Old Greek Stories
Page: 39Perseus stood a little way off and taunted them; and they moaned and mumbled and shrieked, as they found that their words did not move him.
"Sisters, we must tell him," at last said one.
"Ah, yes, we must tell him," said the others. "We must part with the secret to save our eye."
And then they told him how he should go to reach the Western Land, and what road he should follow to find the Maidens who kept the golden apples. When they had made everything plain to him Perseus gave them back their eye and their tooth.
"Ha! ha!" they laughed; "now the golden days of youth have come again!" And, from that day to this, no man has ever seen the three Gray Sisters, nor does any one know what became of them. But the winds still whistle through their cheerless cave, and the cold waves murmur on the shore of the wintry sea, and the ice mountains topple and crash, and no sound of living creature is heard in all that desolate land.
IV. THE WESTERN MAIDENS.
As for Perseus, he leaped again into the air, and the Magic Slippers bore him southward with the speed of the wind. Very soon he left the frozen sea behind him and came to a sunny land, where there were green forests and flowery meadows and hills and valleys, and at last a pleasant garden where were all kinds of blossoms and fruits. He knew that this was the famous Western Land, for the Gray Sisters had told him what he should see there. So he alighted and walked among the trees until he came to the center of the garden. There he saw the three Maidens of the West dancing around a tree which was full of golden apples, and singing as they danced. For the wonderful tree with its precious fruit belonged to Juno, the queen of earth and sky; it had been given to her as a wedding gift, and it was the duty of the Maidens to care for it and see that no one touched the golden apples.
Perseus stopped and listened to their song: "We sing of the old, we sing of the
Our joys are many, our sorrows are few;
All hearts entrancing,
We wait to welcome the good and the true.
The daylight is waning, the evening is here,
The sun will soon set, the stars will appear.
All hearts entrancing,
We wait for the dawn of a glad new year.
The tree shall wither, the apples shall fall,
Sorrow shall come, and death shall call,
All hearts deceiving,-
But hope shall abide to comfort us all.
Soon the tale shall be told, the song shall be sung,
The bow shall be broken, the harp unstrung,
All hearts deceiving,
Till every joy to the winds shall be flung.
But a new tree shall spring from the roots of the old,
And many a blossom its leaves shall unfold,
With joy maddening,-
For its boughs shall be laden with apples of gold."
PERSEUS STOPPED AND LISTENED TO THEIR SONG.
Then Perseus went forward and spoke to the Maidens. They stopped singing, and stood still as if in alarm. But when they saw the Magic Slippers on his feet, they ran to him, and welcomed him to the Western Land and to their garden.
"We knew that you were coming," they said, "for the winds told us. But why do you come?"
Perseus told them of all that had happened to him since he was a child, and of his quest of Medusa's head; and he said that he had come to ask them to give him three things to help him in his fight with the Gorgons.
The Maidens answered that they would give him not three things, but four. Then one of them gave him a sharp sword, which was crooked like a sickle, and which she fastened to the belt at his waist; and another gave him a shield, which was brighter than any looking-glass you ever saw; and the third gave him a magic pouch, which she hung by a long strap over his shoulder.
"These are three things which you must have in order to obtain Medusa's head; and now here is a fourth, for without it your quest must be in vain." And they gave him a magic cap, the Cap of Darkness; and when they had put it upon his head, there was no creature on the earth or in the sky-no, not even the Maidens themselves-that could see him.
When at last he was arrayed to their liking, they told him where he would find the Gorgons, and what he should do to obtain the terrible head and escape alive. Then they kissed him and wished him good luck, and bade him hasten to do the dangerous deed. And Perseus donned the Cap of Darkness, and sped away and away towards the farthermost edge of the earth; and the three Maidens went back to their tree to sing and to dance and to guard the golden apples until the old world should become young again.