The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 82

But Theseus laid his hand upon the old man’s month, and said, ‘There is no need to flee;’ and he turned to go down the pass.

‘Do not tell him that I have warned you, or he will kill me by some evil death;’ and the old man screamed after him down the glen; but Theseus strode on in his wrath.

And he said to himself, ‘This is an ill-ruled land; when shall I have done ridding it of monsters?’ And as he spoke, Procrustes came up the hill, and all the merchants with him, smiling and talking gaily. And when he saw Theseus, he cried, ‘Ah, fair young guest, have I kept you too long waiting?’

But Theseus answered, ‘The man who stretches his guests upon a bed and hews off their hands and feet, what shall be done to him, when right is done throughout the land?’

Then Procrustes’ countenance changed, and his cheeks grew as green as a lizard, and he felt for his sword in haste; but Theseus leapt on him, and cried—

‘Is this true, my host, or is it false?’ and he clasped Procrustes round waist and elbow, so that he could not draw his sword.

‘Is this true, my host, or is it false?’ But Procrustes answered never a word.

Then Theseus flung him from him, and lifted up his dreadful club; and before Procrustes could strike him he had struck, and felled him to the ground.

And once again he struck him; and his evil soul fled forth, and went down to Hades squeaking, like a bat into the darkness of a cave.

Then Theseus stript him of his gold ornaments, and went up to his house, and found there great wealth and treasure, which he had stolen from the passers-by. And he called the people of the country, whom Procrustes had spoiled a long time, and parted the spoil among them, and went down the mountains, and away.

And he went down the glens of Parnes, through mist, and cloud, and rain, down the slopes of oak, and lentisk, and arbutus, and fragrant bay, till he came to the Vale of Cephisus, and the pleasant town of Aphidnai, and the home of the Phytalid heroes, where they dwelt beneath a mighty elm.

And there they built an altar, and bade him bathe in Cephisus, and offer a yearling ram, and purified him from the blood of Sinis, and sent him away in peace.

And he went down the valley by Acharnai, and by the silver-swirling stream, while all the people blessed him, for the fame of his prowess had spread wide, till he saw the plain of Athens, and the hill where Athené dwells.

So Theseus went up through Athens, and all the people ran out to see him; for his fame had gone before him and every one knew of his mighty deeds. And all cried, ‘Here comes the hero who slew Sinis, and Phaia the wild sow of Crommyon, and conquered Kerkuon in wrestling, and slew Procrustes the pitiless.’ But Theseus went on sadly and steadfastly, for his heart yearned after his father; and he said, ‘How shall I deliver him from these leeches who suck his blood?’