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The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 14

And seven days he walked through it, on a path which few can tell; for those who have trodden it like least to speak of it, and those who go there again in dreams are glad enough when they awake; till he came to the edge of the everlasting night, where the air was full of feathers, and the soil was hard with ice; and there at last he found the three Gray Sisters, by the shore of the freezing sea, nodding upon a white log of drift-wood, beneath the cold white winter moon; and they chaunted a low song together, ‘Why the old times were better than the new.’

There was no living thing around them, not a fly, not a moss upon the rocks. Neither seal nor sea-gull dare come near, lest the ice should clutch them in its claws. The surge broke up in foam, but it fell again in flakes of snow; and it frosted the hair of the three Gray Sisters, and the bones in the ice-cliff above their heads. They passed the eye from one to the other, but for all that they could not see; and they passed the tooth from one to the other, but for all that they could not eat; and they sat in the full glare of the moon, but they were none the warmer for her beams. And Perseus pitied the three Gray Sisters; but they did not pity themselves.

So he said, ‘Oh, venerable mothers, wisdom is the daughter of old age. You therefore should know many things. Tell me, if you can, the path to the Gorgon.’

Then one cried, ‘Who is this who reproaches us with old age?’ And another, ‘This is the voice of one of the children of men.’

And he, ‘I do not reproach, but honour your old age, and I am one of the sons of men and of the heroes. The rulers of Olympus have sent me to you to ask the way to the Gorgon.’

Then one, ‘There are new rulers in Olympus, and all new things are bad.’ And another, ‘We hate your rulers, and the heroes, and all the children of men. We are the kindred of the Titans, and the Giants, and the Gorgons, and the ancient monsters of the deep.’ And another, ‘Who is this rash and insolent man who pushes unbidden into our world?’ And the first, ‘There never was such a world as ours, nor will be; if we let him see it, he will spoil it all.’

Then one cried, ‘Give me the eye, that I may see him;’ and another, ‘Give me the tooth, that I may bite him.’ But Perseus, when he saw that they were foolish and proud, and did not love the children of men, left off pitying them, and said to himself, ‘Hungry men must needs be hasty; if I stay making many words here, I shall be starved.’ Then he stepped close to them, and watched till they passed the eye from hand to hand. And as they groped about between themselves, he held out his own hand gently, till one of them put the eye into it, fancying that it was the hand of her sister. Then he sprang back, and laughed, and cried—


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