| Heroes Every Child Should Know|
|by Hamilton Wright Mabie|
|Inspiring stories of heroes from various times and places relating their daring deeds, prompted by their high ideals. Perseus and Hercules are included from Greek mythology and David and Daniel from the Bible. Among the legendary heroes of the middle ages are St. George, King Arthur, Sir Galahad, Siegfried, Roland, Robin Hood, The Cid, and William Tell. Historical persons such as Alfred the Great, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Robert the Bruce, and Robert E. Lee round out the collection. Ages 9-12 |
NCE upon a time there were two princes who were twins. Their names
were Acrisius and Prœtus, and they lived in the pleasant vale of
Argos, far away in Hellas. They had fruitful meadows and vineyards,
sheep and oxen, great herds of horses feeding down in Lerna Fen, and
all that men could need to make them blest: and yet they were
wretched, because they were jealous of each other. From the moment
they were born they began to quarrel; and when they grew up each
tried to take away the other's share of the kingdom, and keep all
But there came a prophet to Acrisius and prophesied against him, and
said, "Because you have risen up against your own blood, your own
blood shall rise up against you; because you have sinned against
your kindred, by your kindred you shall be punished. Your daughter
Danae shall have a son, and by that son's hands you shall die. So
the gods have ordained, and it will surely come to pass."
And at that Acrisius was very much afraid; but he did not mend his
ways. He had been cruel to his own family, and, instead of repenting
and being kind to them, he went on to be more cruel than ever: for
he shut up his fair daughter Danae in a cavern underground, lined
with brass, that no one might come near her. So he fancied himself
more cunning than the gods: but you
 will see presently whether he
was able to escape them.
Now it came to pass that in time a son came to Danae: so beautiful a
babe that any but King Acrisius would have had pity on it. But he
had no pity; for he took Danae and her babe down to the seashore,
and put them into a great chest and thrust them out to sea, for the
winds and the waves to carry them whithersoever they would.
The northwest wind blew freshly out of the blue mountains, and down
the pleasant vale of Argos, and away and out to sea. And away and
out to sea before it floated the mother and her babe, while all who
watched them wept, save that cruel father, King Acrisius.
So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down upon the
billows, and the baby slept upon its mother's breast: but the poor
mother could not sleep, but watched and wept, and she sang to her
baby as they floated; and the song which she sang you shall learn
yourselves some day.
And now they are past the last blue headland, and in the open sea;
and there is nothing round them but the waves, and the sky, and the
wind. But the waves are gentle, and the sky is clear, and the breeze
is tender and low.
So a night passed, and a day, and a long day it was for Danae; and
another night and day beside, till Danae was faint with hunger and
weeping, and yet no land appeared. And all the while the babe slept
quietly; and at last poor Danae drooped her head and fell asleep
likewise with her cheek against the babe's.
After a while she was awakened suddenly; for the chest was jarring
and grinding, and the air was full of
 sound. She looked up, and over
her head were mighty cliffs, all red in the setting sun, and around
her rocks and breakers, and flying flakes of foam. She clasped her
hands together, and shrieked aloud for help. And when she cried,
help met her: for now there came over the rocks a tall and stately
man, and looked down wonderingly upon poor Danae tossing about in
the chest among the waves.
He wore a rough cloak of frieze, and on his head a broad hat to
shade his face; in his hand he carried a trident for spearing fish,
and over his shoulder was a casting-net; but Danae could see that he
was no common man by his stature, and his walk, and his flowing
golden hair and beard; and by the two servants who came behind him,
carrying baskets for his fish. But she had hardly time to look at
him before he had laid aside his trident and leapt down the rocks,
and thrown his casting-net so surely over Danae and the chest, that
he drew it, and her, and the baby, safe upon a ledge of rock.
Then the fisherman took Danae by the hand, and lifted her out of the
chest, and said:
"O beautiful damsel, what strange chance has brought you to this
island in so frail a ship? Who are you, and whence? Surely you are
some King's daughter and this boy
somewhat more than mortal."
And as he spoke he pointed to the babe; for its face shone like the
But Danae only held down her head, and sobbed out:
"Tell me to what land I have come, unhappy that I am; and among what
men I have fallen!"
And he said, "This isle is called Seriphos, and I am a Hellen, and
dwell in it. I am the brother of Polydectes
 the King; and men call
me Dictys the netter, because I catch the fish of the shore."
Then Danae fell down at his feet, and embraced his knees and cried:
"Oh, sir, have pity upon a stranger, whom a cruel doom has driven to
your land; and let me live in your house as a servant; but treat me
honourably, for I was once a king's daughter, and this my boy (as
you have truly said) is of no common race. I will not be a charge to
you, or eat the bread of idleness; for I am more skilful in weaving
and embroidery than all the maidens of my land."
And she was going on; but Dictys stopped her, and raised her up, and
"My daughter, I am old, and my hairs are growing grey; while I have
no children to make my home cheerful. Come with me then, and you
shall be a daughter to me and to my wife, and this babe shall be our
grandchild. For I fear the gods, and show hospitality to all
strangers; knowing that good deeds, like evil ones, always return to
those who do them."
So Danae was comforted, and went home with Dictys the good
fisherman, and was a daughter to him and to his wife.
Fifteen years were passed and gone and the babe was now grown to a
tall lad and a sailor, and went many voyages after merchandise to
the islands round. His mother called him Perseus; but all the people
in Seriphos said that he was not the son of mortal man, and called
him Zeus, the son of the king of the Immortals. For though he was
but fifteen, he was taller by a head than any man in the island; and
he was the most skilful of all in running and wrestling and boxing,
and in throwing the
 quoit and the javelin, and in rowing with the
oar, and in playing on the harp, and in all which befits a man. And
he was brave and truthful, gentle and courteous, for good old Dictys
had trained him well; and well it was for Perseus that he had done
Now one day at Samos, while the ship was lading, Perseus wandered
into a pleasant wood to get out of the sun, and sat down on the turf
and fell asleep. And as he slept a strange dream came to him—the
strangest dream which he had ever had in his life.
There came a lady to him through the wood, taller than he, or any
mortal man; but beautiful exceedingly, with grey eyes, clear and
piercing, but strangely soft and mild. On her head was a helmet, and
in her hand a spear. And over her shoulder, above her long blue
robes, hung a goat-skin, which bore up a mighty shield of brass,
polished like a mirror. She stood and looked at him with her clear
grey eyes; and Perseus saw that her eyelids never moved, nor her
eyeballs, but looked straight through and through him, and into his
very heart, as if she could see all the secrets of his soul, and
knew all that he had ever thought or longed for since the day that
he was born. And Perseus dropped his eyes, trembling and blushing,
as the wonderful lady spoke.
"Perseus, you must do an errand for me."
"Who are you, lady? And how do you know my name?"
"I am Pallas Athené; and I know the thoughts of all men's hearts,
and discern their manhood or their baseness. And from the souls of
clay I turn away, and they are blest, but not by me. They fatten at
ease, like sheep in the pasture, and eat what they did not sow, like
 the stall. They grow and spread, like the gourd along the
ground; but, like the gourd, they give no shade to the traveller,
and when they are ripe death gathers them, and they go down unloved
into hell, and their name vanishes out of the land.
"But to the souls of fire I give more fire, and to those who are
manful I give a might more than man's. These are the heroes, the
sons of the Immortals who are blest, but not like the souls of clay.
For I drive them forth by strange paths, Perseus, that they may
fight the Titans and the monsters, the enemies of gods and men.
Through doubt and need, danger and battle, I drive them; and some of
them are slain in the flower of youth, no man knows when or where;
and some of them win noble names, and a fair and green old age; but
what will be their latter end I know not, and none, save Zeus, the
father of gods and men. Tell me now, Perseus, which of these two
sorts of men seem to you more blest?"
Then Perseus answered boldly: "Better to die in the flower of youth,
on the chance of winning a noble name, than to live at ease like the
sheep, and die unloved and unrenowned."
Then that strange lady laughed, and held up her brazen shield, and
cried: "See here, Perseus; dare you face such a monster as this, and
slay it, that I may place its head upon this shield?"
And in the mirror of the shield there appeared a face and as Perseus
looked on it his blood ran cold. It was the face of a beautiful
woman; but her cheeks were pale as death, and her brows were knit
with everlasting pain, and her lips were thin and bitter like a
snake's; and, instead of hair, vipers wreathed about her temples,
and shot out their forked tongues; while round her head
 were folded
wings like an eagle's, and upon her bosom claws of brass.
And Perseus looked awhile, and then said: "If there is anything so
fierce and foul on earth, it were a noble deed to kill it. Where can
I find the monster?"
Then the strange lady smiled again, and said: "Not yet; you are too
young, and too unskilled; for this is Medusa the Gorgon, the mother
of a monstrous brood."
And Perseus said, "Try me; for since you spoke to me a new soul has
come into my breast, and I should be ashamed not to dare anything
which I can do. Show me, then, how I can do this!"
"Perseus," said Athené, "think well before you attempt; for this
deed requires a seven years' journey, in which you cannot repent or
turn back nor escape; but if your heart fails you, you must die in
the Unshapen Land, where no man will ever find your bones."
"Better so than live despised," said Perseus. "Tell me, then, oh
tell me, fair and wise Goddess, how I can do but this one thing, and
then, if need be, die!"
Then Athené smiled and said:
"Be patient, and listen; for if you forget my words, you will indeed
die. You must go northward to the country of the Hyperboreans, who
live beyond the pole, at the sources of the cold north wind, till
you find the three Grey Sisters, who have but one eye and one tooth
between them. You must ask them the way to the Nymphs, the daughters
of the Evening Star, who dance about the golden tree, in the
Atlantic island of the west. They will tell you the way to the
Gorgon, that you may slay her, my enemy, the mother of monstrous
beasts. Once she was a maiden as beautiful as morn, till in her
pride she sinned a sin at which the sun hid his face; and
 from that
day her hair was turned to vipers, and her hands to eagle's claws;
and her heart was filled with shame and rage, and her lips with
bitter venom; and her eyes became so terrible that whosover looks on
them is turned to stone; and her children are the winged horse and
the giant of the golden sword; and her grandchildren are Echidna the
witch-adder, and Geryon the three-headed tyrant, who feeds his herds
beside the herds of hell. So she became the sister of the Gorgons,
the daughters of the Queen of the Sea. Touch them not, for they are
immortal; but bring me only Medusa's head."
"And I will bring it!" said Perseus; "but how am I to escape her
eyes? Will she not freeze me too into stone?"
"You shall take this polished shield," said Athené, "and when you
come near her look not at her yourself, but at her image in the
brass; so you may strike her safely. And when you have struck off
her head, wrap it, with your face turned away, in the folds of the
goat-skin on which the shield hangs. So you will bring it safely back
to me, and win to yourself renown, and a place among the heroes who
feast with the Immortals upon the peak where no winds blow."
Then Perseus said, "I will go, though I die in going. But how shall
I cross the seas without a ship? And who will show me my way? And
when I find her, how shall I slay her, if her scales be iron and
Now beside Athené appeared a young man more light-limbed than the
stag, whose eyes were like sparks of fire. By his side was a
scimitar of diamond, all of one clear precious stone, and on his
feet were golden sandals, from the heels of which grew living wings.
 Then the young man spoke: "These sandals of mine will bear you
across the seas, and over hill and dale like a bird, as they bear me
all day long; for I am Hermes, the far-famed Argus-slayer, the
messenger of the Immortals who dwell on Olympus."
Then Perseus fell down and worshipped, while the young man spoke
"The sandals themselves will guide you on the road, for they are
divine and cannot stray; and this sword itself the Argus-slayer,
will kill her, for it is divine, and needs no second stroke. Arise,
and gird them on, and go forth."
So Perseus arose, and girded on the sandals and the sword.
And Athené cried, "Now leap from the cliff and be gone."
But Perseus lingered.
"May I not bid farewell to my mother and to Dictys? And may I not
offer burnt offerings to you, and to Hermes the far-famed Argus-slayer,
and to Father Zeus above?"
"You shall not bid farewell to your mother, lest your heart relent
at her weeping. I will comfort her and Dictys until you return in
peace. Nor shall you offer burnt offerings to the Olympians; for
your offering shall be Medusa's head. Leap, and trust in the armour
of the Immortals."
Then Perseus looked down the cliff and shuddered; but he was ashamed
to show his dread. Then he thought of Medusa and the renown before
him, and he leapt into the empty air.
And behold, instead of falling he floated, and stood, and ran along
the sky. He looked back, but Athené had vanished, and Hermes; and
the sandals led him on
 northward ever, like a crane who follows the
spring toward the Ister fens.
So Perseus started on his journey, going dry-shod over land and sea;
and his heart was high and joyful, for the winged sandals bore him
each day a seven days' journey. And he turned neither to the right
hand nor the left, till he came to the Unshapen Land, and the place
which has no name.
And seven days he walked through it on a path which few can tell,
till he came to the edge of the everlasting night, where the air was
full of feathers, and the soil was hard with ice; and there at last
he found the three Grey Sisters, by the shore of the freezing sea,
nodding upon a white log of driftwood, beneath the cold white winter
moon; and they chanted a low song together, "Why the old times were
better than the new."
There was no living thing around them, not a fly, not a moss upon
the rocks. Neither seal nor sea gull dare come near, lest the ice
should clutch them in its claws. The surge broke up in foam, but it
fell again in flakes of snow; and it frosted the hair of the three
Grey Sisters, and the bones in the ice cliff above their heads. They
passed the eye from one to the other, but for all that they could
not see; and they passed the tooth from one to the other, but for
all that they could not eat; and they sat in the full glare of the
moon, but they were none the warmer for her beams. And Perseus
pitied the three Grey Sisters; but they did not pity themselves.
So he said, "Oh, venerable mothers, wisdom is the daughter of old
age. You therefore should know many things. Tell me, if you can, the
path to the Gorgon."
Then one cried, "Who is this who reproaches us with
 old age?" And
another, "This is the voice of one of the children of men."
Then one cried, "Give me the eye, that I may see him"; and another,
"Give me the tooth, that I may bite him." But Perseus, when he saw
that they were foolish and proud, and did not love the children of
men, left off pitying them. Then he stepped close to them, and
watched till they passed the eye from hand to hand. And as they
groped about between themselves, he held out his own hand gently,
till one of them put the eye into it, fancying that it was the hand
of her sister. Then he sprang back, and laughed, and cried:
"Cruel and proud old women, I have your eye; and I will throw it
into the sea, unless you tell me the path to the Gorgon, and swear
to me that you tell me right."
Then they wept, and chattered, and scolded; but in vain. They were
forced to tell the truth, though, when they told it, Perseus could
hardly make out the road.
"You must go," they said, "foolish boy, to the southward, into the
ugly glare of the sun, till you come to Atlas the Giant, who holds
the heaven and the earth apart. And you must ask his daughters, the
Hesperides, who are young and foolish like yourself. And now give us
back our eye, for we have forgotten all the rest."
So Perseus gave them back their eye. And he leaped away to the
southward, leaving the snow and the ice behind. And the terns and
the sea gulls swept laughing round his head, and called to him to
stop and play, and the dolphins gambolled up as he passed, and
offered to carry him on their back. And all night long the sea
nymphs sang sweetly. Day by day the sun rose higher and leaped more
swiftly into the sea at night, and more swiftly out of the sea at
dawn; while Perseus skimmed
 over the billows like a sea gull, and
his feet were never wetted; and leapt on from wave to wave, and his
limbs were never weary, till he saw far away a mighty mountain, all
rose-red in the setting sun. Perseus knew that it was Atlas, who
holds the heavens and the earth apart.
He leapt on shore, and wandered upward, among pleasant valleys and
waterfalls. At last he heard sweet voices singing; and he guessed
that he was come to the garden of the Nymphs, the daughters of the
Evening Star. They sang like nightingales among the thickets, and
Perseus stopped to hear their song; but the words which they spoke
he could not understand. So he stepped forward and saw them dancing,
hand in hand around the charmed tree, which bent under its golden
fruit; and round the tree foot was coiled the dragon, old Ladon the
sleepless snake, who lies there for ever, listening to the song of
the maidens, blinking and watching with dry bright eyes.
Then Perseus stopped, not because he feared the dragon, but because
he was bashful before those fair maids; but when they saw him, they
too stopped, and called to him with trembling voices:
"Who are you, fair boy? Come dance with us around the tree in the
garden which knows no winter, the home of the south wind and the
sun. Come hither and play with us awhile; we have danced alone here
for a thousand years, and our hearts are weary with longing for a
"I cannot dance with you, fair maidens; for I must do the errand of
the Immortals. So tell me the way to the Gorgon, lest I wander and
perish in the waves."
Then they sighed and wept; and answered:
"The Gorgon! she will freeze you into stone."
 "It is better to die like a hero than to live like an ox in a stall.
The Immortals have lent me weapons, and they will give me wit to use
Then they sighed again and answered: "Fair boy, if you are bent on
your own ruin, be it so. We know not the way to the Gorgon; but we
will ask the giant Atlas above upon the mountain peak." So they went
up the mountain to Atlas their uncle, and Perseus went up with them.
And they found the giant kneeling, as he held the heavens and the
They asked him, and he answered mildly, pointing to the sea board
with his mighty hand, "I can see the Gorgons lying on an island far
away, but this youth can never come near them, unless he has the hat
of darkness, which whosoever wears cannot be seen."
Then cried Perseus, "Where is that hat, that I may find it?"
But the giant smiled. "No living mortal can find that hat, for it
lies in the depths of Hades, in the regions of the dead. But my
nieces are immortal, and they shall fetch it for you, if you will
promise me one thing and keep your faith."
Then Perseus promised; and the giant said, "When you come back with
the head of Medusa, you shall show me the beautiful horror, that I
may lose my feeling and my breathing, and become a stone for ever;
for it is weary labour for me to hold the heavens and the earth
Then Perseus promised, and the eldest of the Nymphs went down, and
into a dark cavern among the cliffs, out of which came smoke and
thunder, for it was one of the mouths of hell.
And Perseus and the Nymphs sat down seven days,
 and waited trembling,
till the Nymph came up again; and her face was pale, and her eyes
dazzled with the light for she had been long in the dreary darkness;
but in her hand was the magic hat.
Then all the Nymphs kissed Perseus, and wept over him a long while;
but he was only impatient to be gone. And at last they put the hat
upon his head, and he vanished out of their sight.
But Perseus went on boldly, past many an ugly sight, far away into
the heart of the Unshapen Land, till he heard the rustle of the
Gorgons' wings and saw the glitter of their brazen talons; and then
he knew that it was time to halt, lest Medusa should freeze him into
He thought awhile with himself, and remembered Athené's words. He
arose aloft into the air, and held the mirror of the shield above
his head, and looked up into it that he might see all that was below
And he saw the three Gorgons sleeping. He knew that they could not
see him, because the hat of darkness hid him; and yet he trembled as
he sank down near them, so terrible were those brazen claws.
Two of the Gorgons were foul as swine, and lay sleeping heavily,
with their mighty wings outspread; but Medusa tossed to and fro
restlessly, and as she tossed Perseus pitied her. But as he looked,
from among her tresses the vipers' heads awoke, and peeped up with
their bright dry eyes, and showed their fangs, and hissed; and
Medusa, as she tossed, threw back her wings and showed her brazen
Then Perseus came down and stepped to her boldly, and looked
steadfastly on his mirror, and struck with Herpé stoutly once; and
he did not need to strike again.
Then he wrapped the head in the goat-skin, turning
 away his eyes,
and sprang into the air aloft, faster than he ever sprang before.
For Medusa's wings and talons rattled as she sank dead upon the
rocks; and her two foul sisters woke, and saw her lying dead.
Into the air they sprang yelling, and looked for him who had done
the deed. They rushed, sweeping and flapping, like eagles after a
hare; and Perseus's blood ran cold as he saw them come howling on
his track; and he cried, "Bear me well now, brave sandals, for the
hounds of Death are at my heels!"
And well the brave sandals bore him, aloft through cloud and
sunshine, across the shoreless sea; and fast followed the hounds of
Death. But the sandals were too swift, even for Gorgons, and by
nightfall they were far behind, two black specks in the southern
sky, till the sun sank and he saw them no more.
Then he came again to Atlas, and the garden of the Nymphs; and when
the giant heard him coming he groaned, and said, "Fulfil thy promise
to me." Then Perseus held up to him the Gorgon's head, and he had
rest from all his toil; for he became a crag of stone, which sleeps
forever far above the clouds.
Perseus thanked the Nymphs, and asked them, "By what road shall I go
homeward again, for I have wandered far in coming hither?"
And they wept and cried, "Go home no more, but stay and play with
us, the lonely maidens, who dwell for ever far away from gods and
But he refused, and they told him his road. And he leapt down the
mountain, and went on, lessening and lessening like a sea gull, away
and out to sea.
So Perseus flitted onward to the northeast, over many
 a league of
sea, till he came to the rolling sand hills and the dreary Lybian
And he flitted on across the desert: over rock ledges, and banks of
shingle, and level wastes of sand, and shell drifts bleaching in the
sunshine, and the skeletons of great sea monsters, and dead bones of
ancient giants, strewn up and down upon the old sea floor. And as he
went the blood drops fell to the earth from the Gorgon's head, and
became poisonous asps and adders, which breed in the desert to this
Over the sands he went, till he saw the Dwarfs who fought with
cranes. Their spears were of reeds and rushes, and their houses of
the eggshells of the cranes; and Perseus laughed, and went his way
to the northeast, hoping all day long to see the blue Mediterranean
sparkling, that he might fly across it to his home.
But now came down a mighty wind, and swept him back southward toward
the desert. All day long he strove against it; but even the winged
sandals could not prevail. So he was forced to float down the wind
all night; and when the morning dawned there was nothing but the
blinding sun in the blinding blue; and round him there was nothing
but the blinding sand.
And Perseus said, "Surely I am not here without the will of the
Immortals, for Athené will not lie. Were not these sandals to lead
me in the right road? Then the road in which I have tried to go must
be a wrong road."
Then suddenly his ears were opened, and he heard the sound of
running water. And at that his heart was lifted up, though he
scarcely dare believe his ears; and within a bowshot of him was a
glen in the sand, and marble rocks, and date trees, and a lawn of
gay green grass. And through the lawn a streamlet sparkled and
 wandered out beyond the trees, and vanished in the sand. And Perseus
laughed for joy, and leapt down the cliff and drank of the cool
water, and ate of the dates, and slept upon the turf, and leapt up
and went forward.
Then he towered in the air like an eagle, for his limbs were strong
again; and he flew all night across the mountain till the day began
to dawn, and rosy-fingered Eos came blushing up the sky. And then,
behold, beneath him was the long green garden of Egypt and the
shining stream of Nile.
And he saw cities walled up to heaven, and temples, and obelisks,
and pyramids, and giant gods of stone. And he came down amid fields
of barley and flax, and millet, and clambering gourds; and saw the
people coming out of the gates of a great city, and setting to work,
each in his place, among the water courses, parting the streams
among the plants cunningly with their feet, according to the wisdom
of the Egyptians. But when they saw him they all stopped their work,
and gathered round him, and cried:
"Who art thou, fair youth? and what bearest thou beneath
thy goat-skin there? Surely thou art one of the Immortals; for thy skin is
white like ivory, and ours is red like clay. Thy hair is like
threads of gold, and ours is black and curled. Surely thou art one
of the Immortals"; and they would have worshipped him then and
there; but Perseus said:
"I am not one of the Immortals; but I am a hero of the Hellens. And
I have slain the Gorgon in the wilderness, and bear her head with
me. Give me food, therefore, that I may go forward and finish my
Then they gave him food, and fruit, but they would not let him go.
And when the news came into the city
 that the Gorgon was slain, the
priests came out to meet him, and the maidens, with songs and
dances, and timbrels and harps; and they would have brought him to
their temple and to their King; but Perseus put on the hat of
darkness, and vanished away out of their sight.
And Perseus flew along the shore above the sea; and he went on all
the day; and he went on all the night.
And at the dawn of day he looked toward the cliffs; and at the
water's edge, under a black rock, he saw a white image stand.
"This," thought he, "must surely be the statue of some sea god; I
will go near and see what kind of gods these barbarians worship."
But when he came near, it was no statue, but a maiden of flesh and
blood; for he could see her tresses streaming in the breeze; and as
he came closer still, he could see how she shrank and shivered when
the waves sprinkled her with cold salt spray. Her arms were spread
above her head, and fastened to the rock with chains of brass; and
her head drooped on her bosom, either with sleep, or weariness, or
grief. But now and then she looked up and wailed, and called her
mother; yet she did not see Perseus, for the cap of darkness was on
Full of pity and indignation, Perseus drew near and looked upon the
maid. And, lifting the hat from his head, he flashed into her sight.
She shrieked with terror, and tried to hide her face with her hair,
for she could not with her hands; but Perseus cried:
"Do not fear me, fair one; I am a Hellen, and no barbarian. What
cruel men have bound you? But first I will set you free."
And he tore at the fetters, but they were too strong for him; while
the maiden cried:
 "Touch me not; I am accursed, devoted as a victim to the sea gods.
They will slay you, if you dare to set me free."
"Let them try," said Perseus; and drawing Herpé from his thigh, he
cut through the brass as if it had been flax.
"Now," he said, "you belong to me, and not to these sea gods,
whosoever they may be!" But she only called the more on her mother.
"Why call on your mother? She can be no mother to have left you
And she answered, weeping:
"I am the daughter of Cepheus, King of Iopa, and my mother is
Cassiopœia of the beautiful tresses, and they called me Andromeda,
as long as life was mine. And I stand bound here, hapless that I am,
for the sea monster's food, to atone for my mother's sin. For she
boasted of me once that I was fairer than the Queen of the Fishes;
so she in her wrath sent the sea floods, and her brother the Fire
King sent the earthquakes, and wasted all the land, and after the
floods a monster bred of the slime who devours all living things.
And now he must devour me, guiltless though I am—me who never
harmed a living thing, nor saw a fish upon the shore but I gave it
life, and threw it back into the sea; for in our land we eat no
fish, for fear of their queen. Yet the priests say that nothing but
my blood can atone for a sin which I never committed."
But Perseus laughed, and said, "A sea monster? I have fought with
worse than him: I would have faced Immortals for your sake: how much
more a beast of the sea?"
Then Andromeda looked up at him, and new hope
 was kindled in her
breast, so proud and fair did he stand with one hand round her, and
in the other the glittering sword. But she only sighed, and wept the
more, and cried:
"Why will you die, young as you are? Is there not death and sorrow
enough in the world already? It is noble for me to die, that I may
save the lives of a whole people; but you, better than them all, why
should I slay you too? Go you your way; I must go mine." And then,
suddenly looking up, she pointed to the sea, and shrieked:
"There he comes, with the sunrise, as they promised. I must die now.
How shall I endure it? Oh, go! Is it not dreadful enough to be torn
piecemeal, without having you to look on?" And she tried to thrust
But he said: "I go; yet promise me one thing ere I go: that if I
slay this beast you will be my wife, and come back with me to my
kingdom in fruitful Argos. Promise me, and seal it with a kiss."
Then she lifted up her face, and kissed him; and Perseus laughed for
joy, and flew upward, while Andromeda crouched trembling on the
On came the great sea monster, coasting along like a huge black
galley. His great sides were fringed with clustering shells and
seaweeds, and the water gurgled in and out of his wide jaws.
At last he saw Andromeda, and shot forward to take his prey, while
the waves foamed white behind him, and before him the fish fled
Then down from the height of the air fell Perseus like a shooting
star; down to the crests of the waves, while Andromeda hid her face
as he shouted; and then there was silence for a while.
 At last she looked up trembling, and saw Perseus springing toward
her; and instead of the monster a long black rock, with the sea
rippling quietly round it.
Who then so proud as Perseus, as he leapt back to the rock, and
lifted his fair Andromeda in his arms, and flew with her to the
cliff top, as a falcon carries a dove?
Who so proud as Perseus, and who so joyful as all the Æthiop
people? For they had stood watching the monster from the cliffs,
wailing for the maiden's fate. And already a messenger had gone to
Cepheus and Cassiopœia, where they sat in sackcloth and ashes on
the ground, in the innermost palace chambers, awaiting their
daughter's end. And they came, and all the city with them, to see
the wonder, with songs and with dances, with cymbals and harps, and
received their daughter back again, as one alive from the dead.
Then Cepheus said, "Hero of the Hellens, stay here with me and be my
son-in-law, and I will give you the half of my kingdom."
"I will be your son-in-law," said Perseus, "but of your kingdom I
will have none, for I long after the pleasant land of Greece, and my
mother who waits for me at home."
Then Cepheus said, "You must not take my daughter away at once, for
she is to us like one alive from the dead. Stay with us here a year,
and after that you shall return with honour." And Perseus consented.
So they went up to the palace; and when they came in, there stood in
the hall Phineus, the brother of Cepheus, chafing like a bear robbed
of her whelps, and with him his sons, and his servants, and many an
armed man, and he cried to Cepheus:
"You shall not marry your daughter to this stranger
 of whom no one
knows even the name. Was not Andromeda betrothed to my son? And now
she is safe again, has he not a right to claim her?"
But Perseus laughed, and answered: "If your son is in want of a
bride, let him save a maiden for himself."
Then he unveiled the Gorgon's head, and said, "This has delivered my
bride from one wild beast; it shall deliver her from many." And as
he spoke Phineus and all his men-at-arms stopped short, and
stiffened each man as he stood; and before Perseus had drawn the
goat-skin over the face again, they were all turned into stone. Then
Perseus bade the people bring levers and roll them out.
So they made a great wedding feast, which lasted seven whole days,
and who so happy as Perseus and Andromeda?
And when a year was ended Perseus hired Phœnicians from Tyre, and
cut down cedars, and built himself a noble galley; and painted its
cheeks with vermilion and pitched its sides with pitch; and in it he
put Andromeda, and all her dowry of jewels, and rich shawls, and
spices from the East; and great was the weeping when they rowed
away. But the remembrance of his brave deed was left behind; and
Andromeda's rock was shown at Iopa in Palestine till more than a
thousand years were past.
So Perseus and the Phœnicians rowed to the westward, across the
sea, till they came to the pleasant Isles of Hellas, and Seriphos,
his ancient home.
Then he left his galley on the beach, and went up as of old; and he
embraced his mother, and Dictys his good foster-father, and they
wept over each other a long while, for it was seven years and more
since they had met.
 Then he went home to Argos, and reigned there well with fair
Andromeda. But the will of the gods was accomplished towards
Acrisius, his grandfather, for he died from the falling of a quoit
which Perseus had thrown in a game.
Perseus and Andromeda had four sons and three daughters, and died in
a good old age. And when they died, the ancients say, Athené took
them up into the sky, with Cepheus and Cassiopœia. And there on
starlight nights you may see them shining still; Cepheus with his
kingly crown, and Cassiopœia in her ivory chair, plaiting her
star-spangled tresses, and Perseus with the Gorgon's head, and
fair Andromeda beside him, spreading her long white arms across the
heavens, as she stood when chained to the stone for the monster. All
night long they shine, for a beacon to wandering sailors; but all
day they feast with the gods, on the still blue peaks of Olympus.
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