Hero Tales

Page: 16

[1]Cheiron the Centaur lived in a cavern on Mount Pelion and was reputed to be the wisest of mortals. All the young heroes of the time, Jason, Achilles, and others, were his pupils and spent their boyhood with him. He is sometimes represented as having the head of a man and the body of a horse; but it is probable that he was only one of a race of men noted for their skill in horsemanship. This story is supposed to have been related by him to young Odysseus (Ulysses), who visited him in his cavern.



"On the other side of the sea there stands a city, rich and mighty, the like of which there is none in Greece. The name of this city is Troy, although its inhabitants call it Ilios. There an old man, named Priam, rules over a happy and peace-loving people. He dwells in a great palace of polished marble, on a hill overlooking the plain; and his granaries are stored with corn, and his flocks and herds are pastured on the hills and mountain slopes behind the city.

"Many sons has King Priam; and they are brave and noble youths, well worthy of such a father. The eldest of these sons is Hector, who, the Trojans hope, will live to bring great honor to his native land.

"Just before the second son was born, a strange thing troubled the family of old Priam. The queen dreamed that her babe had turned into a firebrand, which burned up the walls and the high towers of Troy, and left but smouldering ashes where once the proud city stood. She told the king her dream; and when the child was born, they called a soothsayer, who could foresee the mysteries of the future, and they asked him what the vision meant.

"'It means,' said he, 'that this babe, if he lives, shall be a firebrand in Troy, and shall turn its walls and its high towers into heaps of smouldering ashes.'

"'But what shall be done with the child, that he may not do this terrible thing?' asked Priam, greatly sorrowing, for the babe was very beautiful.

"'Do not suffer that he shall live,' answered the soothsayer.

"Priam, the gentlest and most kind-hearted of men, could not bear to harm the babe. So he called his master shepherd, and bade him take the helpless child into the thick woods, which grow high up on the slopes of Mount Ida, behind the city, and there to leave him alone. The wild beasts that roam among those woods, he thought, would doubtless find him, or, in any case, he could not live long without care and nourishment; and thus the dangerous brand would be quenched while yet it was scarcely a spark.

"The shepherd did as he was bidden, although it cost his heart many a sharp pang thus to deal barbarously with the innocent. He laid the smiling infant, wrapped in its broidered tunic, close by the foot of an oak, and then hurried away that he might not hear its cries.