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Fifty Famous People by  James Baldwin


 

 

SAVED BY A DOLPHIN

IN the city of Corinth there once lived a wonderful musician whose name was Arion. No other person could play on the lyre or sing so sweetly as he; and the songs which he composed were famous in many lands.

The king of Corinth was his friend. The people of Corinth never grew tired of praising his sweet music.

One summer he went over the sea to Italy; for his name was well known there, and many people wished to hear him sing.

He visited several cities, and in each place he was well paid for his music.

At last, having become quite rich, he decided to go home. There was a ship just ready to sail for Corinth, and the captain agreed to take him as a passenger.

The sea was rough. The ship was driven far out of her course. Many days passed before they came in sight of land.

[114] The sailors were rude and unruly. The captain himself had been a robber.

When they heard that Arion had a large sum of money with him they began to make plans to get it.

"The easiest way," said the captain, "is to throw him overboard. Then there will be no one to tell tales."

Arion overheard them plotting.

"You may take everything that I have," he said, "if you will only spare my life."

But they had made up their minds to get rid of him. They feared to spare him lest he should report the matter to the king.

"Your life we will not spare," they said; "but we will give you the choice of two things. You must either jump overboard into the sea or be slain with your own sword. Which shall it be?"

"I shall jump overboard," said Arion, "but I pray that you will first grant me a favor."

"What is it?" asked the captain.

"Allow me to sing to you my latest and best song. I promise that as soon as it is finished I will leap into the sea."

The sailors agreed; for they were anxious to hear the musician whose songs were famous all over the world.

[115] Arion dressed himself in his finest clothing. He took his stand on the forward deck, while the robber sailors stood in a half circle before him, anxious to listen to his song.


[Illustration]

[116] He touched his lyre and began to play the accompaniment. Then he sang a wonderful song, so sweet, so lively, so touching, that many of the sailors were moved to tears.

And now they would have spared him; but he was true to his promise,—as soon as the song was finished, he threw himself headlong into the sea.

The sailors divided his money among themselves; and the ship sailed on.

In a short time they reached Corinth in safety, and the king sent an officer to bring the captain and his men to the palace.

"Are you lately from Italy?" he asked.

"We are," they answered.

"What news can you give me concerning my friend Arion, the sweetest of all musicians?"

"He was well and happy when we left Italy," they answered. "He has a mind to spend the rest of his life in that country."

Hardly had they spoken these words when the door opened and Arion himself stood before them. He was dressed just as they had seen him when he jumped into the sea. They were so astonished that they fell upon their knees before the king and confessed their crime.

[117] Now, how was Arion saved from drowning when he leaped overboard?

Old story-tellers say that he alighted on the back of a large fish, called a dolphin, which had been charmed by his music and was swimming near the ship. The dolphin carried him with great speed to the nearest shore. Then, full of joy, the musician hastened to Corinth, not stopping even to change his dress.

He told his wonderful story to the king; but the king would not believe him.

"Wait," said he, "till the ship arrives, and then we shall know the truth."

Three hours later, the ship came into port, as you have already learned.

Other people think that the dolphin which saved Arion was not a fish, but a ship named the Dolphin. They say that Arion, being a good swimmer, kept himself afloat until this ship happened to pass by and rescued him from the waves.


You may believe the story that you like best. The name of Arion is still remembered as that of a most wonderful musician.


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