This Is Done Hercules Shall Be Numbered Among The Immortal Gods

: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.

Hereupon Hercules fell into deep trouble. To serve a man of less

importance than himself hurt his dignity and self-esteem; but Jupiter

would not listen to his complaints.


The first labor that Eurystheus assigned to Hercules was to bring him

the skin of the Nemean lion. This monster dwelt on the mountain of

Peloponnesus, in the forest between Kleona and Ne
ea, and could be

wounded by no weapons made of man. Some said he was the son of the

giant Typhon and the snake Echidna; others that he had dropped down

from the moon to the earth.

Hercules set out on his journey and came to Kleona, where a poor

laborer, Molorchus, received him hospitably. He met the latter just as

he was about to offer a sacrifice to Jupiter.

"Good man," said Hercules, "let the animal live thirty days longer;

then, if I return, offer it to Jupiter, my deliverer, and if I do not

return, offer it as a funeral sacrifice to me, the hero who has

attained immortality."

So Hercules continued on his way, his quiver of arrows over his

shoulder, his bow in one hand, and in the other a club made from the

trunk of a wild olive tree which he had passed on Mount Helicon and

pulled up by the roots. When he at last entered the Nemean wood, he

looked carefully in every direction in order that he might catch sight

of the monster lion before the lion should see him. It was mid-day,

and nowhere could he discover any trace of the lion or any path that

seemed to lead to his lair. He met no man in the field or in the

forest: fear held them all shut up in their distant dwellings. The

whole afternoon he wandered through the thick undergrowth, determined

to test his strength just as soon as he should encounter the lion.

At last, toward evening, the monster came through the forest,

returning from his trap in a deep fissure of the earth.

He was saturated with blood: head, mane and breast were reeking, and

his great tongue was licking his jaws. The hero, who saw him coming

long before he was near, took refuge in a thicket and waited until the

lion approached; then with his arrow he shot him in the side. But the

shot did not pierce his flesh; instead it flew back as if it had

struck stone, and fell on the mossy earth.

Then the animal raised his bloody head; looked around in every

direction, and in fierce anger showed his ugly teeth. Raising his

head, he exposed his heart, and immediately Hercules let fly another

arrow, hoping to pierce him through the lungs. Again the arrow did not

enter the flesh, but fell at the feet of the monster.

Hercules took a third arrow, while the lion, casting his eyes to the

side, watched him. His whole neck swelled with anger; he roared, and

his back was bent like a bow. He sprang toward his enemy; but Hercules

threw the arrow and cast off the lion skin in which he was clothed

with the left hand, while with the right he swung his club over the

head of the beast and gave him such a blow on the neck that, all ready

to spring as the lion was, he fell back, and came to a stand on

trembling legs, with shaking head. Before he could take another

breath, Hercules was upon him.

Throwing down his bow and quiver, that he might be entirely

unencumbered, he approached the animal from behind, threw his arm

around his neck and strangled him. Then for a long time he sought in

vain to strip the fallen animal of his hide. It yielded to no weapon

or no stone. At last the idea occurred to him of tearing it with the

animal's own claws, and this method immediately succeeded.

Later he prepared for himself a coat of mail out of the lion's skin,

and from the neck, a new helmet; but for the present he was content to

don his own costume and weapons, and with the lion's skin over his arm

took his way back to Tirynth.


The second labor consisted in destroying a hydra. This monster dwelt

in the swamp of Lerna, but came occasionally over the country,

destroying herds and laying waste the fields. The hydra was an

enormous creature--a serpent with nine heads, of which eight were

mortal and one immortal.

Hercules set out with high courage for this fight. He mounted his

chariot, and his beloved nephew Iolaus, the son of his stepbrother

Iphicles, who for a long time had been his inseparable companion, sat

by his side, guiding the horses; and so they sped toward Lerna.

At last the hydra was visible on a hill by the springs of Amymone,

where its lair was found. Here Iolaus left the horses stand. Hercules

leaped from the chariot and sought with burning arrows to drive the

many-headed serpent from its hiding place. It came forth hissing, its

nine heads raised and swaying like the branches of a tree in a storm.

Undismayed, Hercules approached it, seized it, and held it fast. But

the snake wrapped itself around one of his feet. Then he began with

his sword to cut off its heads. But this looked like an endless task,

for no sooner had he cut off one head than two grew in its place. At

the same time an enormous crab came to the help of the hydra and began

biting the hero's foot. Killing this with his club, he called to

Iolaus for help.

The latter had lighted a torch, set fire to a portion of the nearby

wood, and with brands therefrom touched the serpent's newly growing

heads and prevented them from living. In this way the hero was at last

master of the situation and was able to cut off even the head of the

hydra that could not be killed. This he buried deep in the ground and

rolled a heavy stone over the place. The body of the hydra he cut into

half, dipping his arrows in the blood, which was poisonous.

From that time the wounds made by the arrows of Hercules were fatal.


The third demand of Eurystheus was that Hercules bring to him alive

the hind Cerynitis. This was a noble animal, with horns of gold and

feet of iron. She lived on a hill in Arcadia, and was one of the five

hinds which the goddess Diana had caught on her first hunt. This one,

of all the five, was permitted to run loose again in the woods, for it

was decreed by fate that Hercules should one day hunt her.

For a whole year Hercules pursued her; came at last to the river

Ladon; and there captured the hind, not far from the city Oenon, on

the mountains of Diana. But he knew of no way of becoming master of

the animal without wounding her, so he lamed her with an arrow and

then carried her over his shoulder through Arcadia.

Here he met Diana herself with Apollo, who scolded him for wishing to

kill the animal that she had held sacred, and was about to take it

from him.

"Impiety did not move me, great goddess," said Hercules in his own

defense, "but only the direst necessity. How otherwise could I hold my

own against Eurystheus?"

And thus he softened the anger of the goddess and brought the animal

to Mycene.


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


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


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.


Thereupon King Eurystheus sent him upon the fifth labor, which was one

little worthy of a hero. It was to clean the stables of Augeas in a

single day.

Augeas was king in Elis and had great herds of cattle. These herds

were kept, according to the custom, in a great inclosure before the

palace. Three thousand cattle were housed there, and as the stables

had not been cleaned for many years, so much manure had accumulated

that it seemed an insult to ask Hercules to clean them in one day.

When the hero stepped before King Augeas and without telling him

anything of the demands of Eurystheus, pledged himself to the task,

the latter measured the noble form in the lion-skin and could hardly

refrain from laughing when he thought of so worthy a warrior

undertaking so menial a work. But he said to himself: "Necessity has

driven many a brave man; perhaps this one wishes to enrich himself

through me. That will help him little. I can promise him a large

reward if he cleans out the stables, for he can in one day clear

little enough." Then he spoke confidently:

"Listen, O stranger. If you clean all of my stables in one day, I will

give over to you the tenth part of all my possessions in cattle."

Hercules accepted the offer, and the king expected to see him begin

to shovel. But Hercules, after he had called the son of Augeas to

witness the agreement, tore the foundations away from one side of the

stables; directed to it by means of a canal the streams of Alpheus and

Peneus that flowed near by; and let the waters carry away the filth

through another opening. So he accomplished the menial work without

stooping to anything unworthy of an immortal.

When Augeas learned that this work had been done in the service of

Eurystheus, he refused the reward and said that he had not promised

it; but he declared himself ready to have the question settled in

court. When the judges were assembled, Phyleus, commanded by Hercules

to appear, testified against his father, and explained how he had

agreed to offer Hercules a reward. Augeas did not wait for the

decision; he grew angry and commanded his son as well as the stranger

to leave his kingdom instantly.


Hercules now returned with new adventures to Eurystheus; but the

latter would not give him credit for the task because Hercules had

demanded a reward for his labor. He sent the hero forth upon a sixth

adventure, commanding him to drive away the Stymphalides. These were

monster birds of prey, as large as cranes, with iron feathers, beaks

and claws. They lived on the banks of Lake Stymphalus in Arcadia, and

had the power of using their feathers as arrows and piercing with

their beaks even bronze coats of mail. Thus they brought destruction

to both animals and men in all the surrounding country.

After a short journey Hercules, accustomed to wandering, arrived at

the lake, which was thickly shaded by a wood. Into this wood a great

flock of the birds had flown for fear of being robbed by wolves.

The hero stood undecided when he saw the frightful crowd, not knowing

how he could become master over so many enemies. Then he felt a light

touch on his shoulder, and glancing behind him saw the tall figure of

the goddess Minerva, who gave into his hands two mighty brass rattles

made by Vulcan. Telling him to use these to drive away the

Stymphalides, she disappeared.

Hercules mounted a hill near the lake, and began frightening the birds

by the noise of the rattles. The Stymphalides could not endure the

awful noise and flew, terrified, out of the forest. Then Hercules

seized his bow and sent arrow after arrow in pursuit of them, shooting

many as they flew. Those who were not killed left the lake and never



King Minos of Crete had promised Neptune (Poseidon), god of the sea,

to offer to him whatever animal should first come up out of the water,

for he declared he had no animal that was worthy for so high a

sacrifice. Therefore the god caused a very beautiful ox to rise out of

the sea. But the king was so taken with the noble appearance of the

animal that he secretly placed it among his own herds and offered

another to Neptune. Angered by this, the god had caused the animal to

become mad, and it was bringing great destruction to the island of

Crete. To capture this animal, master it, and bring it before

Eurystheus, was the seventh labor of Hercules.

When the hero came to Crete and with this intention stepped before

Minos, the king was not a little pleased over the prospect of ridding

the island of the bull, and he himself helped Hercules to capture the

raging animal. Hercules approached the dreadful monster without fear,

and so thoroughly did he master him that he rode home on the animal

the whole way to the sea.

With this work Eurystheus was pleased, and after he had regarded the

animal for a time with pleasure, set it free. No longer under

Hercules' management, the ox became wild again, wandered through all

Laconia and Arcadia, crossed over the isthmus to Marathon in Attica

and devastated the country there as formerly on the island of Crete.

Later it was given to the hero Theseus to become master over him.


The eighth labor of Hercules was to bring the mares of the Thracian

Diomede to Mycene. Diomede was a son of Mars and ruler of the

Bistonians, a very warlike people. He had mares so wild and strong

that they had to be fastened with iron chains. Their fodder was

chiefly hay; but strangers who had the misfortune to come into the

city were thrown before them, their flesh serving the animals as food.

When Hercules arrived the first thing he did was to seize the inhuman

king himself and after he had overpowered the keepers, throw him

before his own mares. With this food the animals were satisfied and

Hercules was able to drive them to the sea.

But the Bistonians followed him with weapons, and Hercules was forced

to turn and fight them. He gave the horses into the keeping of his

beloved companion Abderus, the son of Mercury, and while Hercules was

away the animals grew hungry again and devoured their keeper.

Hercules, returning, was greatly grieved over this loss, and later

founded a city in honor of Abderus, naming it after his lost friend.

For the present he was content to master the mares and drive them

without further mishap to Eurystheus.

The latter consecrated the horses to Juno. Their descendants were very

powerful, and the great king Alexander of Macedonia rode one of them.


Returning from a long journey, the hero undertook an expedition

against the Amazons in order to finish the ninth adventure and bring

to King Eurystheus the sword belt of the Amazon Hippolyta.

The Amazons inhabited the region of the river Thermodon and were a

race of strong women who followed the occupations of men. From their

children they selected only such as were girls. United in an army,

they waged great wars. Their queen, Hippolyta, wore, as a sign of her

leadership, a girdle which the goddess of war had given her as a


Hercules gathered his warrior companions together into a ship, sailed

after many adventures into the Black Sea and at last into the mouth of

the river Thermodon, and the harbor of the Amazon city Themiscira.

Here the queen of the Amazons met him.

The lordly appearance of the hero flattered her pride, and when she

heard the object of his visit, she promised him the belt. But Juno,

the relentless enemy of Hercules, assuming the form of an Amazon,

mingled among the others and spread the news that a stranger was about

to lead away their queen. Then the Amazons fought with the warriors of

Hercules, and the best fighters of them attacked the hero and gave him

a hard battle.

The first who began fighting with him was called, because of her

swiftness, Aella, or Bride of the Wind; but she found in Hercules a

swifter opponent, was forced to yield and was in her swift flight

overtaken by him and vanquished. A second fell at the first attack;

then Prothoe, the third, who had come off victor in seven duels, also

fell. Hercules laid low eight others, among them three hunter

companions of Diana, who, although formerly always certain with their

weapons, today failed in their aim, and vainly covering themselves

with their shields fell before the arrows of the hero. Even Alkippe

fell, who had sworn to live her whole live unmarried: the vow she

kept, but not her life.

After even Melanippe, the brave leader of the Amazons, was made

captive, all the rest took to wild flight, and Hippolyta the queen

handed over the sword belt which she had promised even before the

fight. Hercules took it as ransom and set Melanippe free.


When the hero laid the sword belt of Queen Hippolyta at the feet of

Eurystheus, the latter gave him no rest, but sent him out immediately

to procure the cattle of the giant Geryone. The latter dwelt on an

island in the midst of the sea, and possessed a herd of beautiful

red-brown cattle, which were guarded by another giant and a two-headed


Geryone himself was enormous, had three bodies, three heads, six arms

and six feet. No son of earth had ever measured his strength against

him, and Hercules realized exactly how many preparations were

necessary for this heavy undertaking. As everybody knew, Geryone's

father, who bore the name "Gold-Sword" because of his riches, was king

of all Iberia (Spain). Besides Geryone he had three brave giant sons

who fought for him; and each son had a mighty army of soldiers under

his command. For these very reasons had Eurystheus given the task to

Hercules, for he hoped that his hated existence would at last be ended

in a war in such a country. Yet Hercules set out on this undertaking

no more dismayed than on any previous expedition.

He gathered together his army on the island of Crete, which he had

freed from wild animals, and landed first in Libya. Here he met the

giant Antaeus, whose strength was renewed as often as he touched the

earth. He also freed Libya of birds of prey; for he hated wild

animals and wicked men because he saw in all of them the image of the

overbearing and unjust lord whom he so long had served.

After long wandering through desert country he came at last to a

fruitful land, through which great streams flowed. Here he founded a

city of vast size, which he named Hecatompylos (City of a Hundred

Gates). Then at last he reached the Atlantic Ocean and planted the two

mighty pillars which bear his name.

The sun burned so fiercely that Hercules could bear it no longer; he

raised his eyes to heaven and with raised bow threatened the sun-god.

Apollo wondered at his courage and lent him for his further journeys

the bark in which he himself was accustomed to lie from sunset to

sunrise. In this Hercules sailed to Iberia.

Here he found the three sons of Gold-Sword with three great armies

camping near each other; but he killed all the leaders and plundered

the land. Then he sailed to the island Erythia, where Geryone dwelt

with his herds.

As soon as the two-headed dog knew of his approach he sprang toward

him; but Hercules struck him with his club and killed him. He killed

also the giant herdsman who came to the help of the dog. Then he

hurried away with the cattle.

But Geryone overtook him and there was a fierce struggle. Juno herself

offered to assist the giant; but Hercules shot her with an arrow deep

in the heart, and the goddess, wounded, fled. Even the threefold body

of the giant which ran together in the region of the stomach, felt the

might of the deadly arrows and was forced to yield.

With glorious adventures Hercules continued his way home, driving the

cattle across country through Iberia and Italy. At Rhegium in lower

Italy one of his oxen got away and swam across the strait to Sicily.

Immediately Hercules drove the other cattle into the water and swam,

holding one by the horns, to Sicily. Then the hero pursued his way

without misfortune through Italy, Illyria and Thrace to Greece.

Hercules had now accomplished ten labors; but Eurystheus was still

unsatisfied and there were two more tasks to be undertaken.


At the celebration of the marriage of Jupiter and Juno, when all the

gods were bringing their wedding gifts to the happy pair, Mother Earth

did not wish to be left out. So she caused to spring forth on the

western borders of the great world-sea a many-branched tree full of

golden apples. Four maidens called the Hesperides, daughters of Night,

were the guardians of this sacred garden, and with them watched the

hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, whose father was Phorkys, the parent of

many monsters. Sleep came never to the eyes of this dragon and a

fearful hissing sound warned one of his presence, for each of his

hundred throats had a different voice. From this monster, so was the

command of Eurystheus, should Hercules seize the golden apples.

The hero set out on his long and adventurous journey and placed

himself in the hands of blind chance, for he did not know where the

Hesperides dwelt.

He went first to Thessaly, where dwelt the giant Termerus, who with

his skull knocked to death every traveler that he met; but on the

mighty cranium of Hercules the head of the giant himself was split


Farther on the hero came upon another monster in his way--Cycnus, the

son of Mars and Pyrene. He, when asked concerning the garden of the

Hesperides, instead of answering, challenged the wanderer to a duel,

and was beaten by Hercules. Then appeared Mars, the god of war,

himself, to avenge the death of his son; and Hercules was forced to

fight with him. But Jupiter did not wish that his sons should shed

blood, and sent his lightning bolt to separate the two.

Then Hercules continued his way through Illyria, hastened over the

river Eridanus, and came to the nymphs of Jupiter and Themis, who

dwelt on the banks of the stream. To these Hercules put his question.

"Go to the old river god Nereus," was their answer. "He is a seer and

knows all things. Surprise him while he sleeps and bind him; then he

will be forced to tell you the right way."

Hercules followed this advice and became master of the river god,

although the latter, according to his custom, assumed many different

forms. Hercules would not let him go until he had learned in what

locality he could find the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Informed of this, he went on his way toward Libya and Egypt. Over the

latter land ruled Busiris, the son of Neptune and Lysianassa. To him

during the period of a nine-year famine a prophet had borne the

oracular message that the land would again bear fruit if a stranger

were sacrificed once a year to Jupiter. In gratitude Busiris made a

beginning with the priest himself. Later he found great pleasure in

the custom and killed all strangers who came to Egypt. So Hercules was

seized and placed on the altar of Jupiter. But he broke the chains

which bound him, and killed Busiris and his son and the priestly


With many adventures the hero continued his way, set free, as has been

told elsewhere, Prometheus, the Titan, who was bound to the Caucasus

Mountains, and came at last to the place where Atlas stood carrying

the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. Near him grew the tree

which bore the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Prometheus had advised the hero not to attempt himself to make the

robbery of the golden fruit, but to send Atlas on the errand. The

giant offered to do this if Hercules would support the heavens while

he went. This Hercules consented to do, and Atlas set out. He put to

sleep the dragon who lived beneath the tree and killed him. Then with

a trick he got the better of the keepers, and returned happily to

Hercules with the three apples which he had plucked.

"But," he said, "I have now found out how it feels to be relieved of

the heavy burden of the heavens. I will not carry them any longer."

Then he threw the apples down at the feet of the hero, and left him

standing with the unaccustomed, awful weight upon his shoulders.

Hercules had to think of a trick in order to get away. "Let me," he

said to the giant, "just make a coil of rope to bind around my head,

so that the frightful weight will not cause my forehead to give way."

Atlas found this new demand reasonable, and consented to take over the

burden again for a few minutes. But the deceiver was at last deceived,

and Hercules picked up the apples from the ground and set out on his

way back. He carried the apples to Eurystheus, who, since his object

of getting rid of the hero had not been accomplished, gave them back

to Hercules as a present. The latter laid them on the altar of

Minerva; but the goddess, knowing that it was contrary to the divine

wishes to carry away this sacred fruit, returned the apples to the

garden of the Hesperides.


Instead of destroying his hated enemy the labors which Eurystheus had

imposed upon Hercules had only strengthened the hero in the fame for

which fate had selected him. He had become the protector of all the

wronged upon earth, and the boldest adventurer among mortals.

But the last labor he was to undertake in the region in which his

hero strength--so the impious king hoped--would not accompany him.

This was a fight with the dark powers of the underworld. He was to

bring forth from Hades Cerberus, the dog of Hell. This animal had

three heads with frightful jaws, from which incessantly poison flowed.

A dragon's tail hung from his body, and the hair of his head and of

his back formed hissing, coiling serpents.

To prepare himself for this fearful journey Hercules went to the city

of Eleusis, in Attic territory, where, from a wise priest, he received

secret instruction in the things of the upper and lower world, and

where also he received pardon for the murder of the Centaur.

Then, with strength to meet the horrors of the underworld, Hercules

traveled on to Peloponnesus, and to the Laconian city of Taenarus,

which contained the opening to the lower world. Here, accompanied by

Mercury, he descended through a cleft in the earth, and came to the

entrance of the city of King Pluto. The shades which sadly wandered

back and forth before the gates of the city took flight as soon as

they caught sight of flesh and blood in the form of a living man. Only

the Gorgon Medusa and the spirit of Meleager remained. The former

Hercules wished to overthrow with his sword, but Mercury touched him

on the arm and told him that the souls of the departed were only empty

shadow pictures and could not be wounded by mortal weapons.

With the soul of Meleager the hero chatted in friendly fashion, and

received from him loving messages for the upper world. Still nearer to

the gates of Hades Hercules caught sight of his friends Theseus and

Pirithous. When both saw the friendly form of Hercules they stretched

beseeching hands towards him, trembling with the hope that through his

strength they might again reach the upper world. Hercules grasped

Theseus by the hand, freed him from his chains and raised him from the

ground. A second attempt to free Pirithous did not succeed, for the

ground opened beneath his feet.

At the gate of the City of the Dead stood King Pluto, and denied

entrance to Hercules. But with an arrow the hero shot the god in the

shoulder, so that he feared the mortal; and when Hercules then asked

whether he might lead away the dog of Hades he did not longer oppose

him. But he imposed the condition that Hercules should become master

of Cerberus without using any weapons. So the hero set out, protected

only with cuirass and the lion skin.

He found the dog camping near the dwelling of Acheron, and without

paying any attention to the bellowing of the three heads, which was

like the echo of fearful resounding thunder, he seized the dog by the

legs, put his arms around his neck, and would not let him go, although

the dragon tail of the animal bit him in the cheek.

He held the neck of Cerberus firm, and did not let go until he was

really master of the monster. Then he raised it, and through another

opening of Hades returned in happiness to his own country. When the

dog of Hades saw the light of day he was afraid and began to spit

poison, from which poisonous plants sprung up out of the earth.

Hercules brought the monster in chains to Tirynth, and led it before

the astonished Eurystheus, who could not believe his eyes.

Now at last the king doubted whether he could ever rid himself of the

hated son of Jupiter. He yielded to his fate and dismissed the hero,

who led the dog of Hades back to his owner in the lower world.

Thus Hercules after all his labors was at last set free from the

service of Eurystheus, and returned to Thebes.


While the men of the Age of Bronze still dwelt upon the earth reports

of their wickedness were carried to Jupiter. The god decided to verify

the reports by coming to earth himself in the form of a man, and

everywhere he went he found that the reports were much milder than the


One evening in the late twilight he entered the inhospitable shelter

of the Arcadian King Lycaon, who was famed for his wild conduct. By

several signs he let it be known that he was a god, and the crowd

dropped to their knees; but Lycaon made light of the pious prayers.

"Let us see," he said, "whether he is a mortal or a god."

Thereupon he decided to destroy the guest that night while he lay in

slumber, not expecting death. But before doing so he killed a poor

hostage whom the Molossians had sent to him, cooked the half-living

limbs in boiling water or broiled them over a fire, and placed them on

the table before the guest for his evening meal.

But Jupiter, who knew all this, left the table and sent a raging fire

over the castle of the godless man. Frightened, the king fled into the

open field. The first cry he uttered was a howl; his garments changed

to fur; his arms to legs; he was transformed into a bloodthirsty wolf.

Jupiter returned to Olympus, held counsel with the gods and decided to

destroy the reckless race of men. At first he wanted to turn his

lightnings over all the earth, but the fear that the ether would take

fire and destroy the axle of the universe restrained him. He laid

aside the thunderbolt which the Cyclops had fashioned for him, and

decided to send rain from heaven over all the earth and so destroy the

race of mortals.

Immediately the North Wind and all the other cloud-scattering winds

were locked in the cave of Aeolus, and only the South Wind sent out.

The latter descended upon the earth; his frightful face was covered

with darkness; his beard was heavy with clouds; from his white hair

ran the flood; mists lay upon his brow; from his bosom dropped the

water. The South Wind grasped the heavens, seized in his hands the

surrounding clouds and began to squeeze them. The thunder rolled;

floods of rain burst from the heavens. The standing corn was bent to

the earth; destroyed was the hope of the farmer; destroyed the weary

work of a whole year.

Even Neptune, god of the sea, came to the assistance of his brother

Jupiter in the work of destruction. He called all the rivers together

and said, "Give full rein to your torrents; enter houses; break

through all dams!"

They followed his command, and Neptune himself struck the earth with

his trident and let the flood enter. Then the waters streamed over the

open meadows, covered the fields, dislodged trees, temples and houses.

Wherever a palace stood, its gables were soon covered with water and

the highest turrets were hidden in the torrent. Sea and earth were no

longer divided; all was flood--an unbroken stretch of water.

Men tried to save themselves as best they could; some climbed the high

mountains; others entered boats and rowed, now over the roofs of the

fallen houses, now over the hills of their ruined vineyards. Fish swam

among the branches of the highest trees; the wild boar was caught in

the flood; people were swept away by the water and those whom the

flood spared died of hunger on the barren mountains.

One high mountain in the country of Phocis still raised two peaks

above the surrounding waters. It was the great Mount Parnassus. Toward

this floated a boat containing Deucalion, the son of Prometheus,

and his wife Pyrrha. No man, no woman, had ever been found who

surpassed these in righteousness and piety. When, therefore, Jupiter,

looking down from heaven upon the earth, saw that only a single pair

of mortals remained of the many thousand times a thousand, both

blameless, both devoted servants of the gods, he sent forth the North

Wind, recalled the clouds, and once again separated the earth from the

heavens and the heavens from the earth.

Even Neptune, lord of the sea, laid down his trident and calmed the

flood. The ocean resumed its banks; the rivers returned to their beds;

forests stretched their slime-covered tree-tops out of the deep; hills

followed; finally stretches of level land appeared and the earth was

as before.

Deucalion looked around him. The country was laid waste; it was

wrapped in the silence of the grave. Tears rolled down his cheeks and

he said to his wife, Pyrrha, "Beloved, solitary companion of my life,

as far as I can see through all the surrounding country, I can

discover no living creature. We two must people the earth; all the

rest have been drowned by the flood. But even we are not yet certain

of our lives. Every cloud that I see strikes terror to my soul. And

even if danger is past, what shall we do alone on the forsaken earth?

Oh, that my father Prometheus had taught me the art of creating men

and breathing life into them!"

Then the two began to weep. They threw themselves on their knees

before the half-destroyed altar of the goddess Themis, and began to

pray, saying, "Tell us, O goddess, by what means we can replace the

race that has disappeared? Oh, help the earth to new life."

"Leave my altar," sounded the voice of the goddess. "Uncover your

heads, ungird your garments and cast the bones of your mother behind


For a long time Deucalion and Pyrrha wondered over the puzzling words

of the goddess. Pyrrha was the first to break the silence. "Pardon me,

O noble goddess," she said, "if I do not obey you and cannot consent

to scatter the bones of my mother."

Then Deucalion had a happy thought. He comforted his wife. "Either my

reason deceives me," he said, "or the command of the goddess is good

and involves no impiety. The great mother of all of us is the Earth;

her bones are the stones, and these, Pyrrha, we will cast behind us!"

Both mistrusted this interpretation of the words, but what harm would

it do to try? Thereupon they uncovered their heads, ungirded their

garments and began casting stones behind them.

Then a wonderful thing happened. The stone began to lose its hardness,

became malleable, grew and took form--not definite at once, but rude

figures such as an artist first hews out of the rough marble. Whatever

was moist or earthy in the stones was changed into flesh; the harder

parts became bones; the veins in the rock remained as veins in the

bodies. Thus, in a little while, with the aid of the gods, the stones

which Deucalion threw assumed the form of men; those which Pyrrha

threw, the form of women.

This homely origin the race of men does not deny; they are a hardy

people, accustomed to work. Every moment of the day they remember from

what sturdy stock they have sprung.


Theseus, the hero king of Athens, had a reputation for great strength

and bravery; but Pirithous, the son of Ixion, one of the most famous

heroes of antiquity, wished to put him to the test. He therefore drove

the cattle which belonged to Theseus away from Marathon, and when he

heard that Theseus, weapon in hand, was following him, then, indeed,

he had what he desired. He did not flee, but turned around to meet


When the two heroes were near enough to see each other, each was so

filled with admiration for the beautiful form and the bravery of his

opponent that, as if at a given signal, both threw down their weapons

and hastened toward each other. Pirithous extended his hand to Theseus

and proposed that the latter act as arbitrator for the settlement of

the dispute about the cattle: whatever satisfaction Theseus would

demand Pirithous would willingly give.

"The only satisfaction which I desire," answered Pirithous, "is that

you instead of my enemy become my friend and comrade in arms."

Then the two heroes embraced each other and swore eternal friendship.

Soon after this Pirithous chose the Thessalian princess, Hippodamia,

from the race of Lapithae, for his bride, and invited Theseus to the

wedding. The Lapithae, among whom the ceremony took place, were a

famous family of Thessalians, rugged mountaineers, in some respects

resembling animals--the first mortals who had learned to manage a

horse. But the bride, who had sprung from this race, was not at all

like the men of her people. She was of noble form, with delicate

youthful face, so beautiful that all the guests praised Pirithous for

his good fortune.

The assembled princes of Thessaly were at the wedding feast, and also

the Centaurs, relatives of Pirithous. The Centaurs were half men, the

offspring which a cloud, assuming the form of the goddess Hera, had

born to Ixion, the father of Pirithous. They were the eternal enemies

of the Lapithae. Upon this occasion, however, and for the sake of the

bride, they had forgotten past grudges and come together to the joyful

celebration. The noble castle of Pirithous resounded with glad tumult;

bridal songs were sung; wine and food abounded. Indeed, there were so

many guests that the palace would not accommodate all. The Lapithae and

Centaurs sat at a special table in a grotto shaded by trees.

For a long time the festivities went on with undisturbed happiness.

Then the wine began to stir the heart of the wildest of the Centaurs,

Eurytion, and the beauty of the Princess Hippodamia awoke in him the

mad desire of robbing the bridegroom of his bride. Nobody knew how it

came to pass; nobody noticed the beginning of the unthinkable act; but

suddenly the guests saw the wild Eurytion lifting Hippodamia from her

feet, while she struggled and cried for help. His deed was the signal

for the rest of the drunken Centaurs to do likewise, and before the

strange heroes and the Lapithae could leave their places, every one of

the Centaurs had roughly seized one of the Thessalian princesses who

served at the court of the king or who had assembled as guests at the


The castle and the grotto resembled a besieged city; the cry of the

women sounded far and wide. Quickly friends and relatives sprang from

their places.

"What delusion is this, Eurytion," cried Theseus, "to vex Pirithous

while I still live, and by so doing arouse the anger of two heroes?"

With these words he forced his way through the crowd and tore the

stolen bride from the struggling robber.

Eurytion said nothing, for he could not excuse his deed, but he

lifted his hand toward Theseus and gave him a rough knock in the

chest. Then Theseus, who had no weapon at hand, seized an iron jug of

embossed workmanship which stood near by and flung it into the face of

his opponent with such force that the Centaur fell backward on the

ground, while brains and blood oozed from the wound in his head.

"To arms!" the cry arose from all sides. At first beakers, flasks and

bowls flew back and forth. Then one sacrilegious monster grabbed the

oblations from the neighboring apartments. Another tore down the lamp

which burned over the table, while still another fought with a

sacrificial deer which had hung on one side of the grotto. A frightful

slaughter ensued. Rhoetus, the most wicked of the Centaurs after

Eurytion, seized the largest brand from the altar and thrust it into

the gaping wound of one of the fallen Lapithae, so that the blood

hissed like iron in a furnace. In opposition to him rose Dryas, the

bravest of the Lapithae, and seizing a glowing log from the fire,

thrust it into the Centaur's neck. The fate of this Centaur atoned for

the death of his fallen companion, and Dryas turned to the raging mob

and laid five of them low.

Then the spear of the brave hero Pirithous flew forth and pierced a

mighty Centaur, Petraeus, just as he was about to uproot a tree to use

it for a club. The spear pinned him against the knotted oak. A second,

Dictys, fell at the stroke of the Greek hero, and in falling snapped

off a mighty ash tree; a third, wishing to avenge him, was crushed by

Theseus with an oak club.

The most beautiful and youthful of the Centaurs was Cyllarus. His long

hair and beard were golden; his smile was friendly; his neck,

shoulders, hands and breast were as beautiful as if formed by an

artist. Even the lower part of his body, the part which resembled a

horse, was faultless, pitch-black in color, with legs and tail of

lighter dye. He had come to the feast with his wife, the beautiful

Centaur, Hylonome, who at the table had leaned gracefully against him

and even now united with him in the raging fight. He received from an

unknown hand a light wound near his heart, and sank dying in the arms

of his wife. Hylonome nursed his dying form, kissed him and tried to

retain the fleeting breath. When she saw that he was gone she drew a

dagger from her breast and stabbed herself.

For a long time still the fight between the Lapithae and the Centaurs

continued, but at last night put an end to the tumult. Then Pirithous

remained in undisturbed possession of his bride, and on the following

morning Theseus departed, bidding farewell to his friend. The common

fight had quickly welded the fresh tie of their brotherhood into an

indestructible bond.


Niobe, Queen of Thebes, was proud of many things. Amphion, her

husband, had received from the Muses a wonderful lyre, to the music of

which the stones of the royal palace had of themselves assumed place.

Her father was Tantalus, who had been entertained by the gods; and she

herself was the ruler of a powerful kingdom and a woman of great pride

of spirit and majestic beauty. But of none of these things was she so

proud as she was of her fourteen lovely children, the seven sons and

seven daughters to whom she had given birth.

Indeed, Niobe was the happiest of all mothers, and so would she have

remained if she had not believed herself so peculiarly blessed. Her

very knowledge of her good fortune was her undoing.

One day the prophetess Manto, daughter of the soothsayer Tiresias,

being instructed of the gods, called together the women of Thebes to

do honor to the goddess Latona and her two children, Apollo and Diana.

"Put laurel wreaths upon your heads," were her commands, "and bring

sacrifices with pious prayers."

Then while the women of Thebes were gathering together, Niobe came

forth, clad in a gold-embroidered garment, with a crowd of followers,

radiant in her beauty, though angry, with her hair flowing about her

shoulders. She stopped in the midst of the busy women, and raising her

voice, spoke to them.

"Are you not foolish to worship gods of whom stories are told to you

when more favored beings dwell here among you? While you are making

sacrifices on the altar of Latona, why does my divine name remain

unknown? My father Tantalus is the only mortal who has ever sat at the

table of the gods; and my mother Dione is the sister of the Pleiades,

who as bright stars shine nightly in the heavens. One of my uncles is

the giant Atlas, who on his neck supports the vaulted heavens; my

grandfather is Jupiter, the father of the gods. The people of Phrygia

obey me, and to me and my husband belongs the city of Cadmus, the

walls of which were put together by the music that my husband played.

Every corner of my palace is filled with priceless treasures; and

there, too, are other treasures--children such as no other mother can

show: seven beautiful daughters, seven sturdy sons, and just as many

sons- and daughters-in-law. Ask now whether I have ground for pride.

Consider again before you honor more than me Latona, the unknown

daughter of the Titans, who could find no place in the whole earth in

which she might rest and give birth to her children until the island

of Delos in compassion offered her a precarious shelter. There she

became the mother of two children--the poor creature! Just the seventh

part of my mother joy! Who can deny that I am fortunate? Who will

doubt that I shall remain happy? Fortune would have a hard time if she

undertook to shatter my happiness. Take this or that one from my

treasured children; but when would the number of them dwindle to the

sickly two of Latona? Away with your sacrifices! Take the laurel out

of your hair. Go back to your homes and let me never see such

foolishness again!"

Frightened at the outburst, the women removed the wreaths from their

heads, left their sacrifices and slunk home, still honoring Latona

with silent prayer.

On the summit of the Delian mountain Cynthas stood Latona with her two

children, watching what was taking place in distant Thebes. "See, my

children," she said, "I, your mother, who am so proud of your birth,

who yield place to no goddess except Juno, I am held up to ridicule by

an upstart mortal, and if you do not defend me, my children, I shall

be driven away from the ancient and holy altars. Yes, you too are

insulted by Niobe, and she would like to have you set aside for her


Latona was about to go on, but Apollo interrupted her: "Cease your

lamentations, mother; you only delay the punishment."

Then he and his sister wrapped themselves in a magic cloud cloak that

made them invisible, and flew swiftly through the air until they

reached the town and castle of Cadmus.

Just outside the walls of the city was an open field that was used as

a race-course and practice ground for horses. Here the seven sons of

Amphion were amusing themselves, when suddenly the oldest dropped his

reins with a cry and fell from his horse, pierced to the heart by an

arrow. One after another the whole seven were struck down.

The news of the disaster soon spread through the city. Amphion, when

he heard that all his sons had perished, fell on his own sword. Then

the loud cries of his servants penetrated to the women's quarters.

For a long time Niobe could not believe that the gods had thus brought

vengeance. When she did, how unlike was she to the Niobe who drove the

people from the altars of the mighty goddess and strode through the

city with haughty mien. Crazed with grief she rushed out to the field

where her sons had been stricken, threw herself on their dead bodies,

kissing now this one and now that. Then, raising her arms to heaven,

she cried, "Look now upon my distress, thou cruel Latona; for the

death of these seven bows me to the earth. Triumph thou, O my

victorious enemy!"

Now the seven daughters of Niobe, clad in garments of mourning, drew

near, and with loosened hair stood around their brothers. And the

sight of them brought a ray of joy to Niobe's white face. She forgot

her grief for a moment, and casting a scornful look to heaven, said,

"Victor! No, for even in my loss I have more than thou in thy


Hardly had she spoken when there was the sound of a drawn bow. The

bystanders grew cold with fear, but Niobe was not frightened, for

misfortune had made her strong.

Suddenly one of the sisters put her hand to her breast and drew out an

arrow that had pierced her; then, unconscious, she sank to the ground.

Another daughter hastened to her mother to comfort her, but before she

could reach her she was laid low by a hidden wound. One after another

the rest fell, until only the last was left. She had fled to Niobe's

lap and childlike was hiding her face in her mother's garments.

"Leave me only this one," cried Niobe, "just the youngest of so many."

But even while she prayed the child fell lifeless from her lap, and

Niobe sat alone among the dead bodies of her husband, her sons and her

daughters. She was speechless with grief; no breath of air stirred the

hair on her head; the blood left her face; the eyes remained fixed on

the grief-stricken countenance; in the whole body there was no longer

any sign of life. The veins ceased to carry blood; the neck stiffened;

arms and feet grew rigid; the whole body was transformed into cold and

lifeless stone. Nothing living remained to her except her tears, which

continued flowing from her stony eyes.

Then a mighty wind lifted the image of stone, carried it over the sea

and set it down in Lydia, the old home of Niobe, in the barren

mountains under the stony cliffs of Sipylus. Here Niobe remained fixed

as a marble statue on the summit of the mountain, and to this very day

you can see the grief-stricken mother in tears.


Perseus was the son of Danae, who was the daughter of a king. And when

Perseus was a very little boy, some wicked people put his mother and

himself into a chest and set them afloat upon the sea. The wind blew

freshly and drove the chest away from the shore, and the uneasy

billows tossed it up and down; while Danae clasped her child closely

to her bosom, and dreaded that some big wave would dash its foamy

crest over them both. The chest sailed on, however, and neither sank

nor was upset, until, when night was coming, it floated so near an

island that it got entangled in a fisherman's nets and was drawn out

high and dry upon the sand. This island was called Seriphus and it was

reigned over by King Polydectes, who happened to be the fisherman's


This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an exceedingly humane and

upright man. He showed great kindness to Danae and her little boy, and

continued to befriend them until Perseus had grown to be a handsome

youth, very strong and active and skilful in the use of arms. Long

before this time King Polydectes had seen the two strangers--the

mother and her child--who had come to his dominions in a floating

chest. As he was not good and kind, like his brother the fisherman,

but extremely wicked, he resolved to send Perseus on a dangerous

enterprise, in which he would probably be killed, and then to do some

great mischief to Danae herself. So this bad-hearted king spent a long

while in considering what was the most dangerous thing that a young

man could possibly undertake to perform. At last, having hit upon an

enterprise that promised to turn out as fatally as he desired, he sent

for the youthful Perseus.

The young man came to the palace and found the king sitting upon his


"Perseus," said King Polydectes, smiling craftily upon him, "you are

grown up a fine young man. You and your good mother have received a

great deal of kindness from myself, as well as from my worthy brother

the fisherman, and I suppose you would not be sorry to repay some of


"Please, your Majesty," answered Perseus, "I would willingly risk my

life to do so."

"Well, then," continued the king, still with a cunning smile on his

lips, "I have a little adventure to propose to you, and as you are a

brave and enterprising youth, you will doubtless look upon it as a

great piece of good luck to have so rare an opportunity of

distinguishing yourself. You must know, my good Perseus, I think of

getting married to the beautiful Princess Hippodamia, and it is

customary on these occasions to make the bride a present of some

far-fetched and elegant curiosity. I have been a little perplexed, I

must honestly confess, where to obtain anything likely to please a

princess of her exquisite taste. But this morning, I flatter myself, I

have thought of precisely the article."

"And can I assist your Majesty in obtaining it?" cried Perseus,


"You can if you are as brave a youth as I believe you to be," replied

King Polydectes with the utmost graciousness of manner. "The bridal

gift which I have set my heart on presenting to the beautiful

Hippodamia is the head of the Gorgon Medusa with the snaky locks; and

I depend on you, my dear Perseus, to bring it to me. So, as I am

anxious to settle affairs with the princess, the sooner you go in

quest of the Gorgon, the better I shall be pleased."

"I will set out tomorrow morning," answered Perseus.

"Pray do so, my gallant youth," rejoined the king. "And, Perseus, in

cutting off the Gorgon's head, be careful to make a clean stroke, so

as not to injure its appearance. You must bring it home in the very

best condition in order to suit the exquisite taste of the beautiful

Princess Hippodamia."

Perseus left the palace, but was scarcely out of hearing before

Polydectes burst into a laugh, being greatly amused, wicked king that

he was, to find how readily the young man fell into the snare. The

news quickly spread abroad that Perseus had undertaken to cut off the

head of Medusa with the snaky locks. Everybody was rejoiced, for most

of the inhabitants of the island were as wicked as the king himself

and would have liked nothing better than to see some enormous mischief

happen to Danae and her son. The only good man in this unfortunate

island of Seriphus appears to have been the fisherman. As Perseus

walked along, therefore, the people pointed after him and made mouths,

and winked to one another and ridiculed him as loudly as they dared.

"Ho, ho!" cried they; "Medusa's snakes will sting him soundly!"

Now, there were three Gorgons alive at that period, and they were the

most strange and terrible monsters that had ever been since the world

was made, or that have been seen in after days, or that are likely to

be seen in all time to come. I hardly know what sort of creature or

hobgoblin to call them. They were three sisters and seem to have borne

some distant resemblance to women, but were really a very frightful

and mischievous species of dragon. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine

what hideous beings these three sisters were. Why, instead of locks of

hair, if you can believe men, they had each of them a hundred enormous

snakes growing on their heads, all alive, twisting, wriggling, curling

and thrusting out their venomous tongues, with forked stings at the

end! The teeth of the Gorgons were terribly long tusks, their hands

were made of brass, and their bodies were all over scales, which, if

not iron, were something as hard and impenetrable. They had wings,

too, and exceedingly splendid ones, I can assure you, for every

feather in them was pure, bright, glittering, burnished gold; and they

looked very dazzling, no doubt, when the Gorgons were flying about in

the sunshine.

But when people happened to catch a glimpse of their glittering

brightness, aloft in the air, they seldom stopped to gaze, but ran and

hid themselves as speedily as they could. You will think, perhaps,

that they were afraid of being stung by the serpents that served the

Gorgons instead of hair--or of having their heads bitten off by their

ugly tusks--or of being torn all to pieces by their brazen claws.

Well, to be sure, these were some of the dangers, but by no means the

greatest nor the most difficult to avoid. For the worst thing about

these abominable Gorgons was that if once a poor mortal fixed his eyes

full upon one of their faces, he was certain that very instant to be

changed from warm flesh and blood into cold and lifeless stone!

Thus, as you will easily perceive, it was a very dangerous adventure

that the wicked King Polydectes had contrived for this innocent young

man. Perseus himself, when he had thought over the matter, could not

help seeing that he had very little chance of coming safely through

it, and that he was far more likely to become a stone image than to

bring back the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. For, not to speak

of other difficulties, there was one which it would have puzzled an

older man than Perseus to get over. Not only must he fight with and

slay this golden-winged, iron-scaled, long-tusked, brazen-clawed,

snaky-haired monster, but he must do it with his eyes shut, or, at

least, without so much as a glance at the enemy with whom he was

contending. Else, while his arm was lifted to strike, he would stiffen

into stone and stand with that uplifted arm for centuries, until time

and the wind and weather should crumble him quite away. This would be

a very sad thing to befall a young man who wanted to perform a great

many brave deeds and to enjoy a great deal of happiness in this bright

and beautiful world.

So disconsolate did these thoughts make him that Perseus could not

bear to tell his mother what he had undertaken to do. He therefore

took his shield, girded on his sword and crossed over from the island

to the mainland, where he sat down in a solitary place and hardly

refrained from shedding tears.

But while he was in this sorrowful mood, he heard a voice close beside


"Perseus," said the voice, "why are you sad?"

He lifted his head from his hands, in which he had hidden it, and

behold! all alone as Perseus had supposed himself to be, there was a

stranger in the solitary place. It was a brisk, intelligent and

remarkably shrewd-looking young man, with a cloak over his shoulders,

an odd sort of cap on his head, a strangely twisted staff in his hand

and a short and very crooked sword hanging by his side. He was

exceedingly light and active in his figure, like a person much

accustomed to gymnastic exercises and well able to leap or run. Above

all, the stranger had such a cheerful, knowing and helpful aspect

(though it was certainly a little mischievous, into the bargain) that

Perseus could not help feeling his spirits grow livelier as he gazed

at him. Besides, being really a courageous youth, he felt greatly

ashamed that anybody should have found him with tears in his eyes like

a timid little schoolboy, when, after all, there might be no occasion

for despair. So Perseus wiped his eyes and answered the stranger

pretty briskly, putting on as brave a look as he could.

"I am not so very sad," said he, "only thoughtful about an adventure

that I have undertaken."

"Oho!" answered the stranger. "Well, tell me all about it and

possibly I may be of service to you. I have helped a good many young

men through adventures that looked difficult enough beforehand.

Perhaps you may have heard of me. I have more names than one, but the

name of Quicksilver suits me as well as any other. Tell me what the

trouble is and we will talk the matter over and see what can be done."

The stranger's words and manner put Perseus into quite a different

mood from his former one. He resolved to tell Quicksilver all his

difficulties, since he could not easily be worse off than he already

was, and, very possibly, his new friend might give him some advice

that would turn out well in the end. So he let the stranger know in

few words precisely what was the case--how the King Polydectes wanted

the head of Medusa with the snaky locks as a bridal gift for the

beautiful Princess Hippodamia and how that he had undertaken to get it

for him, but was afraid of being turned into stone.

"And that would be a great pity," said Quicksilver, with his

mischievous smile. "You would make a very handsome marble statue, it

is true, and it would be a considerable number of centuries before you

crumbled away; but, on the whole, one would rather be a young man for

a few years than a stone image for a great many."

"Oh, far rather!" exclaimed Perseus, with the tears again standing in

his eyes. "And, besides, what would my dear mother do if her beloved

son were turned into a stone?"

"Well, well, let us hope that the affair will not turn out so very

badly," replied Quicksilver in an encouraging tone. "I am the very

person to help you, if anybody can. My sister and myself will do our

utmost to bring you safe through the adventure, ugly as it now looks."

"Your sister?" repeated Perseus.

"Yes, my sister," said the stranger. "She is very wise, I promise

you; and as for myself, I generally have all my wits about me, such as

they are. If you show yourself bold and cautious, and follow our

advice, you need not fear being a stone image yet awhile. But, first

of all, you must polish your shield till you can see your face in it

as distinctly as in a mirror."

This seemed to Perseus rather an odd beginning of the adventure, for

he thought it of far more consequence that the shield should be strong

enough to defend him from the Gorgon's brazen claws than that it

should be bright enough to show him the reflection of his face.

However, concluding that Quicksilver knew better than himself, he

immediately set to work and scrubbed the shield with so much diligence

and good will that it very quickly shone like the moon at harvest

time. Quicksilver looked at it with a smile and nodded his

approbation. Then taking off his own short and crooked sword, he

girded it about Perseus, instead of the one which he had before worn.

"No sword but mine will answer your purpose," observed he; "the blade

has a most excellent temper and will cut through iron and brass as

easily as through the slenderest twig. And now we will set out. The

next thing is to find the Three Gray Women, who will tell us where to

find the Nymphs."

"The Three Gray Women!" cried Perseus, to whom this seemed only a new

difficulty in the path of his adventure. "Pray, who may the Three Gray

Women be? I never heard of them before."

"They are three very strange old ladies," said Quicksilver, laughing.

"They have but one eye among them, and only one tooth. Moreover, you

must find them out by starlight or in the dusk of the evening, for

they never show themselves by the light either of the sun or moon."

"But," said Perseus, "why should I waste my time with these Three

Gray Women? Would it not be better to set out at once in search of the

terrible Gorgons?"

"No, no," answered his friend. "There are other things to be done

before you can find your way to the Gorgons. There is nothing for it

but to hunt up these old ladies; and when we meet with them, you may

be sure that the Gorgons are not a great way off. Come, let us be


Perseus by this time felt so much confidence in his companion's

sagacity that he made no more objections, and professed himself ready

to begin the adventure immediately. They accordingly set out and

walked at a pretty brisk pace; so brisk, indeed, that Perseus fo