The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children
Page: 76But the shepherds said, ‘Will you go alone toward Athens? None travel that way now, except in armed troops.’
‘As for arms, I have enough, as you see. And as for troops, an honest man is good enough company for himself. Why should I not go alone toward Athens?’
‘If you do, you must look warily about you on the Isthmus, lest you meet Sinis the robber, whom men call Pituocamptes the pine-bender; for he bends down two pine-trees, and binds all travellers hand and foot between them, and when he lets the trees go again their bodies are torn in sunder.’
‘And after that,’ said another, ‘you must go inland, and not dare to pass over the cliffs of Sciron; for on the left hand are the mountains, and on the right the sea, so that you have no escape, but must needs meet Sciron the robber, who will make you wash his feet; and while you are washing them he will kick you over the cliff, to the tortoise who lives below, and feeds upon the bodies of the dead.’
And before Theseus could answer, another cried, ‘And after that is a worse danger still, unless you go inland always, and leave Eleusis far on your right. For in Eleusis rules Kerkuon the cruel king, the terror of all mortals, who killed his own daughter Alope in prison. But she was changed into a fair fountain; and her child he cast out upon the mountains, but the wild mares gave it milk. And now he challenges all comers to wrestle with him, for he is the best wrestler in all Attica, and overthrows all who come; and those whom he overthrows he murders miserably, and his palace-court is full of their bones.’
Then Theseus frowned, and said, ‘This seems indeed an ill-ruled land, and adventures enough in it to be tried. But if I am the heir of it, I will rule it and right it, and here is my royal sceptre.’
And he shook his club of bronze, while the nymphs and shepherds clung round him, and entreated him not to go.
But on he went nevertheless, till he could see both the seas and the citadel of Corinth towering high above all the land. And he past swiftly along the Isthmus, for his heart burned to meet that cruel Sinis; and in a pine-wood at last he met him, where the Isthmus was narrowest and the road ran between high rocks. There he sat upon a stone by the wayside, with a young fir-tree for a club across his knees, and a cord laid ready by his side; and over his head, upon the fir-tops, hung the bones of murdered men.
Then Theseus shouted to him, ‘Holla, thou valiant pine-bender, hast thou two fir-trees left for me?’
And Sinis leapt to his feet, and answered, pointing to the bones above his head, ‘My larder has grown empty lately, so I have two fir-trees ready for thee.’ And he rushed on Theseus, lifting his club, and Theseus rushed upon him.