The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 10

But his mother clung to him, shrieking, ‘Oh, my son, we are strangers and helpless in the land; and if you kill the king, all the people will fall on us, and we shall both die.’

Good Dictys, too, who had come in, entreated him. ‘Remember that he is my brother. Remember how I have brought you up, and trained you as my own son, and spare him for my sake.’

Then Perseus lowered his hand; and Polydectes, who had been trembling all this while like a coward, because he knew that he was in the wrong, let Perseus and his mother pass.

Perseus took his mother to the temple of Athené, and there the priestess made her one of the temple-sweepers; for there they knew she would be safe, and not even Polydectes would dare to drag her away from the altar. And there Perseus, and the good Dictys, and his wife, came to visit her every day; while Polydectes, not being able to get what he wanted by force, cast about in his wicked heart how he might get it by cunning.

Now he was sure that he could never get back Danae as long as Perseus was in the island; so he made a plot to rid himself of him. And first he pretended to have forgiven Perseus, and to have forgotten Danae; so that, for a while, all went as smoothly as ever.

Next he proclaimed a great feast, and invited to it all the chiefs, and landowners, and the young men of the island, and among them Perseus, that they might all do him homage as their king, and eat of his banquet in his hall.

On the appointed day they all came; and as the custom was then, each guest brought his present with him to the king: one a horse, another a shawl, or a ring, or a sword; and those who had nothing better brought a basket of grapes, or of game; but Perseus brought nothing, for he had nothing to bring, being but a poor sailor-lad.

He was ashamed, however, to go into the king’s presence without his gift; and he was too proud to ask Dictys to lend him one. So he stood at the door sorrowfully, watching the rich men go in; and his face grew very red as they pointed at him, and smiled, and whispered, ‘What has that foundling to give?’

Now this was what Polydectes wanted; and as soon as he heard that Perseus stood without, he bade them bring him in, and asked him scornfully before them all, ‘Am I not your king, Perseus, and have I not invited you to my feast? Where is your present, then?’

Perseus blushed and stammered, while all the proud men round laughed, and some of them began jeering him openly. ‘This fellow was thrown ashore here like a piece of weed or drift-wood, and yet he is too proud to bring a gift to the king.’