| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
I. DIANA AND ACTÆON
 LIKE the Sun-god, whom men dreaded as the divine archer
and loved as the divine singer, Diana, his sister, had two
natures, as different as day from night.
On earth she delighted in the wild life of the chase,
keeping holiday among the dryads, and hunting with all those
nymphs that loved the boyish pastime. She and her maidens
shunned the fellowship of men and would not hear of
marriage, for they disdained all household arts; and there
are countless tales of their cruelty to suitors.
Syrinx and Atalanta were of their company, and Arethusa, who
was changed into a fountain and ever pursued by Alpheus the
river-god, till at last the two were united. There was
Daphne, too, who disdained the love of Apollo himself, and
would never listen to a word of his suit, but fled like
Syrinx, and prayed like Syrinx for escape; but Daphne was
changed into a fair laurel-tree, held sacred by Apollo forever after.
All these maidens were as untamed and free of heart as the
wild creatures they loved to hunt, and whoever molested them
did so at his peril. None dared trespass in the home of
Diana and her nymphs, not even the riotous fauns and satyrs
who were heedless enough to go a-swimming in the river
Styx, if they had cared to venture near such a dismal place.
But the maiden goddess laid a spell upon their unruly
 wits, even as the moon controls the tides of the sea. Her
precincts were holy. There was one man, however, whose
ill-timed curiosity brought heavy punishment upon him. This
was Actæon, a grandson of the great king Cadmus.
Wearied with hunting, one noon, he left his comrades and
idled through the forest perhaps to spy upon those woodland
deities of whom he had heard. Chance brought him to the very
grove where Diana and her nymphs were wont to bathe. He
followed the bright thread of the brook, never turning
aside, though mortal reverence should have warned him that
the place was for gods. The air was wondrous clear and
sweet; a throng of fair trees drooped their branches in the
way, and from a sheltered grotto beyond fell a mingled sound
of laughter and running waters. But Actæon would not turn
back. Roughly pushing aside the laurel branches that
hid the entrance of the cave, he looked in, startling Diana
and her maidens. In an instant a splash of water shut his
eyes, and the goddess, reading his churlish thought, said:
"Go now, if thou wilt, and boast of this intrusion."
He turned to go, but a stupid bewilderment had fallen upon
him. He looked back to speak, and could not. He put his hand
to his head, and felt antlers branching above his forehead.
Down he fell on hands and feet; these likewise changed. The
poor offender! Crouching by the brook that he had followed,
he looked in, and saw nothing but the image of a stag,
bending to drink, as only that morning he had seen the
creature they had come out to kill. With an impulse of
terror he fled away, faster than he had ever run before,
crashing through bush and
 bracken, the noise of his own
flight ever after him like an enemy.
Suddenly he heard the blast of a horn close by, then the
baying of hounds. His comrades, who had rested and were
ready for the chase, made after him. This time he was their
prey. He tried to call and could not. His antlers caught in
the branches, his breath came with pain, and the dogs were
upon him,—his own dogs!
With all the eagerness that he had often
praised in them, they fell upon him, knowing not their own
master. And so he perished, hunter and hunted.
Only the goddess of the chase could have devised so terrible
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