The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 84

And old Ægeus looked on him, and loved him, as what fond heart would not have done? But he only sighed, and said—

‘It is little that I can give you, noble lad, and nothing that is worthy of you; for surely you are no mortal man, or at least no mortal’s son.’

‘All I ask,’ said Theseus, ‘is to eat and drink at your table.’

‘That I can give you,’ said Ægeus, ‘if at least I am master in my own hall.’

Then he bade them put a seat for Theseus, and set before him the best of the feast; and Theseus sat and ate so much, that all the company wondered at him: but always he kept his club by his side.

But Medeia the dark witch-woman had been watching him all the while. She saw how Ægeus turned red and pale when the lad said that he came from Troezene. She saw, too, how his heart was opened toward Theseus; and how Theseus bore himself before all the sons of Pallas, like a lion among a pack of curs. And she said to herself, ‘This youth will be master here; perhaps he is nearer to Ægeus already than mere fancy. At least the Pallantilds will have no chance by the side of such as he.’

Then she went back into her chamber modestly, while Theseus ate and drank; and all the servants whispered, ‘This, then, is the man who killed the monsters! How noble are his looks, and how huge his size! Ah, would that he were our master’s son!’

But presently Medeia came forth, decked in all her jewels, and her rich Eastern robes, and looking more beautiful than the day, so that all the guests could look at nothing else. And in her right hand she held a golden cup, and in her left a flask of gold; and she came up to Theseus, and spoke in a sweet, soft, winning voice—

‘Hail to the hero, the conqueror, the unconquered, the destroyer of all evil things! Drink, hero, of my charmed cup, which gives rest after every toil, which heals all wounds, and pours new life into the veins. Drink of my cup, for in it sparkles the wine of the East, and Nepenthe, the comfort of the Immortals.’

And as she spoke, she poured the flask into the cup; and the fragrance of the wine spread through the hall, like the scent of thyme and roses.

And Theseus looked up in her fair face and into her deep dark eyes. And as he looked, he shrank and shuddered; for they were dry like the eyes of a snake. And he rose, and said, ‘The wine is rich and fragrant, and the wine-bearer as fair as the Immortals; but let her pledge me first herself in the cup, that the wine may be the sweeter from her lips.’