The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 38

And at that a bitter smile came across Pelias’ lips, and a flash of wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it, and started; and over his mind came the warning of the old man, and his own one sandal, and the oracle, and he saw that he was taken in a trap.

But Pelias only answered gently, ‘My son, he shall be sent forthwith.’

‘You mean me?’ cried Jason, starting up, ‘because I came here with one sandal?’ And he lifted his fist angrily, while Pelias stood up to him like a wolf at bay; and whether of the two was the stronger and the fiercer it would be hard to tell.

But after a moment Pelias spoke gently, ‘Why then so rash, my son? You, and not I, have said what is said; why blame me for what I have not done? Had you bid me love the man of whom I spoke, and make him my son-in-law and heir, I would have obeyed you; and what if I obey you now, and send the man to win himself immortal fame? I have not harmed you, or him. One thing at least I know, that he will go, and that gladly; for he has a hero’s heart within him, loving glory, and scorning to break the word which he has given.’

Jason saw that he was entrapped; but his second promise to Cheiron came into his mind, and he thought, ‘What if the Centaur were a prophet in that also, and meant that I should win the fleece!’ Then he cried aloud—

‘You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I love glory, and I dare keep to my word. I will go and fetch this golden fleece. Promise me but this in return, and keep your word as I keep mine. Treat my father lovingly while I am gone, for the sake of the all-seeing Zeus; and give me up the kingdom for my own on the day that I bring back the golden fleece.’

Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in the midst of all his hate; and said, ‘I promise, and I will perform. It will be no shame to give up my kingdom to the man who wins that fleece.’ Then they swore a great oath between them; and afterwards both went in, and lay down to sleep.

But Jason could not sleep for thinking of his mighty oath, and how he was to fulfil it, all alone, and without wealth or friends. So he tossed a long time upon his bed, and thought of this plan and of that; and sometimes Phrixus seemed to call him, in a thin voice, faint and low, as if it came from far across the sea, ‘Let me come home to my fathers and have rest.’ And sometimes he seemed to see the eyes of Hera, and to hear her words again—‘Call on me in the hour of need, and see if the Immortals can forget.’