The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 79

At last, when the sheep was eaten and the jar of wine drained dry, King Kerkuon rose, and cried, ‘Let us wrestle a fall before we sleep.’

So they tossed off all their garments, and went forth in the palace-yard; and Kerkuon bade strew fresh sand in an open space between the bones.

And there the heroes stood face to face, while their eyes glared like wild bulls’; and all the people crowded at the gates to see what would befall.

And there they stood and wrestled, till the stars shone out above their heads; up and down and round, till the sand was stamped hard beneath their feet. And their eyes flashed like stars in the darkness, and their breath went up like smoke in the night air; but neither took nor gave a footstep, and the people watched silent at the gates.

But at last Kerkuon grew angry, and caught Theseus round the neck, and shook him as a mastiff shakes a rat; but he could not shake him off his feet.

But Theseus was quick and wary, and clasped Kerkuon round the waist, and slipped his loin quickly underneath him, while he caught him by the wrist; and then he hove a mighty heave, a heave which would have stirred an oak, and lifted Kerkuon, and pitched him right over his shoulder on the ground.

Then he leapt on him, and called, ‘Yield, or I kill thee!’ but Kerkuon said no word; for his heart was burst within him with the fall, and the meat, and the wine.

Then Theseus opened the gates, and called in all the people; and they cried, ‘You have slain our evil king; be you now our king, and rule us well.’

‘I will be your king in Eleusis, and I will rule you right and well; for this cause I have slain all evil-doers—Sinis, and Sciron, and this man last of all.’

Then an aged man stepped forth, and said, ‘Young hero, hast thou slain Sinis? Beware then of Ægeus, king of Athens, to whom thou goest, for he is near of kin to Sinis.’

‘Then I have slain my own kinsman,’ said Theseus, ‘though well he deserved to die. Who will purge me from his death, for rightfully I slew him, unrighteous and accursed as he was?’

And the old man answered—

‘That will the heroes do, the sons of Phytalus, who dwell beneath the elm-tree in Aphidnai, by the bank of silver Cephisus; for they know the mysteries of the Gods. Thither you shall go and be purified, and after you shall be our king.’

So he took an oath of the people of Eleusis, that they would serve him as their king, and went away next morning across the Thriasian plain, and over the hills toward Aphidnai, that he might find the sons of Phytalus.