The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 83

So he went up the holy stairs, and into the Acropolis, where Ægeus’ palace stood; and he went straight into Ægeus’ hall, and stood upon the threshold, and looked round.

And there he saw his cousins sitting about the table at the wine: many a son of Pallas, but no Ægeus among them. There they sat and feasted, and laughed, and passed the wine-cup round; while harpers harped, and slave-girls sang, and the tumblers showed their tricks.

Loud laughed the sons of Pallas, and fast went the wine-cup round; but Theseus frowned, and said under his breath, ‘No wonder that the land is full of robbers, while such as these bear rule.’

Then the Pallantids saw him, and called to him, half-drunk with wine, ‘Holla, tall stranger at the door, what is your will to-day?’

‘I come hither to ask for hospitality.’

‘Then take it, and welcome. You look like a hero and a bold warrior; and we like such to drink with us.’

‘I ask no hospitality of you; I ask it of Ægeus the king, the master of this house.’

At that some growled, and some laughed, and shouted, ‘Heyday! we are all masters here.’

‘Then I am master as much as the rest of you,’ said Theseus, and he strode past the table up the hall, and looked around for Ægeus; but he was nowhere to be seen.

The Pallantids looked at him, and then at each other, and each whispered to the man next him, ‘This is a forward fellow; he ought to be thrust out at the door.’ But each man’s neighbour whispered in return, ‘His shoulders are broad; will you rise and put him out?’ So they all sat still where they were.

Then Theseus called to the servants, and said, ‘Go tell King Ægeus, your master, that Theseus of Troezene is here, and asks to be his guest awhile.’

A servant ran and told Ægeus, where he sat in his chamber within, by Medeia the dark witch-woman, watching her eye and hand. And when Ægeus heard of Troezene he turned pale and red again, and rose from his seat trembling, while Medeia watched him like a snake.

‘What is Troezene to you?’ she asked. But he said hastily, ‘Do you not know who this Theseus is? The hero who has cleared the country from all monsters; but that he came from Troezene, I never heard before. I must go out and welcome him.’

So Ægeus came out into the hall; and when Theseus saw him, his heart leapt into his mouth, and he longed to fall on his neck and welcome him; but he controlled himself, and said, ‘My father may not wish for me, after all. I will try him before I discover myself;’ and he bowed low before Ægeus, and said, ‘I have delivered the king’s realm from many monsters; therefore I am come to ask a reward of the king.’