The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 21

Then Perseus went to the eastward, along the Red Sea shore; and then, because he was afraid to go into the Arabian deserts, he turned northward once more, and this time no storm hindered him.

He went past the Isthmus, and Mount Casius, and the vast Serbonian bog, and up the shore of Palestine, where the dark-faced Æthiops dwelt.

He flew on past pleasant hills and valleys, like Argos itself, or Lacedæmon, or the fair Vale of Tempe. But the lowlands were all drowned by floods, and the highlands blasted by fire, and the hills heaved like a babbling cauldron, before the wrath of King Poseidon, the shaker of the earth.

And Perseus feared to go inland, but flew along the shore above the sea; and he went on all the day, and the sky was black with smoke; and he went on all the night, and the sky was red with flame.

And at the dawn of day he looked toward the cliffs; and at the water’s edge, under a black rock, he saw a white image stand.

‘This,’ thought he, ‘must surely be the statue of some sea-God; I will go near and see what kind of Gods these barbarians worship.’

So he came near; but when he came, it was no statue, but a maiden of flesh and blood; for he could see her tresses streaming in the breeze; and as he came closer still, he could see how she shrank and shivered when the waves sprinkled her with cold salt spray. Her arms were spread above her head, and fastened to the rock with chains of brass; and her head drooped on her bosom, either with sleep, or weariness, or grief. But now and then she looked up and wailed, and called her mother; yet she did not see Perseus, for the cap of darkness was on his head.

Perseus and the maid

Full of pity and indignation, Perseus drew near and looked upon the maid. Her cheeks were darker than his were, and her hair was blue-black like a hyacinth; but Perseus thought, ‘I have never seen so beautiful a maiden; no, not in all our isles. Surely she is a king’s daughter. Do barbarians treat their kings’ daughters thus? She is too fair, at least, to have done any wrong I will speak to her.’

And, lifting the hat from his head, he flashed into her sight. She shrieked with terror, and tried to hide her face with her hair, for she could not with her hands; but Perseus cried—

‘Do not fear me, fair one; I am a Hellen, and no barbarian. What cruel men have bound you? But first I will set you free.’

And he tore at the fetters, but they were too strong for him; while the maiden cried—

‘Touch me not; I am accursed, devoted as a victim to the sea-Gods. They will slay you, if you dare to set me free.’