The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 78

This at least is true, which Pausanias tells, that in the royal porch at Athens he saw the figure of Theseus modelled in clay, and by him Sciron the robber falling headlong into the sea.

Then he went a long day’s journey, past Megara, into the Attic land, and high before him rose the snow-peaks of Cithæron, all cold above the black pine-woods, where haunt the Furies, and the raving Bacchæ, and the Nymphs who drive men wild, far aloft upon the dreary mountains, where the storms howl all day long. And on his right hand was the sea always, and Salamis, with its island cliffs, and the sacred strait of the sea-fight, where afterwards the Persians fled before the Greeks. So he went all day until the evening, till he saw the Thriasian plain, and the sacred city of Eleusis, where the Earth-mother’s temple stands. For there she met Triptolemus, when all the land lay waste, Demeter the kind Earth-mother, and in her hands a sheaf of corn. And she taught him to plough the fallows, and to yoke the lazy kine; and she taught him to sow the seed-fields, and to reap the golden grain; and sent him forth to teach all nations, and give corn to labouring men. So at Eleusis all men honour her, whosoever tills the land; her and Triptolemus her beloved, who gave corn to labouring men.

And he went along the plain into Eleusis, and stood in the market-place, and cried—

‘Where is Kerkuon, the king of the city? I must wrestle a fall with him to-day.’

Then all the people crowded round him, and cried, ‘Fair youth, why will you die? Hasten out of the city, before the cruel king hears that a stranger is here.’

But Theseus went up through the town, while the people wept and prayed, and through the gates of the palace-yard, and through the piles of bones and skulls, till he came to the door of Kerkuon’s hall, the terror of all mortal men.

And there he saw Kerkuon sitting at the table in the hall alone; and before him was a whole sheep roasted, and beside him a whole jar of wine. And Theseus stood and called him, ‘Holla, thou valiant wrestler, wilt thou wrestle a fall to-day?’

And Kerkuon looked up and laughed, and answered, ‘I will wrestle a fall to-day; but come in, for I am lonely and thou weary, and eat and drink before thou die.’

Then Theseus went up boldly, and sat down before Kerkuon at the board; and he ate his fill of the sheep’s flesh, and drank his fill of the wine; and Theseus ate enough for three men, but Kerkuon ate enough for seven.

But neither spoke a word to the other, though they looked across the table by stealth; and each said in his heart, ‘He has broad shoulders; but I trust mine are as broad as his.’