A Book of Myths

Page: 62

Black grew the brow of the son of Danaë when she told him what cruel things she had suffered in his absence from the hands of Polydectes the king. Straight to the palace Perseus strode, and there found the king and his friends at their revels. For seven years had Perseus been away, and now it was no longer a stripling who stood in the palace hall, but a man in stature and bearing like one of the gods. Polydectes alone knew him, and from his wine he looked up with mocking gaze.

“So thou hast returned? oh nameless son of a deathless god,” he said. “Thou didst boast, but methinks thy boast was an empty one!”

But even as he spoke, the jeering smile froze on his face, and the faces of those who sat with him stiffened in horror.

“O king,” Perseus said, “I swore that, the gods helping me, thou shouldst have the head of Medusa. The gods have helped me. Behold the Gorgon’s head.”

Wild horror in their eyes, Polydectes and his friends gazed on the unspeakable thing, and as they gazed they turned into stone—a ring of grey stones that still sit on a hillside of Seriphos.

With his wife and his mother, Perseus then sailed away, for he had a great longing to take Danaë back to the land of her birth and to see if her father, Acrisius, [Pg 122] still lived and might not now repent of his cruelty to her and to his grandson. But there he found that the sins of Acrisius had been punished and that he had been driven from his throne and his own land by a usurper. Not for long did the sword of Perseus dwell in its scabbard, and speedily was the usurper cast forth, and all the men of Argos acclaimed Perseus as their glorious king. But Perseus would not be their king.

“I go to seek Acrisius,” he said. “My mother’s father is your king.”

Again his galley sailed away, and at last, up the long Eubœan Sea they came to the town of Larissa, where the old king now dwelt.

A feast and sports were going on when they got there, and beside the king of the land sat Acrisius, an aged man, yet a kingly one indeed.

And Perseus thought, “If I, a stranger, take part in the sports and carry away prizes from the men of Larissa, surely the heart of Acrisius must soften towards me.”

Thus did he take off his helmet and cuirass, and stood unclothed beside the youths of Larissa, and so godlike was he that they all said, amazed, “Surely this stranger comes from Olympus and is one of the Immortals.”

In his hand he took a discus, and full five fathoms beyond those of the others he cast it, and a great shout arose from those who watched, and Acrisius cried out as loudly as all the rest.