The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children
Page: 11‘And though he does not know who his father is, he is vain enough to let the old women call him the son of Zeus.’
And so forth, till poor Perseus grew mad with shame, and hardly knowing what he said, cried out,—‘A present! who are you who talk of presents? See if I do not bring a nobler one than all of yours together!’
So he said boasting; and yet he felt in his heart that he was braver than all those scoffers, and more able to do some glorious deed.
‘Hear him! Hear the boaster! What is it to be?’ cried they all, laughing louder than ever.
Then his dream at Samos came into his mind, and he cried aloud, ‘The head of the Gorgon.’
He was half afraid after he had said the words for all laughed louder than ever, and Polydectes loudest of all.
‘You have promised to bring me the Gorgon’s head? Then never appear again in this island without it. Go!’
Perseus ground his teeth with rage, for he saw that he had fallen into a trap; but his promise lay upon him, and he went out without a word.
Down to the cliffs he went, and looked across the broad blue sea; and he wondered if his dream were true, and prayed in the bitterness of his soul.
‘Pallas Athené, was my dream true? and shall I slay the Gorgon? If thou didst really show me her face, let me not come to shame as a liar and boastful. Rashly and angrily I promised; but cunningly and patiently will I perform.’
But there was no answer, nor sign; neither thunder nor any appearance; not even a cloud in the sky.
And three times Perseus called weeping, ‘Rashly and angrily I promised; but cunningly and patiently will I perform.’
Then he saw afar off above the sea a small white cloud, as bright as silver. And it came on, nearer and nearer, till its brightness dazzled his eyes.
Perseus wondered at that strange cloud, for there was no other cloud all round the sky; and he trembled as it touched the cliff below. And as it touched, it broke, and parted, and within it appeared Pallas Athené, as he had seen her at Samos in his dream, and beside her a young man more light-limbed than the stag, whose eyes were like sparks of fire. By his side was a scimitar of diamond, all of one clear precious stone, and on his feet were golden sandals, from the heels of which grew living wings.
They looked upon Perseus keenly, and yet they never moved their eyes; and they came up the cliffs towards him more swiftly than the sea-gull, and yet they never moved their feet, nor did the breeze stir the robes about their limbs; only the wings of the youth’s sandals quivered, like a hawk’s when he hangs above the cliff. And Perseus fell down and worshipped, for he knew that they were more than man.