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WHAT WAS THE END OF THE HEROES
 AND now I wish that I could end my story pleasantly; but it
is no fault of mine that I cannot. The old songs end it
sadly, and I believe that they are right and wise; for though
the heroes were purified at Malea, yet sacrifices cannot make
bad hearts good, and Jason had taken a wicked wife, and he
had to bear his burden to the last.
And first she laid a cunning plot to punish that poor old
Pelias, instead of letting him die in peace.
For she told his daughters, "I can make
 old things young
again; I will show you how easy it is to do." So she took an
old ram and killed him, and put him in a cauldron with magic
herbs; and whispered her spells over him, and he leapt out
again a young lamb. So that "Medeia's cauldron" is a proverb
still, by which we mean times of war and change, when the
world has become old and feeble, and grows young again
through bitter pains.
Then she said to Pelias's daughters, "Do to your father as I
did to this ram, and he will grow young and strong again."
But she only told them half the spell; so they failed, while
Medeia mocked them; and poor old Pelias died, and his
daughters came to misery. But the songs say she cured Æson,
Jason's father, and he became young, and strong again.
But Jason could not love her, after all her cruel deeds. So
he was ungrateful to her, and wronged her: and she revenged
herself on him. And a terrible
 revenge she took—too
terrible to speak of here. But you will hear of it
yourselves when you grow up, for it has been sung in noble
poetry and music; and whether it be true or not, it stands
forever as a warning to us not to seek for help from evil
persons, or to gain good ends by evil means. For if we use
an adder even against our enemies, it will turn again and
But of all the other heroes there is many a brave tale left,
which I have no space to tell you, so you must read them for
yourselves;—of the hunting of the boar in Calydon, which
Meleager killed; and of Heracles's twelve famous labours; and
of the seven who fought at Thebes; and of the noble love of
Castor and Polydeuces, the twin Dioscouroi—how when one
died, the other would not live without him, so they shared
their immortality between them; and Zeus changed them into
the two twin stars, which never rise both at once.
 And what became of Cheiron, the good immortal beast? That,
too, is a sad story; for the heroes never saw him more. He
was wounded by a poisoned arrow, at Pholoe among the hills,
when Heracles opened the fatal wine-jar, which Cheiron had
warned him not to touch. And the Centaurs smelt the wine,
and flocked to it, and fought for it with Heracles; but he
killed them all with his poisoned arrows, and Cheiron was
left alone. Then Cheiron took up one of the arrows, and
dropped it by chance upon his foot; and the poison ran like
fire along his veins, and he lay down and longed to die; and
cried, "Through wine I perish, the bane of all my race. Why
should I live forever in this agony? Who will take my
immortality, that I may die?"
Then Prometheus answered, the good Titan, whom Heracles had
set free from Caucasus, "I will take your immortality and
live forever, that I may help poor
 mortal men." So Cheiron
gave him his immortality, and died, and had rest from pain.
And Heracles and Prometheus wept over him, and went to bury
him on Pelion: but Zeus took him up among the stars, to live
forever, grand and mild, low down in the far southern sky.
And in time the heroes died, all but Nestor, the silver-tongued
old man; and left behind them valiant sons, but not
so great as they had been. Yet their fame, too, lives till
this day; for they fought at the ten years' siege of Troy:
and their story is in the book which we call Homer, in two of
the noblest songs on earth—the Iliad, which tells us of
the siege of Troy, and Achilles' quarrel with the kings: and
the Odyssey, which tells the wanderings of Odysseus,
through many lands for many years; and how Alcinous sent him
home at last, safe to Ithaca his beloved island, and to
Penelope his faithful wife, and Telemachus his son, and
Euphorbus the noble swineherd, and the old dog who licked his
hand and died. We will read that sweet story, children, by
the fire some winter night. And now I will end my tale, and
begin another and a more cheerful one, of a hero who became a
worthy king, and won his people's love.