The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 75

But Theseus walked on steadily, and made no answer; but he thought, ‘Is this some robber? and has an adventure come already to me?’ But the strange man laughed louder than ever, and said—

‘Bold fly, know you not that these glens are the web from which no fly ever finds his way out again, and this down the spider’s house, and I the spider who sucks the flies? Come hither, and let me feast upon you; for it is of no use to run away, so cunning a web has my father Hephaistos spread for me when he made these clefts in the mountains, through which no man finds his way home.’

But Theseus came on steadily, and asked—

‘And what is your name among men, bold spider? and where are your spider’s fangs?’

Then the strange man laughed again—

‘My name is Periphetes, the son of Hephaistos and Anticleia the mountain nymph. But men call me Corynetes the club-bearer; and here is my spider’s fang.’

And he lifted from off the stones at his side a mighty club of bronze.

‘This my father gave me, and forged it himself in the roots of the mountain; and with it I pound all proud flies till they give out their fatness and their sweetness. So give me up that gay sword of yours, and your mantle, and your golden sandals, lest I pound you, and by ill-luck you die.’

But Theseus wrapt his mantle round his left arm quickly, in hard folds, from his shoulder to his hand, and drew his sword, and rushed upon the club-bearer, and the club-bearer rushed on him.

Thrice he struck at Theseus, and made him bend under the blows like a sapling; but Theseus guarded his head with his left arm, and the mantle which was wrapt around it.

And thrice Theseus sprang upright after the blow, like a sapling when the storm is past; and he stabbed at the club-bearer with his sword, but the loose folds of the bearskin saved him.

Then Theseus grew mad, and closed with him, and caught him by the throat, and they fell and rolled over together; but when Theseus rose up from the ground the club-bearer lay still at his feet.

Then Theseus took his club and his bearskin, and left him to the kites and crows, and went upon his journey down the glens on the farther slope, till he came to a broad green valley, and saw flocks and herds sleeping beneath the trees.

And by the side of a pleasant fountain, under the shade of rocks and trees, were nymphs and shepherds dancing; but no one piped to them while they danced.

And when they saw Theseus they shrieked; and the shepherds ran off, and drove away their flocks, while the nymphs dived into the fountain like coots, and vanished.

Theseus wondered and laughed: ‘What strange fancies have folks here who run away from strangers, and have no music when they dance!’ But he was tired, and dusty, and thirsty; so he thought no more of them, but drank and bathed in the clear pool, and then lay down in the shade under a plane-tree, while the water sang him to sleep, as it tinkled down from stone to stone.

And when he woke he heard a whispering, and saw the nymphs peeping at him across the fountain from the dark mouth of a cave, where they sat on green cushions of moss. And one said, ‘Surely he is not Periphetes;’ and another, ‘He looks like no robber, but a fair and gentle youth.’

Then Theseus smiled, and called them, ‘Fair nymphs, I am not Periphetes. He sleeps among the kites and crows; but I have brought away his bearskin and his club.’

Then they leapt across the pool, and came to him, and called the shepherds back. And he told them how he had slain the club-bearer: and the shepherds kissed his feet and sang, ‘Now we shall feed our flocks in peace, and not be afraid to have music when we dance; for the cruel club-bearer has met his match, and he will listen for our pipes no more.’ Then they brought him kid’s flesh and wine, and the nymphs brought him honey from the rocks, and he ate, and drank, and slept again, while the nymphs and shepherds danced and sang. And when he woke, they begged him to stay; but he would not. ‘I have a great work to do,’ he said; ‘I must be away toward the Isthmus, that I may go to Athens.’