Hero Tales

Page: 15

"But there was one among all the immortals who had not been invited to the wedding; it was Eris, the daughter of War and Hate. Her scowling features, and her hot and hasty manners, were ill suited to grace a feast where all should be mirth and gladness; yet in her evil heart she planned to be avenged for the slight which had been put upon her. While the merry-making was at its height, and the company were listening to the music from Apollo's lyre, she came unseen into the hall, and threw a golden apple upon the table. No one knew whence the apple came; but on it were written these words, 'FOR THE FAIREST.'

"'To whom does it belong?' asked Zeus, stroking his brows in sad perplexity.

"The music ceased, and mirth and jollity fled at once from the banquet. The torches, which lit up the scene, flickered and smoked; the lustre of the gems in the vaulted roof was dimmed; dark clouds canopied the great hall: for Eris had taken her place at the table, uninvited and unwelcome though she was.

"'The apple belongs to me,' said Hera, trying to snatch it; 'for I am the queen, and gods and men honor me as having no peer on earth.'

"'Not so!' cried red-lipped Aphrodite. 'With me dwell Love and Joy; and not only do gods and men sing my praises, but all nature rejoices in my presence. The apple is mine, and I will have it!'

"Then Athena joined in the quarrel. 'What is it to be a queen,' said she, 'if at the same time one lacks that good temper which sweetens life? What is it to have a handsome form and face, while the mind is uncouth and ill-looking? Beauty of mind is better than beauty of face; for the former is immortal, while the latter fades and dies. Hence no one has a better right than I to be called the fairest.'

"Then the strife spread among the guests in the hall, each taking sides with the one he loved best; and, where peace and merriment had reigned, now hot words and bitter wrangling were heard. And had not Zeus bidden them keep silence, thus putting an end to the quarrel, all Pelion would have been rent, and the earth shaken to its centre in the mellay that would have followed.

"'Let us waste no words over this matter,' he said. 'It is not for the immortals to say who of their number is most beautiful. But on the slopes of Mount Ida, far across the sea, the fairest of the sons of men—Paris, a prince of Troy—keeps his flocks; let him judge who is fairest, and let the apple be hers to whom he gives it.'

"Then Hermes, the swift-footed messenger, arose, and led the three goddesses over sea and land to distant Mount Ida, where Paris, with no thought of the wonderful life which lay before him, piped on his shepherd's reeds, and tended his flock of sheep."