The Heroes or Greek Fairy Tales for my Children

Page: 85

Then Medeia turned pale, and stammered, ‘Forgive me, fair hero; but I am ill, and dare drink no wine.’

And Theseus looked again into her eyes, and cried, ‘Thou shalt pledge me in that cup, or die.’ And he lifted up his brazen club, while all the guests looked on aghast.

Medeia shrieked a fearful shriek, and dashed the cup to the ground, and fled; and where the wine flowed over the marble pavement, the stone bubbled, and crumbled, and hissed, under the fierce venom of the draught.

But Medeia called her dragon chariot, and sprang into it and fled aloft, away over land and sea, and no man saw her more.

And Ægeus cried, ‘What hast thou done?’ But Theseus pointed to the stone, ‘I have rid the land of an enchantment: now I will rid it of one more.’

And he came close to Ægeus, and drew from his bosom the sword and the sandals, and said the words which his mother bade him.

And Ægeus stepped back a pace, and looked at the lad till his eyes grew dim; and then he cast himself on his neck and wept, and Theseus wept on his neck, till they had no strength left to weep more.

Then Ægeus turned to all the people, and cried, ‘Behold my son, children of Cecrops, a better man than his father was before him.’

Who, then, were mad but the Pallantids, though they had been mad enough before? And one shouted, ‘Shall we make room for an upstart, a pretender, who comes from we know not where?’ And another, ‘If he be one, we are more than one; and the stronger can hold his own.’ And one shouted one thing, and one another; for they were hot and wild with wine: but all caught swords and lances off the wall, where the weapons hung around, and sprang forward to Theseus, and Theseus sprang forward to them.

And he cried, ‘Go in peace, if you will, my cousins; but if not, your blood be on your own heads.’ But they rushed at him; and then stopped short and railed him, as curs stop and bark when they rouse a lion from his lair.

But one hurled a lance from the rear rank, which past close by Theseus’ head; and at that Theseus rushed forward, and the fight began indeed. Twenty against one they fought, and yet Theseus beat them all; and those who were left fled down into the town, where the people set on them, and drove them out, till Theseus was left alone in the palace, with Ægeus his new-found father. But before nightfall all the town came up, with victims, and dances, and songs; and they offered sacrifices to Athené, and rejoiced all the night long, because their king had found a noble son, and an heir to his royal house.