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The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 37

Then Pelias lifted up his hands and eyes, and wept, or seemed to weep; and blessed the heavens which had brought his nephew to him, never to leave him more. ‘For,’ said he, ‘I have but three daughters, and no son to be my heir. You shall be my heir then, and rule the kingdom after me, and marry whichsoever of my daughters you shall choose; though a sad kingdom you will find it, and whosoever rules it a miserable man. But come in, come in, and feast.’

So he drew Jason in, whether he would or not, and spoke to him so lovingly and feasted him so well, that Jason’s anger passed; and after supper his three cousins came into the hall, and Jason thought that he should like well enough to have one of them for his wife.

But at last he said to Pelias, ‘Why do you look so sad, my uncle? And what did you mean just now when you said that this was a doleful kingdom, and its ruler a miserable man?’

Then Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again, like a man who had to tell some dreadful story, and was afraid to begin; but at last—

‘For seven long years and more have I never known a quiet night; and no more will he who comes after me, till the golden fleece be brought home.’

Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the golden fleece; and told him, too, which was a lie, that Phrixus’ spirit tormented him, calling to him day and night. And his daughters came, and told the same tale (for their father had taught them their parts), and wept, and said, ‘Oh who will bring home the golden fleece, that our uncle’s spirit may rest; and that we may have rest also, whom he never lets sleep in peace?’

Jason sat awhile, sad and silent; for he had often heard of that golden fleece; but he looked on it as a thing hopeless and impossible for any mortal man to win it.

But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk of other things, and courted Jason more and more, speaking to him as if he was certain to be his heir, and asking his advice about the kingdom; till Jason, who was young and simple, could not help saying to himself, ‘Surely he is not the dark man whom people call him. Yet why did he drive my father out?’ And he asked Pelias boldly, ‘Men say that you are terrible, and a man of blood; but I find you a kind and hospitable man; and as you are to me, so will I be to you. Yet why did you drive my father out?’

Pelias smiled, and sighed. ‘Men have slandered me in that, as in all things. Your father was growing old and weary, and he gave the kingdom up to me of his own will. You shall see him to-morrow, and ask him; and he will tell you the same.’

Jason’s heart leapt in him when he heard that he was to see his father; and he believed all that Pelias said, forgetting that his father might not dare to tell the truth.

‘One thing more there is,’ said Pelias, ‘on which I need your advice; for, though you are young, I see in you a wisdom beyond your years. There is one neighbour of mine, whom I dread more than all men on earth. I am stronger than he now, and can command him; but I know that if he stay among us, he will work my ruin in the end. Can you give me a plan, Jason, by which I can rid myself of that man?’

After awhile Jason answered, half laughing, ‘Were I you, I would send him to fetch that same golden fleece; for if he once set forth after it you would never be troubled with him more.’


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