Old Greek Stories

Page: 66

"This is a lonely place," he said, "and it is not often that travelers pass this way. But there is nothing that gives me so much joy as to find strangers and feast them at my table and hear them tell of the things they have seen and heard. Come up, and sup with me, and lodge under my roof; and you shall sleep on a wonderful bed which I have-a bed which fits every guest and cures him of every ill."

Theseus was pleased with the man's ways, and as he was both hungry and tired, he went up with him and sat down under the vines by the door; and the man said:

"Now I will go in and make the bed ready for you, and you can lie down upon it and rest; and later, when you feel refreshed, you shall sit at my table and sup with me, and I will listen to the pleasant tales which I know you will tell."

When he had gone into the house, Theseus looked around him to see what sort of a place it was. He was filled with surprise at the richness of it-at the gold and silver and beautiful things with which every room seemed to be adorned-for it was indeed a place fit for a prince. While he was looking and wondering, the vines before him were parted and the fair face of a young girl peeped out.

"Noble stranger," she whispered, "do not lie down on my master's bed, for those who do so never rise again. Fly down the glen and hide yourself in the deep woods ere he returns, or else there will be no escape for you."

"Who is your master, fair maiden, that I should be afraid of him?" asked Theseus.

"Men call him Procrustes, or the Stretcher," said the girl-and she talked low and fast. "He is a robber. He brings hither all the strangers that he finds traveling through the mountains. He puts them on his iron bed. He robs them of all they have. No one who comes into his house ever goes out again."

"Why do they call him the Stretcher? And what is that iron bed of his?" asked Theseus, in no wise alarmed.

"Did he not tell you that it fits all guests?" said the girl; "and most truly it does fit them. For if a traveler is too long, Procrustes hews off his legs until he is of the right length; but if he is too short, as is the case with most guests, then he stretches his limbs and body with ropes until he is long enough. It is for this reason that men call him the Stretcher."

"Methinks that I have heard of this Stretcher before," said Theseus; and then he remembered that some one at Eleusis had warned him to beware of the wily robber, Procrustes, who lurked in the glens of the Parnes peaks and lured travelers into his den.