Hero Tales

Page: 22

"Then little by little, the flood shrank back again; and the people went out of the city to see the waste of slime and black mud which covered their meadows. While they were gazing upon the scene, a fearful monster, sent by angry Poseidon, came up out of the sea, and fell upon them, and drove them with hideous slaughter back to the city gates; neither would he allow any one to come outside of the walls.

"Then my father, in his great distress, clad himself in mourning, and went in deep humility to the temple of Athena. In much distress, he called unto the goddess, and besought to know the means whereby the anger of Poseidon might be assuaged. And in solemn tones a voice replied, saying:

"'Every day one of the maidens of Troy must be fed to the monster outside of the walls. The shaker of the earth has spoken. Disobey him not, lest more cruel punishments befall thee.'

"Then in every house of Troy there was sore dismay and lamentation, for no one knew upon whom the doom would soonest fall. And every day a hapless maiden, young and fair, was chained to the great rock by the shore, and left there to be the food of the pitiless monster. And the people cried aloud in their distress, and cursed the mighty walls and the high towers which had been reared by the unpaid labors of Poseidon; and my father sat upon his high seat, and trembled because of the calamities which his own deeds had brought upon his people.

"At last, after many humbler victims had perished, the lot fell upon the fairest of my sisters, Hesione, my father's best-loved daughter. In sorrow we arrayed her in garments befitting one doomed to an untimely death; and when we had bidden her a last farewell, we gave her to the heralds and the priests to lead forth to the place of sacrifice.

"Just then, however, a noble stranger, taller and more stately than any man in Troy, came down the street. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, handsome and strong, he seemed a very god to all who looked upon him. Over his shoulder he wore the tawny skin of a lion, while in his hand he carried a club most wonderful to behold. And the people, as he passed, prayed him that he would free our city from the monster that was robbing us of our loved ones.

"'I know that thou art a god!' cried my father, when he saw the stranger. 'I pray thee, save my daughter, who even now is being led forth to a cruel death!'

"'You make mistake,' answered the fair stranger. 'I am not one of the gods. My name is Hercules, and like you I am mortal. Yet I may help you in this your time of need.'

"Now, in my father's stables there were twelve fair steeds, the best that the earth ever knew. So light of foot were they, that when they bounded over the land, they might run upon the topmost ears of ripened corn, and break them not; and when they bounded over the sea, not even Poseidon's steeds could glide so lightly upon the crests of the waves. Some say they were the steeds of North Wind given to my grandfather by the powers above. These steeds, my father promised to give to Hercules if he would save Hesione.