Hero Tales

Page: 23

"Then the heralds led my fair sister to the shore, and chained her to the rock, there to wait for the coming of the monster. But Hercules stood near her, fearless in his strength. Soon the waves began to rise; the waters were disturbed, and the beast, with hoarse bellowings, lifted his head above the breakers, and rushed forward to seize his prey. Then the hero sprang to meet him. With blow upon blow from his mighty club, he felled the monster; the waters of the sea were reddened with blood; Hesione was saved, and Troy was freed from the dreadful curse.

"'Behold thy daughter!' said Hercules, leading her gently back to the city, and giving her to her father. 'I have saved her from the jaws of death, and delivered your country from the dread scourge. Give me now my hire.'

"Shame fills my heart as I tell this story, for thanklessness was the bane of my father's life. Ungrateful to the hero who had risked so much and done so much that our homes and our country might be saved from ruin, he turned coldly away from Hercules; then he shut the great gates in his face, and barred him out of the city, and taunted him from the walls, saying, 'I owe thee no hire! Begone from our coasts, ere I scourge thee hence!'

"Full of wrath, the hero turned away. 'I go, but I will come again,' he said.

"Then peace and plenty blessed once more the city of Troy, and men forgot the perils from which they had been delivered. But ere long, great Hercules returned, as he had promised; and with him came a fleet of white-sailed ships and many warriors. Neither gates nor strong walls could stand against him. Into the city he marched, and straight to my father's palace. All fled before him, and the strongest warriors quailed beneath his glance. Here, in this very court, he slew my father and my brothers with his terrible arrows. I myself would have fallen before his wrath, had not my sister, fair Hesione, pleaded for my life.

"'I spare his life,' said Hercules, in answer to her prayers, 'for he is but a lad. Yet he must be my slave until you have paid a price for him, and thus redeemed him.'

"Then Hesione took the golden veil from her head, and gave it to the hero as my purchase price. And thenceforward I was called Priam, or the purchased; for the name which my mother gave me was Podarkes, or the fleet-footed.

"After this Hercules and his heroes went on board their ships and sailed back across the sea, leaving me alone in my father's halls. For they took fair Hesione with them, and carried her to Salamis, to be the wife of Telamon, the father of mighty Ajax. There, through these long years she has lived in sorrow, far removed from home and friends and the scenes of her happy childhood. And now that the hero Telamon, to whom she was wedded, lives no longer, I ween that her life is indeed a cheerless one."