    SIR CLEGES AND THE CHERRIES.
    SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT.
    THE FAIR UNKNOWN.
    KING HORN.
    THE SEVEN WISE MASTERS.
    SIR DEGORÉ AND THE BROKEN SWORD.
    GUY OF WARWICK.
    THE ASH AND THE HAZEL.
    FLORIS AND BLANCHEFLEUR.
    AMYS AND AMYLION.
    HAVELOR THE DANE.

[Illustration: 'Alack, dear lion, who has done this wrong?'--_Guy of
Warwick, p. 302._]


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

[Illustration: 'Old King Cole was a merry old soul.'--_p. 1._]

NATIONAL RHYMES OF THE NURSERY

[Illustration: NATIONAL RHYMES OF THE NURSERY

WITH DRAWINGS BY GORDON BROWNE]

With Introduction

By GEORGE SAINTSBURY

    '_The prettiest and most complete collection of this kind that
    we have seen._'--WESTMINSTER GAZETTE.

    '_It is impossible to praise the volume too highly._'--BLACK AND
    WHITE.

    '_Every conceivable nursery rhyme is herein gathered together,
    beautifully illustrated. The collection is certainly the most
    perfect that has ever been made._'--SCHOOL GUARDIAN.

    '_Standard authority._'--TIMES.

    '_A very complete collection._'

    PALL MALL GAZETTE.

=Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, bound in art linen
boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

STORIES FROM FROISSART

By

HENRY NEWBOLT,

_Author of 'Admirals All,' &c._

    '_A really fine book, and effectively illustrated. Mr. Newbolt
    has done his work well, and Mr. Gordon Browne has illustrated
    the book delightfully._'--OUTLOOK.

[Illustration: '_There never was a better story-book than Froissart._'

    ATHENÆUM.
]

[Illustration: 'The four knights view the English host.'--_p. 26._]

=Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

_A Child's Book, for Children, for Women, and for Men._

SWEETHEART TRAVELLERS

By S. R. CROCKETT

[Illustration: SWEETHEART TRAVELLERS S. R. CROCKETT]

    '_It is the rarest of all rarities, and veritably a child's book
    for children, as well as for women and men. It is seldom,
    indeed, that the reviewer has the opportunity of bestowing
    unstinted praise, with the feeling that the laudation is,
    nevertheless, inadequate. "Sweetheart Travellers" is instinct
    with drollery; it continually strikes the softest notes of
    tenderest pathos, and it must make the most hardened bachelor
    feel something of the pleasures he has missed in living mateless
    and childless._'--TIMES.

    '_A more delightful book for young, old, and middle aged, it is
    scarcely possible to conceive._'--TRUTH.

    '_We confess to having fallen under the spell of these
    delightful chronicles. The illustrations are just what was
    wanted to make this one of the most attractive books about
    children._'

    PALL MALL GAZETTE

[Illustration: On the road to Conway.--_p. 64._]

=Large 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

SINTRAM & HIS COMPANIONS

AND UNDINE

[Illustration]

By DE LA MOTTE FOUQUÉ

With Introduction

By CHARLOTTE M. YONGE

    '_The anonymous translation is the good old standard one. Vastly
    superior to subsequent versions._'--TIMES.

    '_Certain to engage the sympathies of an entirely new set of
    readers._'--DAILY TELEGRAPH.

    '_Nothing could be more attractive than the form in which this
    excellent edition is sent forth._'--RECORD.

    '_A better present for a thoughtful lad or lass could hardly
    be._'--CHURCH TIMES.

=Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=

[Illustration: Sintram and his companions.--_From p. 139._]


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by F. M. Rudland

THE HISTORY OF THE

FAIRCHILD FAMILY

By Mrs. SHERWOOD

Edited with Introduction

By MARY E. PALGRAVE

[Illustration: _Emily & her brother & sister went to play in the
garden. p. 68_]

    '_A better gift-book is not easy to find than this pleasing
    edition of a deservedly popular story._'

    DAILY NEWS.

    '_We have seen few more delightful volumes._'--RECORD.

    '"_The History of the Fairchild Family" has never appeared in a
    more attractive form._'

    SCOTSMAN.

=Large 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Hugh Thomson

TALES FROM

MARIA EDGEWORTH

With Introduction by AUSTIN DOBSON

[Illustration: Waste Not, Want Not: or, Two Strings to your Bow.--_p.
191._]

    '_One of the best of the new editions that the present Christmas
    has called forth. Strangers to the fascinating pen of Maria
    Edgeworth could not have a better volume in which to learn what
    they have been missing._'--TIMES.

    '_Exceedingly attractive._'--SPECTATOR.

    '_Nothing could be more admirably carried out._'--BOOKMAN.

=Large 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards.=


WELLS GARDNER, DARTON, & CO., LTD., LONDON


Illustrated by Gordon Browne

[Illustration: A Chapter Heading.]

SIR TOADY CRUSOE

By S. R. CROCKETT

[Illustration: '_It will thoroughly satisfy the children's most
fastidious taste._'

    Morning
    Leader.

    '_The best book for children, if not the best book we have seen
    this year._'--WESTMINSTER GAZETTE.

    '_We have seen nothing for a long time to equal the admirable
    illustrations._'--DUNDEE COURIER.

[Illustration: 'Watch 'em, boy!' said Dinkey.--_p. 245._]


_Large crown 8vo. printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._


Illustrated by F. D. Bedford

FORGOTTEN TALES OF LONG AGO

Edited with Introduction by

E. V. LUCAS

[Illustration]

Beside numerous Black and White Illustrations, the Frontispiece and
Title-page are in Colours.

_The Contents include:_

DICKY RANDOM; JEMIMA PLACID; TWO TRIALS; THE FRUITS OF DISOBEDIENCE;
THE THREE CAKES; SCOURHILL'S ADVENTURES; ELLEN AND GEORGE; THE
JOURNAL, by Priscilla Wakefield; THE BUNCH OF CHERRIES; THE LIFE AND
ADVENTURES OF LADY ANNE; CAPTAIN MURDERER, by Charles Dickens, and
many other favourite old stories, now forgotten.

    '_Is Mr. E. V. Lucas going to provide its with one of the
    prettiest books of each Christmas season? For successive years
    we have been delighted with his clever selection from the
    child-fiction of our grandparents, and we are left like Oliver
    Twist, asking for more._'--BOOKMAN.

[Illustration: 'She cut her beautiful hair close to her head!'-_p.
162._]


_Large crown 8vo, printed on superfine paper, cloth boards._



Transcriber's Note:


Archaic and inconsistent spelling and punctuation retained.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Children of the Dawn - Old Tales of Greece" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home