The Fourth Labor





Then Hercules set out on his fourth undertaking. It consisted in

bringing alive to Mycene a boar which, likewise sacred to Diana, was

laying waste the country around the mountain of Erymanthus.



On his wanderings in search of this adventure he came to the dwelling

of Pholus, the son of Silenus. Like all Centaurs, Pholus was half man

and half horse. He received his guest with hospitality and set before

him broiled meat, while he himself ate raw. But Hercules, not

satisfied with this, wished also to have something good to drink.



"Dear guest," said Pholus, "there is a cask in my cellar; but it

belongs to all the Centaurs jointly, and I hesitate to open it because

I know how little they welcome guests."



"Open it with good courage," answered Hercules, "I promise to defend

you against all displeasure."



As it happened, the cask of wine had been given to the Centaurs by

Bacchus, the god of wine, with the command that they should not open

it until, after four centuries, Hercules should appear in their midst.



Pholus went to the cellar and opened the wonderful cask. But scarcely

had he done so when the Centaurs caught the perfume of the rare old

wine, and, armed with stones and pine clubs, surrounded the cave of

Pholus. The first who tried to force their way in Hercules drove back

with brands he seized from the fire. The rest he pursued with bow and

arrow, driving them back to Malea, where lived the good Centaur,

Chiron, Hercules' old friend. To him his brother Centaurs had fled for

protection.



But Hercules still continued shooting, and sent an arrow through the

arm of an old Centaur, which unhappily went quite through and fell on

Chiron's knee, piercing the flesh. Then for the first time Hercules

recognized his friend of former days, ran to him in great distress,

pulled out the arrow, and laid healing ointment on the wound, as the

wise Chiron himself had taught him. But the wound, filled with the

poison of the hydra, could not be healed; so the centaur was carried

into his cave. There he wished to die in the arms of his friend. Vain

wish! The poor Centaur had forgotten that he was immortal, and though

wounded would not die.



Then Hercules with many tears bade farewell to his old teacher and

promised to send to him, no matter at what price, the great deliverer,

Death. And we know that he kept his word.



When Hercules from the pursuit of the other Centaurs returned to the

dwelling of Pholus he found him also dead. He had drawn the deadly

arrow from the lifeless body of one Centaur, and while he was

wondering how so small a thing could do such great damage, the

poisoned arrow slipped through his fingers and pierced his foot,

killing him instantly. Hercules was very sad, and buried his body

reverently beneath the mountain, which from that day was called

Pholoe.



Then Hercules continued his hunt for the boar, drove him with cries

out of the thick of the woods, pursued him into a deep snow field,

bound the exhausted animal, and brought him, as he had been commanded,

alive to Mycene.





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