THE ORACLE OF DELPHI
A WICKED man is never really happy; and Tarquin, who
had committed so many crimes, could not find much
enjoyment in life. His conscience troubled him, his
sleep was haunted by bad dreams, and he felt so
restless that he did not know what to do.
As the Romans believed that dreams were sent by their
gods to warn them of the future, Tarquin was very
anxious to have an explanation of the visions which
disturbed his rest. He asked the Roman priests, but
they failed to give him a satisfactory answer; so he
decided to send to Delphi, in Greece, and to ask the
noted oracle there to interpret these bad dreams.
Now, as you may know, Delphi was a place in the
mountains of Greece where there was a temple dedicated
to the service of Apollo, god of the sun. In this
 lived a priestess called the Pythoness, who
was supposed to converse with the gods, and to make
their wishes known to all who consulted her. Any priest
who did this was known as an oracle; and at the same
time the answers given out were also called oracles.
Now one of Tarquin's crimes was the murder of a nephew.
His widowed sister, it seems, had two sons, who were
very rich. As the king wanted to get their money, he
killed one of them, and spared the other only because
he thought him an idiot. In fact, the Romans used to
say that this nephew's name, Brutus, was given him
because of his brutelike stupidity. The young man,
however, was only pretending to be stupid; he was really very
intelligent, and was patiently waiting for a chance to
avenge his brother's death.
Tarquinius Superbus selected two of his own sons to
carry his offerings to the temple of Delphi, and sent
Brutus with them as an attendant. After giving the
king's offerings, and obtaining an oracle for him, the
three young men resolved to question the Pythoness
about their own future.
Each gave a present to the priestess. The two princes
offered rich gifts, but Brutus gave only the staff
which he had used on the journey thither. Although this
present seemed very mean, compared with the others, it
was in reality much the most valuable, because the
staff was hollow, and full of gold.
The young men now asked the Pythoness the question
which all three had agreed was the most important. This
was the name of the next king of Rome. The priestess,
who rarely answered a question directly, replied
he would rule who first kissed his mother on returning
Tarquin's sons were much pleased by this answer, and
each began to plan how to reach home quickly, and be
the first to kiss his mother. Brutus seemed quite
indifferent, as usual; but, thanks to his offering, the
priestess gave him a hint about what he should do.
Their mission thus satisfactorily ended, the three
young men set out for Rome. When they landed upon their
native soil, Brutus fell down upon his knees, and
kissed the earth, the mother of all mankind. Thus he
obeyed the directions of the Pythoness without
attracting the attention of the two princes. Intent
upon their own hopes, the sons of Tarquin hurried home,
kissed their mother at the same moment on either cheek.