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Hero Tales

Page: 17

"But the nymphs who haunt the woods and groves, saw the babe, and pitied its helplessness, and cared for it so that it did not die. Some brought it yellow honey from the stores of the wild bees; some fed it with milk from the white goats that pastured on the mountain side; and others stood as sentinels around it, guarding it from the wolves and bears.

"Thus five days passed, and then the shepherd, who could not forget the babe, came cautiously to the spot to see if, mayhap, even its broidered cloak had been spared by the beasts. Sorrowful and shuddering he glanced toward the foot of the tree. To his surprise, the babe was still there; it looked up and smiled, and stretched its fat hands toward him. The shepherd's heart would not let him turn away the second time. He took the child in his arms, and carried it to his own humble home in the valley, where he cared for it and brought it up as his own son.

"The boy grew to be very tall and very handsome; and he was so brave, and so helpful to the shepherds around Mount Ida, that they called him Alexandros, or the helper of men; but his foster-father named him Paris. As he tended his sheep in the mountain dells, he met Oenone, the fairest of the river maidens, guileless and pure as the waters of the stream by whose banks she loved to wander. Day after day he sat with her in the shadow of her woodland home, and talked of innocence and beauty, and of a life of sweet contentment, and of love; and the maiden listened to him with wide-open eyes and a heart full of trustfulness and faith.

"By and by, Paris and Oenone were wedded; and their little cottage in the mountain glen was the fairest and happiest spot in Ilios. The days sped swiftly by, and neither of them dreamed that any sorrow was in store for them; and to Oenone her shepherd husband was all the world, because he was so noble and brave and handsome and gentle.

"One warm summer afternoon, Paris sat in the shade of a tree at the foot of Mount Ida, while his flocks were pasturing upon the hillside before him. The bees were humming lazily among the flowers; the cicadas were chirping among the leaves above his head; and now and then a bird twittered softly among the bushes behind him. All else was still, as if enjoying to the full the delicious calm of that pleasant day.

"Paris was fashioning a slender reed into a shepherd's flute; while Oenone, sitting in the deeper shadows of some clustering vines, was busy with some simple piece of needlework.

"A sound as of sweet music caused the young shepherd to raise his eyes. Before him stood the four immortals, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hermes the messenger; their faces shone with a dazzling radiance, and they were fairer than any tongue can describe. At their feet rare flowers sprang up, crocuses and asphodels and white lilies; and the air was filled with the odor of orange blossoms. Paris, scarce knowing what he did, arose to greet them. No handsomer youth ever stood in the presence of beauty. Straight as a mountain pine was he; a leopard-skin hung carelessly upon his shoulders; his head was bare, but his locks clustered round his temples in sunny curls, and formed fit framework for his fair brows.


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