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Old Greek Stories

Page: 70

Medea had learned by her magic arts who Theseus was, and she was not at all pleased to have him in Athens; for she feared that when he should make himself known to the king, her own power would be at an end. So, while Theseus was resting himself in the guest chamber, she told AEgeus that the young stranger was no hero at all, but a man whom his nephews had hired to kill him, for they had grown tired of waiting for him to die. The poor old king was filled with fear, for he believed her words; and he asked her what he should do to save his life.

"Let me manage it," she said. "The young man will soon come down to dine with us. I will drop poison into a glass of wine, and at the end of the meal I will give it to him. Nothing can be easier."

So, when the hour came, Theseus sat down to dine with the king and Medea; and while he ate he told of his deeds and of how he had overcome the robber giants, and Cercyon the wrestler, and Procrustes the pitiless; and as the king listened, his heart yearned strangely towards the young man, and he longed to save him from Medea's poisoned cup. Then Theseus paused in his talk to help himself to a piece of the roasted meat, and, as was the custom of the time, drew his sword to carve it-for you must remember that all these things happened long ago, before people had learned to use knives and forks at the table. As the sword flashed from its scabbard, AEgeus saw the letters that were engraved upon it-the initials of his own name. He knew at once that it was the sword which he had hidden so many years before under the stone on the mountain side above Troezen.

"My son! my son!" he cried; and he sprang up and dashed the cup of poisoned wine from the table, and flung his arms around Theseus. It was indeed a glad meeting for both father and son, and they had many things to ask and to tell. As for the wicked Medea, she knew that her day of rule was past. She ran out of the palace, and whistled a loud, shrill call; and men say that a chariot drawn by dragons came rushing through the air, and that she leaped into it and was carried away, and no one ever saw her again.

The very next morning, AEgeus sent out his heralds, to make it known through all the city that Theseus was his son, and that he would in time be king in his stead. When the fifty nephews heard this, they were angry and alarmed.

"Shall this upstart cheat us out of our heritage?" they cried; and they made a plot to waylay and kill Theseus in a grove close by the city gate.

Right cunningly did the wicked fellows lay their trap to catch the young hero; and one morning, as he was passing that way alone, several of them fell suddenly upon him, with swords and lances, and tried to slay him outright. They were thirty to one, but he faced them boldly and held them at bay, while he shouted for help. The men of Athens, who had borne so many wrongs from the hands of the nephews, came running out from the streets; and in the fight which followed, every one of the plotters, who had lain in ambush was slain; and the other nephews, when they heard about it, fled from the city in haste and never came back again.


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