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Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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with OmniPage Professional software donated by Caere.



A short time ago, I was favored with a flying visit from my
young friend Eustace Bright, whom I had not before met with
since quitting the breezy mountains of Berkshire. It being the
winter vacation at his college, Eustace was allowing himself a
little relaxation, in the hope, he told me, of repairing the
inroads which severe application to study had made upon his
health; and I was happy to conclude, from the excellent
physical condition in which I saw him, that the remedy had
already been attended with very desirable success. He had now
run up from Boston by the noon train, partly impelled by the
friendly regard with which he is pleased to honor me, and
partly, as I soon found, on a matter of literary business.

It delighted me to receive Mr. Bright, for the first time,
under a roof, though a very humble one, which I could really
call my own. Nor did I fail (as is the custom of landed
proprietors all about the world) to parade the poor fellow up
and down over my half a dozen acres; secretly rejoicing,
nevertheless, that the disarray of the inclement season, and
particularly the six inches of snow then upon the ground,
prevented him from observing the ragged neglect of soil and
shrubbery into which the place had lapsed. It was idle,
however, to imagine that an airy guest from Monument Mountain,
Bald Summit, and old Graylock, shaggy with primeval forests,
could see anything to admire in my poor little hillside, with
its growth of frail and insect-eaten locust trees. Eustace very
frankly called the view from my hill top tame; and so, no
doubt, it was, after rough, broken, rugged, headlong Berkshire,
and especially the northern parts of the county, with which his
college residence had made him familiar. But to me there is a
peculiar, quiet charm in these broad meadows and gentle
eminences. They are better than mountains, because they do not
stamp and stereotype themselves into the brain, and thus grow
wearisome with the same strong impression, repeated day after
day. A few summer weeks among mountains, a lifetime among green
meadows and placid slopes, with outlines forever new, because
continually fading out of the memory--such would be my sober

I doubt whether Eustace did not internally pronounce the whole
thing a bore, until I led him to my predecessor's little
ruined, rustic summer house, midway on the hillside. It is a
mere skeleton of slender, decaying tree trunks, with neither
walls nor a roof; nothing but a tracery of branches and twigs,
which the next wintry blast will be very likely to scatter in
fragments along the terrace. It looks, and is, as evanescent as
a dream; and yet, in its rustic network of boughs, it has
somehow enclosed a hint of spiritual beauty, and has become a
true emblem of the subtile and ethereal mind that planned it. I
made Eustace Bright sit down on a snow bank, which had heaped
itself over the mossy seat, and gazing through the arched
windows opposite, he acknowledged that the scene at once grew

"Simple as it looks," said he, "this little edifice seems to be
the work of magic. It is full of suggestiveness, and, in its
way, is as good as a cathedral. Ah, it would be just the spot
for one to sit in, of a summer afternoon, and tell the children
some more of those wild stories from the classic myths!"

"It would, indeed," answered I. "The summer house itself, so
airy and so broken, is like one of those old tales, imperfectly
remembered; and these living branches of the Baldwin apple
tree, thrusting so rudely in, are like your unwarrantable
interpolations. But, by the by, have you added any more legends
to the series, since the publication of the 'Wonder-Book'?"

"Many more," said Eustace; "Primrose, Periwinkle, and the rest
of them, allow me no comfort of my life unless I tell them a
story every day or two. I have run away from home partly to
escape the importunity of these little wretches! But I have
written out six of the new stories, and have brought them for
you to look over."

"Are they as good as the first?" I inquired.

"Better chosen, and better handled," replied Eustace Bright.
"You will say so when you read them."

"Possibly not," I remarked. "I know from my own experience,
that an author's last work is always his best one, in his own
estimate, until it quite loses the red heat of composition.
After that, it falls into its true place, quietly enough. But
let us adjourn to my study, and examine these new stories. It
would hardly be doing yourself justice, were you to bring me
acquainted with them, sitting here on this snow bank!"

So we descended the hill to my small, old cottage, and shut
ourselves up in the south-eastern room, where the sunshine
comes in, warmly and brightly, through the better half of a
winter's day. Eustace put his bundle of manuscript into my
hands; and I skimmed through it pretty rapidly, trying to find
out its merits and demerits by the touch of my fingers, as a
veteran story-teller ought to know how to do.

It will be remembered that Mr. Bright condescended to avail
himself of my literary experience by constituting me editor of
the "Wonder-Book." As he had no reason to complain of the
reception of that erudite work by the public, he was now
disposed to retain me in a similar position with respect to the
present volume, which he entitled TANGLEWOOD TALES. Not, as
Eustace hinted, that there was any real necessity for my
services as introducer, inasmuch as his own name had become
established in some good degree of favor with the literary
world. But the connection with myself, he was kind enough to
say, had been highly agreeable; nor was he by any means
desirous, as most people are, of kicking away the ladder that
had perhaps helped him to reach his present elevation. My young
friend was willing, in short, that the fresh verdure of his
growing reputation should spread over my straggling and
half-naked boughs; even as I have sometimes thought of training
a vine, with its broad leafiness, and purple fruitage, over the
worm-eaten posts and rafters of the rustic summer house. I was
not insensible to the advantages of his proposal, and gladly
assured him of my acceptance.

Merely from the title of the stories I saw at once that the
subjects were not less rich than those of the former volume;
nor did I at all doubt that Mr. Bright's audacity (so far as
that endowment might avail) had enabled him to take full
advantage of whatever capabilities they offered. Yet, in spite
of my experience of his free way of handling them, I did not
quite see, I confess, how he could have obviated all the
difficulties in the way of rendering them presentable to
children. These old legends, so brimming over with everything
that is most abhorrent to our Christianized moral sense some of
them so hideous, others so melancholy and miserable, amid which
the Greek tragedians sought their themes, and moulded them into
the sternest forms of grief that ever the world saw; was such
material the stuff that children's playthings should be made
of! How were they to be purified? How was the blessed sunshine
to be thrown into them?

But Eustace told me that these myths were the most singular
things in the world, and that he was invariably astonished,
whenever he began to relate one, by the readiness with which it
adapted itself to the childish purity of his auditors. The
objectionable characteristics seem to be a parasitical growth,
having no essential connection with the original fable. They
fall away, and are thought of no more, the instant he puts his
imagination in sympathy with the innocent little circle, whose
wide-open eyes are fixed so eagerly upon him. Thus the stories
(not by any strained effort of the narrator's, but in harmony
with their inherent germ) transform themselves, and re-assume
the shapes which they might be supposed to possess in the pure
childhood of the world. When the first poet or romancer told
these marvellous legends (such is Eustace Bright's opinion), it
was still the Golden Age. Evil had never yet existed; and
sorrow, misfortune, crime, were mere shadows which the mind
fancifully created for itself, as a shelter against too sunny
realities; or, at most, but prophetic dreams to which the
dreamer himself did not yield a waking credence. Children are
now the only representatives of the men and women of that happy
era; and therefore it is that we must raise the intellect and
fancy to the level of childhood, in order to re-create the
original myths.

I let the youthful author talk as much and as extravagantly as
he pleased, and was glad to see him commencing life with such
confidence in himself and his performances. A few years will do
all that is necessary towards showing him the truth in both
respects. Meanwhile, it is but right to say, he does really
appear to have overcome the moral objections against these
fables, although at the expense of such liberties with their
structure as must be left to plead their own excuse, without
any help from me. Indeed, except that there was a necessity for
it--and that the inner life of the legends cannot be come at
save by making them entirely one's own property--there is no
defense to be made.

Eustace informed me that he had told his stories to the
children in various situations--in the woods, on the shore of
the lake, in the dell of Shadow Brook, in the playroom, at
Tanglewood fireside, and in a magnificent palace of snow, with
ice windows, which he helped his little friends to build. His
auditors were even more delighted with the contents of the
present volume than with the specimens which have already been
given to the world. The classically learned Mr. Pringle, too,
had listened to two or three of the tales, and censured them
even more bitterly than he did THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES; so
that, what with praise, and what with criticism, Eustace Bright
thinks that there is good hope of at least as much success with
the public as in the case of the "WonderBook."

I made all sorts of inquiries about the children, not doubting
that there would be great eagerness to hear of their welfare,
among some good little folks who have written to me, to ask for
another volume of myths. They are all, I am happy to say
(unless we except Clover), in excellent health and spirits.
Primrose is now almost a young lady, and, Eustace tells me, is
just as saucy as ever. She pretends to consider herself quite
beyond the age to be interested by such idle stories as these;
but, for all that, whenever a story is to be told, Primrose
never fails to be one of the listeners, and to make fun of it
when finished. Periwinkle is very much grown, and is expected
to shut up her baby house and throw away her doll in a month or
two more. Sweet Fern has learned to read and write, and has put
on a jacket and pair of pantaloons--all of which improvements I
am sorry for. Squash Blossom, Blue Eye, Plantain, and Buttercup
have had the scarlet fever, but came easily through it.
Huckleberry, Milkweed, and Dandelion were attacked with the
whooping cough, but bore it bravely, and kept out of doors
whenever the sun shone. Cowslip, during the autumn, had either
the measles, or some eruption that looked very much like it,
but was hardly sick a day. Poor Clover has been a good deal
troubled with her second teeth, which have made her meagre in
aspect and rather fractious in temper; nor, even when she
smiles, is the matter much mended, since it discloses a gap
just within her lips, almost as wide as the barn door. But all
this will pass over, and it is predicted that she will turn out
a very pretty girl.

As for Mr. Bright himself, he is now in his senior year at
Williams College, and has a prospect of graduating with some
degree of honorable distinction at the next Commencement. In
his oration for the bachelor's degree, he gives me to
understand, he will treat of the classical myths, viewed in the
aspect of baby stories, and has a great mind to discuss the
expediency of using up the whole of ancient history, for the
same purpose. I do not know what he means to do with himself
after leaving college, but trust that, by dabbling so early
with the dangerous and seductive business of authorship, he
will not bc tempted to become an author by profession. If so I
shall be very sorry for the little that I have had to do with
the matter, in encouraging these first beginnings.

I wish there were any likelihood of my soon seeing Primrose,
Periwinkle, Dandelion, Sweet Fern, Clover Plantain,
Huckleberry, Milkweed, Cowslip, Buttercup, Blue Eye, and Squash
Blossom again. But as I do not know when I shall re-visit
Tanglewood, and as Eustace Bright probably will not ask me to
edit a third "WonderBook," the public of little folks must not
expect to hear any more about those dear children from me.
Heaven bless them, and everybody else, whether grown people or


In the old city of Troezene, at the foot of a lofty mountain,
there lived, a very long time ago, a little boy named Theseus.
His grandfather, King Pittheus, was the sovereign of that
country, and was reckoned a very wise man; so that Theseus,
being brought up in the royal palace, and being naturally a
bright lad, could hardly fail of profiting by the old king's
instructions. His mother's name was Aethra. As for his father,
the boy had never seen him. But, from his earliest remembrance,
Aethra used to go with little Theseus into a wood, and sit down
upon a moss-grown rock, which was deeply sunken into the earth.
Here she often talked with her son about his father, and said
that he was called Aegeus, and that he was a great king, and
ruled over Attica, and dwelt at Athens, which was as famous a
city as any in the world. Theseus was very fond of hearing
about King Aegeus, and often asked his good mother Aethra why
he did not come and live with them at Troezene.

"Ah, my dear son," answered Aethra, with a sigh, "a monarch has
his people to take care of. The men and women over whom he
rules are in the place of children to him; and he can seldom
spare time to love his own children as other parents do. Your
father will never be able to leave his kingdom for the sake of
seeing his little boy."

"Well, but, dear mother," asked the boy, "why cannot I go to
this famous city of Athens, and tell King Aegeus that I am his

"That may happen by and by," said Aethra. "Be patient, and we
shall see. You are not yet big and strong enough to set out on
such an errand."

"And how soon shall I be strong enough?" Theseus persisted in

"You are but a tiny boy as yet," replied his mother. "See if
you can lift this rock on which we are sitting?"

The little fellow had a great opinion of his own strength. So,
grasping the rough protuberances of the rock, he tugged and
toiled amain, and got himself quite out of breath, without
being able to stir the heavy stone. It seemed to be rooted into
the ground. No wonder he could not move it; for it would have
taken all the force of a very strong man to lift it out of its
earthy bed.

His mother stood looking on, with a sad kind of a smile on her
lips and in her eyes, to see the zealous and yet puny efforts
of her little boy. She could not help being sorrowful at
finding him already so impatient to begin his adventures in the

"You see how it is, my dear Theseus," said she. "You must
possess far more strength than now before I can trust you to go
to Athens, and tell King Aegeus that you are his son. But when
you can lift this rock, and show me what is hidden beneath it,
I promise you my permission to depart."

Often and often, after this, did Theseus ask his mother whether
it was yet time for him to go to Athens; and still his mother
pointed to the rock, and told him that, for years to come, he
could not be strong enough to move it. And again and again the
rosy-checked and curly-headed boy would tug and strain at the
huge mass of stone, striving, child as he was, to do what a
giant could hardly have done without taking both of his great
hands to the task. Meanwhile the rock seemed to be sinking
farther and farther into the ground. The moss grew over it
thicker and thicker, until at last it looked almost like a soft
green seat, with only a few gray knobs of granite peeping out.
The overhanging trees, also, shed their brown leaves upon It,
as often as the autumn came; and at its base grew ferns and
wild flowers, some of which crept quite over its surface. To
all appearance, the rock was as firmly fastened as any other
portion of the earth's substance.

But, difficult as the matter looked, Theseus was now growing up
to be such a vigorous youth, that, in his own opinion, the time
would quickly come when he might hope to get the upper hand of
this ponderous lump of stone.

"Mother, I do believe it has started!" cried he, after one of
his attempts. "The earth around it is certainly a little

"No, no, child!" his mother hastily answered. "It is not
possible you can have moved it, such a boy as you still are!"

Nor would she be convinced, although Theseus showed her the
place where he fancied that the stem of a flower had been
partly uprooted by the movement of the rock. But Aethra sighed,
and looked disquieted; for, no doubt, she began to be conscious
that her son was no longer a child, and that, in a little while
hence, she must send him forth among the perils and troubles of
the world.

It was not more than a year afterwards when they were again
sitting on the moss-covered stone. Aethra had once more told
him the oft-repeated story of his father, and how gladly he
would receive Theseus at his stately palace, and how he would
present him to his courtiers and the people, and tell them that
here was the heir of his dominions. The eyes of Theseus glowed
with enthusiasm, and he would hardly sit still to hear his
mother speak.

"Dear mother Aethra," he exclaimed, "I never felt half so
strong as now! I am no longer a child, nor a boy, nor a mere
youth! I feel myself a man! It is now time to make one earnest
trial to remove the stone."

"Ah, my dearest Theseus," replied his mother "not yet! not

"Yes, mother," said he, resolutely, "the time has come!"

Then Theseus bent himself in good earnest to the task, and
strained every sinew, with manly strength and resolution. He
put his whole brave heart into the effort. He wrestled with the
big and sluggish stone, as if it had been a living enemy. He
heaved, he lifted, he resolved now to succeed, or else to
perish there, and let the rock be his monument forever! Aethra
stood gazing at him, and clasped her hands, partly with a
mother's pride, and partly with a mother's sorrow. The great
rock stirred! Yes, it was raised slowly from the bedded moss
and earth, uprooting the shrubs and flowers along with it, and
was turned upon its side. Theseus had conquered!

While taking breath, he looked joyfully at his mother, and she
smiled upon him through her tears.

"Yes, Theseus," she said, "the time has come, and you must stay
no longer at my side! See what King Aegeus, your royal father,
left for you beneath the stone, when he lifted it in his mighty
arms, and laid it on the spot whence you have now removed it."

Theseus looked, and saw that the rock had been placed over
another slab of stone, containing a cavity within it; so that
it somewhat resembled a roughly-made chest or coffer, of which
the upper mass had served as the lid. Within the cavity lay a
sword, with a golden hilt, and a pair of sandals.

"That was your father's sword," said Aethra, "and those were
his sandals. When he went to be king of Athens, he bade me
treat you as a child until you should prove yourself a man by
lifting this heavy stone. That task being accomplished, you are
to put on his sandals, in order to follow in your father's
footsteps, and to gird on his sword, so that you may fight
giants and dragons, as King Aegeus did in his youth."

"I will set out for Athens this very day!" cried Theseus.

But his mother persuaded him to stay a day or two longer, while
she got ready some necessary articles for his journey. When his
grandfather, the wise King Pittheus, heard that Theseus
intended to present himself at his father's palace, he
earnestly advised him to get on board of a vessel, and go by
sea; because he might thus arrive within fifteen miles of
Athens, without either fatigue or danger.

"The roads are very bad by land," quoth the venerable king;
"and they are terribly infested with robbers and monsters. A
mere lad, like Theseus, is not fit to be trusted on such a
perilous journey, all by himself. No, no; let him go by sea."

But when Theseus heard of robbers and monsters, he pricked up
his ears, and was so much the more eager to take the road along
which they were to be met with. On the third day, therefore, he
bade a respectful farewell to his grandfather, thanking him for
all his kindness; and, after affectionately embracing his
mother, he set forth with a good many of her tears glistening
on his cheeks, and some, if the truth must be told, that had
gushed out of his own eyes. But he let the sun and wind dry
them, and walked stoutly on, playing with the golden hilt of
his sword, and taking very manly strides in his father's

I cannot stop to tell you hardly any of the adventures that
befell Theseus on the road to Athens. It is enough to say, that
he quite cleared that part of the country of the robbers about
whom King Pittheus had been so much alarmed. One of these bad
people was named Procrustes; and he was indeed a terrible
fellow, and had an ugly way of making fun of the poor travelers
who happened to fall into his clutches. In his cavern he had a
bed, on which, with great pretense of hospitality, he invited
his guests to lie down; but, if they happened to be shorter
than the bed, this wicked villain stretched them out by main
force; or, if they were too tall, he lopped off their heads or
feet, and laughed at what he had done, as an excellent joke.
Thus, however weary a man might be, he never liked to lie in
the bed of Procrustes. Another of these robbers, named Scinis,
must likewise have been a very great scoundrel. He was in the
habit of flinging his victims off a high cliff into the sea;
and, in order to give him exactly his deserts, Theseus tossed
him off the very same place. But if you will believe me, the
sea would not pollute itself by receiving such a bad person
into its bosom; neither would the earth, having once got rid of
him, consent to take him back; so that, between the cliff and
the sea, Scinis stuck fast in the air, which was forced to bear
the burden of his naughtiness.

After these memorable deeds, Theseus heard of an enormous sow,
which ran wild, and was the terror of all the farmers round
about; and, as he did not consider himself above doing any good
thing that came in his way, he killed this monstrous creature,
and gave the carcass to the poor people for bacon. The great
sow had been an awful beast, while ramping about the woods and
fields, but was a pleasant object enough when cut up into
joints, and smoking on I know not how many dinner tables.

Thus, by the time he reached his journey's end, Theseus had
done many valiant feats with his father's golden-hilted sword,
and had gained the renown of being one of the bravest young men
of the day. His fame traveled faster than he did, and reached
Athens before him. As he entered the city, he heard the
inhabitants talking at the street corners, and saying that
Hercules was brave, and Jason too, and Castor and Pollux
likewise, but that Theseus, the son of their own king, would
turn out as great a hero as the best of them. Theseus took
longer strides on hearing this, and fancied himself sure of a
magnificent reception at his father's court, since he came
thither with Fame to blow her trumpet before him, and cry to
King Aegeus, "Behold your son!"

He little suspected, innocent youth that he was, that here, in
this very Athens, where his father reigned, a greater danger
awaited him than any which he had encountered on the road. Yet
this was the truth. You must understand that the father of
Theseus, though not very old in years, was almost worn out with
the cares of government, and had thus grown aged before his
time. His nephews, not expecting him to live a very great
while, intended to get all the power of the kingdom into their
own hands. But when they heard that Theseus had arrived in
Athens, and learned what a gallant young man he was, they saw
that he would not be at all the kind of a person to let them
steal away his father's crown and scepter, which ought to be
his own by right of inheritance. Thus these bad-hearted nephews
of King Aegeus, who were the own cousins of Theseus, at once
became his enemies. A still more dangerous enemy was Medea, the
wicked enchantress; for she was now the king's wife, and wanted
to give the kingdom to her son Medus, instead of letting it be
given to the son of Aethra, whom she hated.

It so happened that the king's nephews met Theseus, and found
out who he was, just as he reached the entrance of the royal
palace. With all their evil designs against him, they pretended
to be their cousin's best friends, and expressed great joy at
making his acquaintance. They proposed to him that he should
come into the king's presence as a stranger, in order to try
whether Aegeus would discover in the young man's features any
likeness either to himself or his mother Aethra, and thus
recognize him for a son. Theseus consented; for he fancied that
his father would know him in a moment, by the love that was in
his heart. But, while he waited at the door, the nephews ran
and told King Aegeus that a young man had arrived in Athens,
who, to their certain knowledge, intended to put him to death,
and get possession of his royal crown.

"And he is now waiting for admission to your majesty's
presence," added they.

"Aha!" cried the old king, on hearing this. "Why, he must be a
very wicked young fellow indeed! Pray, what would you advise me
to do with him? "

In reply to this question, the wicked Medea put in her word. As
I have already told you, she was a famous enchantress.
According to some stories, she was in the habit of boiling old
people in a large caldron, under pretense of making them young
again; but King Aegeus, I suppose, did not fancy such an
uncomfortable way of growing young, or perhaps was contented to
be old, and therefore would never let himself be popped into
the caldron. If there were time to spare from more important
matters, I should be glad to tell you of Medea's fiery chariot,
drawn by winged dragons, in which the enchantress used often to
take an airing among the clouds. This chariot, in fact, was the
vehicle that first brought her to Athens, where she had done
nothing but mischief ever since her arrival. But these and many
other wonders must be left untold; and it is enough to say,
that Medea, amongst a thousand other bad things, knew how to
prepare a poison, that was instantly fatal to whomsoever might
so much as touch it with his lips.

So, when the king asked what he should do with Theseus, this
naughty woman had an answer ready at her tongue's end.

"Leave that to me, please your majesty," she replied. "Only
admit this evil-minded young man to your presence, treat him
civilly, and invite him to drink a goblet of wine. Your majesty
is well aware that I sometimes amuse myself by distilling very
powerful medicines. Here is one of them in this small phial. As
to what it is made of, that is one of my secrets of state. Do
but let me put a single drop into the goblet, and let the young
man taste it; and I will answer for it, he shall quite lay
aside the bad designs with which he comes hither."

As she said this, Medea smiled; but, for all her smiling face,
she meant nothing less than to poison the poor innocent
Theseus, before his father's eyes. And King Aegeus, like most
other kings, thought any punishment mild enough for a person
who was accused of plotting against his life. He therefore made
little or no objection to Medea's scheme, and as soon as the
poisonous wine was ready, gave orders that the young stranger
should be admitted into his presence.

The goblet was set on a table beside the king's throne; and a
fly, meaning just to sip a little from the brim, immediately
tumbled into it, dead. Observing this, Medea looked round at
the nephews, and smiled again.

When Theseus was ushered into the royal apartment, the only
object that he seemed to behold was the white-bearded old king.
There he sat on his magnificent throne, a dazzling crown on his
head, and a scepter in his hand. His aspect was stately and
majestic, although his years and infirmities weighed heavily
upon him, as if each year were a lump of lead, and each
infirmity a ponderous stone, and all were bundled up together,
and laid upon his weary shoulders. The tears both of joy and
sorrow sprang into the young man's eyes; for he thought how sad
it was to see his dear father so infirm, and how sweet it would
be to support him with his own youthful strength, and to cheer
him up with the alacrity of his loving spirit. When a son takes
a father into his warm heart it renews the old man's youth in a
better way than by the heat of Medea's magic caldron. And this
was what Theseus resolved to do. He could scarcely wait to see
whether King Aegeus would recognize him, so eager was he to
throw himself into his arms.

Advancing to the foot of the throne, he attempted to make a
little speech, which he had been thinking about, as he came up
the stairs. But he was almost choked by a great many tender
feelings that gushed out of his heart and swelled into his
throat, all struggling to find utterance together. And
therefore, unless he could have laid his full, over- brimming
heart into the king's hand, poor Theseus knew not what to do or
say. The cunning Medea observed what was passing in the young
man's mind. She was more wicked at that moment than ever she
had been before; for (and it makes me tremble to tell you of
it) she did her worst to turn all this unspeakable love with
which Theseus was agitated to his own ruin and destruction.

"Does your majesty see his confusion?" she whispered in the
king's ear. "He is so conscious of guilt, that he trembles and
cannot speak. The wretch lives too long! Quick! offer him the

Now King Aegeus had been gazing earnestly at the young
stranger, as he drew near the throne. There was something, he
knew not what, either in his white brow, or in the fine
expression of his mouth, or in his beautiful and tender eyes,
that made him indistinctly feel as if he had seen this youth
before; as if, indeed, he had trotted him on his knee when a
baby, and had beheld him growing to be a stalwart man, while he
himself grew old. But Medea guessed how the king felt, and
would not suffer him to yield to these natural sensibilities;
although they were the voice of his deepest heart, telling him
as plainly as it could speak, that here was our dear son, and
Aethra's son, coming to claim him for a father. The enchantress
again whispered in the king's ear, and compelled him, by her
witchcraft, to see everything under a false aspect.

He made up his mind, therefore, to let Theseus drink off the
poisoned wine.

"Young man," said he, "you are welcome! I am proud to show
hospitality to so heroic a youth. Do me the favor to drink the
contents of this goblet. It is brimming over, as you see, with
delicious wine, such as I bestow only on those who are worthy
of it! None is more worthy to quaff it than yourself!"

So saying, King Aegeus took the golden goblet from the table,
and was about to offer it to Theseus. But, partly through his
infirmities, and partly because it seemed so sad a thing to
take away this young man's life. however wicked he might be,
and partly, no doubt, because his heart was wiser than his
head, and quaked within him at the thought of what he was going
to do--for all these reasons, the king's hand trembled so much
that a great deal of the wine slopped over. In order to
strengthen his purpose, and fearing lest the whole of the
precious poison should be wasted, one of his nephews now
whispered to him:

"Has your Majesty any doubt of this stranger's guilt? This is
the very sword with which he meant to slay you. How sharp, and
bright, and terrible it is! Quick!--let him taste the wine; or
perhaps he may do the deed even yet."

At these words, Aegeus drove every thought and feeling out of
his breast, except the one idea of how justly the young man
deserved to be put to death. He sat erect on his throne, and
held out the goblet of wine with a steady hand, and bent on
Theseus a frown of kingly severity; for, after all, he had too
noble a spirit to murder even a treacherous enemy with a
deceitful smile upon his face.

"Drink!" said he, in the stern tone with which he was wont to
condemn a criminal to be beheaded. "You have well deserved of
me such wine as this!"

Theseus held out his hand to take the wine. But, before he
touched it, King Aegeus trembled again. His eyes had fallen on
the gold-hilted sword that hung at the young man's side. He
drew back the goblet.

"That sword!" he exclaimed: "how came you by it?"

"It was my father's sword," replied Theseus, with a tremulous
voice. "These were his sandals. My dear mother (her name is
Aethra) told me his story while I was yet a little child. But
it is only a month since I grew strong enough to lift the heavy
stone, and take the sword and sandals from beneath it, and come
to Athens to seek my father."

"My son! my son!" cried King Aegeus, flinging away the fatal
goblet, and tottering down from the throne to fall into the
arms of Theseus. "Yes, these are Aethra's eyes. It is my son."

I have quite forgotten what became of the king's nephews. But
when the wicked Medea saw this new turn of affairs, she hurried
out of the room, and going to her private chamber, lost no time
to setting her enchantments to work. In a few moments, she
heard a great noise of hissing snakes outside of the chamber
window; and behold! there was her fiery chariot, and four huge
winged serpents, wriggling and twisting in the air, flourishing
their tails higher than the top of the palace, and all ready to
set off on an aerial journey. Medea staid only long enough to
take her son with her, and to steal the crown jewels, together
with the king's best robes, and whatever other valuable things
she could lay hands on; and getting into the chariot, she
whipped up the snakes, and ascended high over the city.

The king, hearing the hiss of the serpents, scrambled as fast
as he could to the window, and bawled out to the abominable
enchantress never to come back. The whole people of Athens,
too, who had run out of doors to see this wonderful spectacle,
set up a shout of joy at the prospect of getting rid of her.
Medea, almost bursting with rage, uttered precisely such a hiss
as one of her own snakes, only ten times more venomous and
spiteful; and glaring fiercely out of the blaze of the chariot,
she shook her hands over the multitude below, as if she were
scattering a million of curses among them. In so doing,
however, she unintentionally let fall about five hundred
diamonds of the first water, together with a thousand great
pearls, and two thousand emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals,
and topazes, to which she had helped herself out of the king's
strong box. All these came pelting down, like a shower of many-
colored hailstones, upon the heads of grown people and
children, who forthwith gathered them up, and carried them back
to the palace. But King Aegeus told them that they were welcome
to the whole, and to twice as many more, if he had them, for
the sake of his delight at finding his son, and losing the
wicked Medea. And, indeed, if you had seen how hateful was her
last look, as the flaming chariot flew upward, you would not
have wondered that both king and people should think her
departure a good riddance.

And now Prince Theseus was taken into great favor by his royal
father. The old king was never weary of having him sit beside
him on his throne (which was quite wide enough for two), and of
hearing him tell about his dear mother, and his childhood, and
his many boyish efforts to lift the ponderous stone. Theseus,
however, was much too brave and active a young man to be
willing to spend all his time in relating things which had
already happened. His ambition was to perform other and more
heroic deeds, which should be better worth telling in prose and
verse. Nor had he been long in Athens before he caught and
chained a terrible mad bull, and made a public show of him,
greatly to the wonder and admiration of good King Aegeus and
his subjects. But pretty soon, he undertook an affair that made
all his foregone adventures seem like mere boy's play. The
occasion of it was as follows:

One morning, when Prince Theseus awoke, he fancied that he must
have had a very sorrowful dream, and that it was still running
in his mind, even now that his eyes were opened. For it
appeared as if the air was full of a melancholy wail; and when
he listened more attentively, he could hear sobs, and groans,
and screams of woe, mingled with deep, quiet sighs, which came
from the king's palace, and from the streets, and from the
temples, and from every habitation in the city. And all these
mournful noises, issuing out of thousands of separate hearts,
united themselves into one great sound of affliction, which had
startled Theseus from slumber. He put on his clothes as quickly
as he could (not forgetting his sandals and gold-hilted sword),
and, hastening to the king, inquired what it all meant.

"Alas! my son," quoth King Aegeus, heaving a long sigh, "here
is a very lamentable matter in hand! This is the wofulest
anniversary in the whole year. It is the day when we annually
draw lots to see which of the youths and maids of Athens shall
go to be devoured by the horrible Minotaur!"

"The Minotaur!" exclaimed Prince Theseus; and like a brave
young prince as he was, he put his hand to the hilt of his
sword. "What kind of a monster may that be? Is it not possible,
at the risk of one's life, to slay him?"

But King Aegeus shook his venerable head, and to convince
Theseus that it was quite a hopeless case, he gave him an
explanation of the whole affair. It seems that in the island of
Crete there lived a certain dreadful monster, called a
Minotaur, which was shaped partly like a man and partly like a
bull, and was altogether such a hideous sort of a creature that
it is really disagreeable to think of him. If he were suffered
to exist at all, it should have been on some desert island, or
in the duskiness of some deep cavern, where nobody would ever
be tormented by his abominable aspect. But King Minos, who
reigned over Crete, laid out a vast deal of money in building a
habitation for the Minotaur, and took great care of his health
and comfort, merely for mischief's sake. A few years before
this time, there had been a war between the city of Athens and
the island of Crete, in which the Athenians were beaten, and
compelled to beg for peace. No peace could they obtain,
however, except on condition that they should send seven young
men and seven maidens, every year, to be devoured by the pet
monster of the cruel King Minos. For three years past, this
grievous calamity had been borne. And the sobs, and groans, and
shrieks, with which the city was now filled, were caused by the
people's woe, because the fatal day had come again, when the
fourteen victims were to be chosen by lot; and the old people
feared lest their sons or daughters might be taken, and the
youths and damsels dreaded lest they themselves might be
destined to glut the ravenous maw of that detestable man-brute.

But when Theseus heard the story, he straightened himself up,
so that he seemed taller than ever before; and as for his face
it was indignant, despiteful, bold, tender, and compassionate,
all in one look.

"Let the people of Athens this year draw lots for only six
young men, instead of seven," said he, "I will myself be the
seventh; and let the Minotaur devour me if he can!"

"O my dear son," cried King Aegeus, "why should you expose
yourself to this horrible fate? You are a royal prince, and
have a right to hold yourself above the destinies of common

"It is because I am a prince, your son, and the rightful heir
of your kingdom, that I freely take upon me the calamity of
your subjects," answered Theseus, " And you, my father, being
king over these people, and answerable to Heaven for their
welfare, are bound to sacrifice what is dearest to you, rather
than that the son or daughter of the poorest citizen should
come to any harm."

The old king shed tears, and besought Theseus not to leave him
desolate in his old age, more especially as he had but just
begun to know the happiness of possessing a good and valiant
son. Theseus, however, felt that he was in the right, and
therefore would not give up his resolution. But he assured his
father that he did not intend to be eaten up, unresistingly,
like a sheep, and that, if the Minotaur devoured him, it should
not be without a battle for his dinner. And finally, since he
could not help it, King Aegeus consented to let him go. So a
vessel was got ready, and rigged with black sails; and Theseus,
with six other young men, and seven tender and beautiful
damsels, came down to the harbor to embark. A sorrowful
multitude accompanied them to the shore. There was the poor old
king, too, leaning on his son's arm, and looking as if his
single heart held all the grief of Athens.

Just as Prince Theseus was going on board, his father bethought
himself of one last word to say.

"My beloved son," said he, grasping the Prince's hand, "you
observe that the sails of this vessel are black; as indeed they
ought to be, since it goes upon a voyage of sorrow and despair.
Now, being weighed down with infirmities, I know not whether I
can survive till the vessel shall return. But, as long as I do
live, I shall creep daily to the top of yonder cliff, to watch
if there be a sail upon the sea. And, dearest Theseus, if by
some happy chance, you should escape the jaws of the Minotaur,
then tear down those dismal sails, and hoist others that shall
be bright as the sunshine. Beholding them on the horizon,
myself and all the people will know that you are coming back
victorious, and will welcome you with such a festal uproar as
Athens never heard before."

Theseus promised that he would do so. Then going on board, the
mariners trimmed the vessel's black sails to the wind, which
blew faintly off the shore, being pretty much made up of the
sighs that everybody kept pouring forth on this melancholy
occasion. But by and by, when they had got fairly out to sea,
there came a stiff breeze from the north-west, and drove them
along as merrily over the white-capped waves as if they had
been going on the most delightful errand imaginable. And though
it was a sad business enough, I rather question whether
fourteen young people, without any old persons to keep them in
order, could continue to spend the whole time of the voyage in
being miserable. There had been some few dances upon the
undulating deck, I suspect, and some hearty bursts of laughter,
and other such unseasonable merriment among the victims, before
the high blue mountains of Crete began to show themselves among
the far-off clouds. That sight, to be sure, made them all very
grave again.

Theseus stood among the sailors, gazing eagerly towards the
land; although, as yet, it seemed hardly more substantial than
the clouds, amidst which the mountains were looming up. Once or
twice, he fancied that he saw a glare of some bright object, a
long way off, flinging a gleam across the waves.

"Did you see that flash of light?" he inquired of the master of
the vessel.

"No, prince; but I have seen it before," answered the master.
"It came from Talus, I suppose."

As the breeze came fresher just then, the master was busy with
trimming his sails, and had no more time to answer questions.
But while the vessel flew faster and faster towards Crete,
Theseus was astonished to behold a human figure, gigantic in
size, which appeared to be striding, with a measured movement,
along the margin of the island. It stepped from cliff to cliff,
and sometimes from one headland to another, while the sea
foamed and thundered on the shore beneath, and dashed its jets
of spray over the giant's feet. What was still more remarkable,
whenever the sun shone on this huge figure, it flickered and
glimmered; its vast countenance, too, had a metallic lustre,
and threw great flashes of splendor through the air. The folds
of its garments, moreover, instead of waving in the wind, fell
heavily over its limbs, as if woven of some kind of metal.

The nigher the vessel came, the more Theseus wondered what this
immense giant could be, and whether it actually had life or no.
For, though it walked, and made other lifelike motions, there
yet was a kind of jerk in its gait, which, together with its
brazen aspect, caused the young prince to suspect that it was
no true giant, but only a wonderful piece of machinery. The
figure looked all the more terrible because it carried an
enormous brass club on its shoulder.

"What is this wonder?" Theseus asked of the master of the
vessel, who was now at leisure to answer him.

"It is Talus, the Man of Brass," said the master.

"And is he a live giant, or a brazen image?" asked Theseus.

"That, truly," replied the master, "is the point which has
always perplexed me. Some say, indeed, that this Talus was
hammered out for King Minos by Vulcan himself, the skilfullest
of all workers in metal. But who ever saw a brazen image that
had sense enough to walk round an island three times a day, as
this giant walks round the island of Crete, challenging every
vessel that comes nigh the shore? And, on the other hand, what
living thing, unless his sinews were made of brass, would not
be weary of marching eighteen hundred miles in the twenty-four
hours, as Talus does, without ever sitting down to rest? He is
a puzzler, take him how you will."

Still the vessel went bounding onward; and now Theseus could
hear the brazen clangor of the giant's footsteps, as he trod
heavily upon the sea-beaten rocks, some of which were seen to
crack and crumble into the foaming waves beneath his weight. As
they approached the entrance of the port, the giant straddled
clear across it, with a foot firmly planted on each headland,
and uplifting his club to such a height that its butt-end was
hidden in the cloud, he stood in that formidable posture, with
the sun gleaming all over his metallic surface. There seemed
nothing else to be expected but that, the next moment, he would
fetch his great club down, slam bang, and smash the vessel into
a thousand pieces, without heeding how many innocent people he
might destroy; for there is seldom any mercy in a giant, you
know, and quite as little in a piece of brass clockwork. But
just when Theseus and his companions thought the blow was
coming, the brazen lips unclosed themselves, and the figure

"Whence come you, strangers?"

And when the ringing voice ceased, there was just such a
reverberation as you may have heard within a great church bell,
for a moment or two after the stroke of the hammer.

"From Athens!" shouted the master in reply.

"On what errand?" thundered the Man of Brass.

And he whirled his club aloft more threateningly than ever, as
if he were about to smite them with a thunderstroke right
amidships, because Athens, so little while ago, had been at war
with Crete.

"We bring the seven youths and the seven maidens," answered the
master, "to be devoured by the Minotaur!"

"Pass!" cried the brazen giant.

That one loud word rolled all about the sky, while again there
was a booming reverberation within the figure's breast. The
vessel glided between the headlands of the port, and the giant
resumed his march. In a few moments, this wondrous sentinel was
far away, flashing in the distant sunshine, and revolving with
immense strides round the island of Crete, as it was his
never-ceasing task to do.

No sooner had they entered the harbor than a party of the
guards of King Minos came down to the water side, and took
charge of the fourteen young men and damsels. Surrounded by
these armed warriors, Prince Theseus and his companions were
led to the king's palace, and ushered into his presence. Now,
Minos was a stern and pitiless king. If the figure that guarded
Crete was made of brass, then the monarch, who ruled over it,
might be thought to have a still harder metal in his breast,
and might have been called a man of iron. He bent his shaggy
brows upon the poor Athenian victims. Any other mortal,
beholding their fresh and tender beauty, and their innocent
looks, would have felt himself sitting on thorns until he had
made every soul of them happy by bidding them go free as the
summer wind. But this immitigable Minos cared only to examine
whether they were plump enough to satisfy the Minotaur's
appetite. For my part, I wish he himself had been the only
victim; and the monster would have found him a pretty tough

One after another, King Minos called these pale, frightened
youths and sobbing maidens to his footstool, gave them each a
poke in the ribs with his sceptre (to try whether they were in
good flesh or no), and dismissed them with a nod to his guards.
But when his eyes rested on Theseus, the king looked at him
more attentively, because his face was calm and brave.

"Young man," asked he, with his stern voice, "are you not
appalled at the certainty of being devoured by this terrible

"I have offered my life in a good cause," answered Theseus,
"and therefore I give it freely and gladly. But thou, King
Minos, art thou not thyself appalled, who, year after year,
hast perpetrated this dreadful wrong, by giving seven innocent
youths and as many maidens to be devoured by a monster? Dost
thou not tremble, wicked king, to turn shine eyes inward on
shine own heart? Sitting there on thy golden throne, and in thy
robes of majesty, I tell thee to thy face, King Minos, thou art
a more hideous monster than the Minotaur himself!"

"Aha! do you think me so?" cried the king, laughing in his
cruel way. "To-morrow, at breakfast time, you shall have an
opportunity of judging which is the greater monster, the
Minotaur or the king! Take them away, guards; and let this
free-spoken youth be the Minotaur's first morsel."

Near the king's throne (though I had no time to tell you so
before) stood his daughter Ariadne. She was a beautiful and
tender-hearted maiden, and looked at these poor doomed captives
with very different feelings from those of the iron-breasted
King Minos. She really wept indeed, at the idea of how much
human happiness would be needlessly thrown away, by giving so
many young people, in the first bloom and rose blossom of their
lives, to be eaten up by a creature who, no doubt, would have
preferred a fat ox, or even a large pig, to the plumpest of
them. And when she beheld the brave, spirited figure of Prince
Theseus bearing himself so calmly in his terrible peril, she
grew a hundred times more pitiful than before. As the guards
were taking him away, she flung herself at the king's feet, and
besought him to set all the captives free, and especially this
one young man.

"Peace, foolish girl!" answered King Minos.

"What hast thou to do with an affair like this? It is a matter
of state policy, and therefore quite beyond thy weak
comprehension. Go water thy flowers, and think no more of these
Athenian caitiffs, whom the Minotaur shall as certainly eat up
for breakfast as I will eat a partridge for my supper."

So saying, the king looked cruel enough to devour Theseus and
all the rest of the captives himself, had there been no
Minotaur to save him the trouble. As he would hear not another
word in their favor, the prisoners were now led away, and
clapped into a dungeon, where the jailer advised them to go to
sleep as soon as possible, because the Minotaur was in the
habit of calling for breakfast early. The seven maiden s and
six of the young men soon sobbed themselves to slumber. But
Theseus was not like them. He felt conscious that he was wiser,
and braver, and stronger than his companions, and that
therefore he had the responsibility of all their lives upon
him, and must consider whether there was no way to save them,
even in this last extremity. So he kept himself awake, and
paced to and fro across the gloomy dungeon in which they were
shut up.

Just before midnight, the door was softly unbarred, and the
gentle Ariadne showed herself, with a torch in her hand.

"Are you awake, Prince Theseus?" she whispered.

"Yes," answered Theseus. "With so little time to live, I do not
choose to waste any of it in sleep."

"Then follow me," said Ariadne, "and tread softly."

What had become of the jailer and the guards, Theseus never
knew. But, however that might be, Ariadne opened all the doors,
and led him forth from the darksome prison into the pleasant

"Theseus," said the maiden, "you can now get on board your
vessel, and sail away for Athens."

"No," answered the young man; "I will never leave Crete unless
I can first slay the Minotaur, and save my poor companions, and
deliver Athens from this cruel tribute."

"I knew that this would be your resolution," said Ariadne.
"Come, then, with me, brave Theseus. Here is your own sword,
which the guards deprived you of. You will need it; and pray
Heaven you may use it well."

Then she led Theseus along by the hand until they came to a
dark, shadowy grove, where the moonlight wasted itself on the
tops of the trees, without shedding hardly so much as a
glimmering beam upon their pathway. After going a good way
through this obscurity, they reached a high marble wall, which
was overgrown with creeping plants, that made it shaggy with
their verdure. The wall seemed to have no door, nor any
windows, but rose up, lofty, and massive, and mysterious, and
was neither to be clambered over, nor, as far as Theseus could
perceive, to be passed through. Nevertheless, Ariadne did but
press one of her soft little fingers against a particular block
of marble and, though it looked as solid as any other part of
the wall, it yielded to her touch, disclosing an entrance just
wide enough to admit them They crept through, and the marble
stone swung back into its place.

"We are now," said Ariadne, "in the famous labyrinth which
Daedalus built before he made himself a pair of wings, and flew
away from our island like a bird. That Daedalus was a very
cunning workman; but of all his artful contrivances, this
labyrinth is the most wondrous. Were we to take but a few steps
from the doorway, we might wander about all our lifetime, and
never find it again. Yet in the very center of this labyrinth
is the Minotaur; and, Theseus, you must go thither to seek

"But how shall I ever find him," asked Theseus, "if the
labyrinth so bewilders me as you say it will?"

Just as he spoke, they heard a rough and very disagreeable
roar, which greatly resembled the lowing of a fierce bull, but
yet had some sort of sound like the human voice. Theseus even
fancied a rude articulation in it, as if the creature that
uttered it were trying to shape his hoarse breath into words.
It was at some distance, however, and he really could not tell
whether it sounded most like a bull's roar or a man's harsh

"That is the Minotaur's noise," whispered Ariadne, closely
grasping the hand of Theseus, and pressing one of her own hands
to her heart, which was all in a tremble. "You must follow that
sound through the windings of the labyrinth, and, by and by,
you will find him. Stay! take the end of this silken string; I
will hold the other end; and then, if you win the victory. it
will lead you again to this spot. Farewell, brave Theseus."

So the young man took the end of the silken string in his left
hand, and his gold-hilted sword, ready drawn from its scabbard,
in the other, and trod boldly into the inscrutable labyrinth.
How this labyrinth was built is more than I can tell you. But
so cunningly contrived a mizmaze was never seen in the world,
before nor since. There can be nothing else so intricate,
unless it were the brain of a man like Daedalus, who planned
it, or the heart of any ordinary man; which last, to be sure,
is ten times as great a mystery as the labyrinth of Crete.
Theseus had not taken five steps before he lost sight of
Ariadne; and in five more his head was growing dizzy. But still
he went on, now creeping through a low arch, now ascending a
flight of steps, now in one crooked passage and now in another,
with here a door opening before him, and there one banging
behind, until it really seemed as if the walls spun round, and
whirled him round along with them. And all the while, through
these hollow avenues, now nearer, now farther off again,
resounded the cry of the Minotaur; and the sound was so fierce,
so cruel, so ugly, so like a bull's roar, and withal so like a
human voice, and yet like neither of them, that the brave heart
of Theseus grew sterner and angrier at every step; for he felt
it an insult to the moon and sky, and to our affectionate and
simple Mother Earth, that such a monster should have the
audacity to exist.

As he passed onward, the clouds gathered over the moon, and the
labyrinth grew so dusky that Theseus could no longer discern
the bewilderment through which he was passing. He would have
left quite lost, and utterly hopeless of ever again walking in
a straight path, if, every little while, he had not been
conscious of a gentle twitch at the silken cord. Then he knew
that the tender-hearted Ariadne was still holding the other
end, and that she was fearing for him, and hoping for him, and
giving him just as much of her sympathy as if she were close by
his side. O, indeed, I can assure you, there was a vast deal of
human sympathy running along that slender thread of silk. But
still he followed the dreadful roar of the Minotaur, which now
grew louder and louder, and finally so very loud that Theseus
fully expected to come close upon him, at every new zizgag and
wriggle of the path. And at last, in an open space, at the very
center of the labyrinth, he did discern the hideous creature.

Sure enough, what an ugly monster it was! Only his horned head
belonged to a bull; and yet, somehow or other, he looked like a
bull all over, preposterously waddling on his hind legs; or, if
you happened to view him in another way, he seemed wholly a
man, and all the more monstrous for being so. And there he was,
the wretched thing, with no society, no companion, no kind of a
mate, living only to do mischief, and incapable of knowing what
affection means. Theseus hated him, and shuddered at him, and
yet could not but be sensible of some sort of pity; and all the
more, the uglier and more detestable the creature was. For he
kept striding to and fro, in a solitary frenzy of rage,
continually emitting a hoarse roar, which was oddly mixed up
with half-shaped words; and, after listening a while, Theseus
understood that the Minotaur was saying to himself how
miserable he was, and how hungry, and how he hated everybody,
and how he longed to eat up the human race alive.

Ah! the bull-headed villain! And O, my good little people, you
will perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every
human being who suffers any thing evil to get into his nature,
or to remain there, is a kind of Minotaur, an enemy of his
fellow-creatures, and separated from all good companionship, as
this poor monster was.

Was Theseus afraid? By no means, my dear auditors. What! a hero
like Theseus afraid, Not had the Minotaur had twenty bull-heads
instead of one. Bold as he was, however, I rather fancy that it
strengthened his valiant heart, just at this crisis, to feel a
tremulous twitch at the silken cord, which he was still holding
in his left hand. It was as if Ariadne were giving him all her
might and courage; and much as he already had, and little as
she had to give, it made his own seem twice as much. And to
confess the honest truth, he needed the whole; for now the
Minotaur, turning suddenly about, caught sight of Theseus, and
instantly lowered his horribly sharp horns, exactly as a mad
bull does when he means to rush against an enemy. At the same
time, he belched forth a tremendous roar, in which there was
something like the words of human language, but all disjointed
and shaken to pieces by passing through the gullet of a
miserably enraged brute.

Theseus could only guess what the creature intended to say, and
that rather by his gestures than his words; for the Minotaur's
horns were sharper than his wits, and of a great deal more
service to him than his tongue. But probably this was the sense
of what he uttered:

"Ah, wretch of a human being! I'll stick my horns through you,
and toss you fifty feet high, and eat you up the moment you
come down."

"Come on, then, and try it!" was all that Theseus deigned to
reply; for he was far too magnanimous to assault his enemy with
insolent language.

Without more words on either side, there ensued the most awful
fight between Theseus and the Minotaur that ever happened
beneath the sun or moon. I really know not how it might have
turned out, if the monster, in his first headlong rush against
Theseus, had not missed him, by a hair's breadth, and broken
one of his horns short off against the stone wall. On this
mishap, he bellowed so intolerably that a part of the labyrinth
tumbled down, and all the inhabitants of Crete mistook the
noise for an uncommonly heavy thunder storm. Smarting with the
pain, he galloped around the open space in so ridiculous a way
that Theseus laughed at it, long afterwards, though not
precisely at the moment. After this, the two antagonists stood
valiantly up to one another, and fought, sword to horn, for a
long while. At last, the Minotaur made a run at Theseus, grazed
his left side with his horn, and flung him down; and thinking
that he had stabbed him to the heart, he cut a great caper in
the air, opened his bull mouth from ear to ear, and prepared to
snap his head off. But Theseus by this time had leaped up, and
caught the monster off his guard. Fetching a sword stroke at
him with all his force, he hit him fair upon the neck, and made
his bull head skip six yards from his human body, which fell
down flat upon the ground.

So now the battle was ended. Immediately the moon shone out as
brightly as if all the troubles of the world, and all the
wickedness and the ugliness that infest human life, were past
and gone forever. And Theseus, as he leaned on his sword,
taking breath, felt another twitch of the silken cord; for all
through the terrible encounter, he had held it fast in his left
hand. Eager to let Ariadne know of his success, he followed the
guidance of the thread, and soon found himself at the entrance
of the labyrinth.

"Thou hast slain the monster," cried Ariadne, clasping her

"Thanks to thee, dear Ariadne," answered Theseus, "I return

"Then," said Ariadne, "we must quickly summon thy friends, and
get them and thyself on board the vessel before dawn. If
morning finds thee here, my father will avenge the Minotaur."

To make my story short, the poor captives were awakened, and,
hardly knowing whether it was not a joyful dream, were told of
what Theseus had done, and that they must set sail for Athens
before daybreak. Hastening down to the vessel, they all
clambered on board, except Prince Theseus, who lingered behind
them on the strand, holding Ariadne's hand clasped in his own.

"Dear maiden," said he, "thou wilt surely go with us. Thou art
too gentle and sweet a child for such an iron-hearted father as
King Minos. He cares no more for thee than a granite rock cares
for the little flower that grows in one of its crevices. But my
father, King Aegeus, and my dear mother, Aethra, and all the
fathers and mothers in Athens, and all the sons and daughters
too, will love and honor thee as their benefactress. Come with
us, then; for King Minos will be very angry when he knows what
thou hast done."

Now, some low-minded people, who pretend to tell the story of
Theseus and Ariadne, have the face to say that this royal and
honorable maiden did really flee away, under cover of the
night, with the young stranger whose life she had preserved.
They say, too, that Prince Theseus (who would have died sooner
than wrong the meanest creature in the world) ungratefully
deserted Ariadne, on a solitary island, where the vessel
touched on its voyage to Athens. But, had the noble Theseus
heard these falsehoods, he would have served their slanderous
authors as he served the Minotaur! Here is what Ariadne
answered, when the brave prince of Athens besought her to
accompany him:

"No, Theseus," the maiden said, pressing his hand, and then
drawing back a step or two, "I cannot go with you. My father is
old, and has nobody but myself to love him. Hard as you think
his heart is, it would break to lose me. At first, King Minos
will be angry; but he will soon forgive his only child; and, by
and by, he will rejoice, I know, that no more youths and
maidens must come from Athens to be devoured by the Minotaur. I
have saved you, Theseus, as much for my father's sake as for
your own. Farewell! Heaven bless you!"

All this was so true, and so maiden-like, and was spoken with
so sweet a dignity, that Theseus would have blushed to urge her
any longer. Nothing remained for him, therefore, but to bid
Ariadne an affectionate farewell, and to go on board the
vessel, and set sail.

In a few moments the white foam was boiling up before their
prow, as Prince Theseus and his companions sailed out of the
harbor, with a whistling breeze behind them. Talus, the brazen
giant, on his never-ceasing sentinel's march, happened to be
approaching that part of the coast; and they saw him, by the
glimmering of the moonbeams on his polished surface, while he
was yet a great way off. As the figure moved like clockwork,
however, and could neither hasten his enormous strides nor
retard them, he arrived at the port when they were just beyond
the reach of his club. Nevertheless, straddling from headland
to headland, as his custom was, Talus attempted to strike a
blow at the vessel, and, overreaching himself, tumbled at full
length into the sea, which splashed high over his gigantic
shape, as when an iceberg turns a somerset. There he lies yet;
and whoever desires to enrich himself by means of brass had
better go thither with a diving bell, and fish up Talus.

On the homeward voyage, the fourteen youths and damsels were in
excellent spirits, as you will easily suppose. They spent most
of their time in dancing, unless when the sidelong breeze made
the deck slope too much. In due season, they came within sight
of the coast of Attica, which was their native country. But
here, I am grieved to tell you, happened a sad misfortune.

You will remember (what Theseus unfortunately forgot) that his
father, King Aegeus, had enjoined it upon him to hoist sunshiny
sails, instead of black ones, in case he should overcome the
Minotaur, and return victorious. In the joy of their success,
however, and amidst the sports, dancing, and other merriment,
with which these young folks wore away the time, they never
once thought whether their sails were black, white, or rainbow
colored, and, indeed, left it entirely to the mariners whether
they had any sails at all. Thus the vessel returned, like a
raven, with the same sable wings that had wafted her away. But
poor King Aegeus, day after day, infirm as he was, had
clambered to the summit of a cliff that overhung the sea, and
there sat watching for Prince Theseus, homeward bound; and no
sooner did he behold the fatal blackness of the sails, than he
concluded that his dear son, whom he loved so much, and felt so
proud of, had been eaten by the Minotaur. He could not bear the
thought of living any longer; so, first flinging his crown and
sceptre into the sea (useless baubles that they were to him
now), King Aegeus merely stooped forward, and fell headlong
over the cliff, and was drowned, poor soul, in the waves that
foamed at its base!

This was melancholy news for Prince Theseus, who, when he
stepped ashore, found himself king of all the country, whether
he would or no; and such a turn of fortune was enough to make
any young man feel very much out of spirits. However, he sent
for his dear mother to Athens, and, by taking her advice in
matters of state, became a very excellent monarch, and was
greatly beloved by his people.


A great while ago, when the world was full of wonders, there
lived an earth-born Giant, named Antaeus, and a million or more
of curious little earth-born people, who were called Pygmies.
This Giant and these Pygmies being children of the same mother
(that is to say, our good old Grandmother Earth), were all
brethren, and dwelt together in a very friendly and
affectionate manner, far, far off, in the middle of hot Africa.
The Pygmies were so small, and there were so many sandy deserts
and such high mountains between them and the rest of mankind,
that nobody could get a peep at them oftener than once in a
hundred years. As for the Giant, being of a very lofty stature,
it was easy enough to see him, but safest to keep out of his

Among the Pygmies, I suppose, if one of them grew to the height
of six or eight inches, he was reckoned a prodigiously tall
man. It must have been very pretty to behold their little
cities, with streets two or three feet wide, paved with the
smallest pebbles, and bordered by habitations about as big as a
squirrel's cage. The king's palace attained to the stupendous
magnitude of Periwinkle's baby house, and stood in the center
of a spacious square, which could hardly have been covered by
our hearth- rug. Their principal temple, or cathedral, was as
lofty as yonder bureau, and was looked upon as a wonderfully
sublime and magnificent edifice. All these structures were
built neither of stone nor wood. They were neatly plastered
together by the Pygmy workmen, pretty much like birds' nests,
out of straw, feathers, egg shells, and other small bits of
stuff, with stiff clay instead of mortar; and when the hot sun
had dried them, they were just as snug and comfortable as a
Pygmy could desire.

The country round about was conveniently laid out in fields,
the largest of which was nearly of the same extent as one of
Sweet Fern's flower beds. Here the Pygmies used to plant wheat
and other kinds of grain, which, when it grew up and ripened,
overshadowed these tiny people as the pines, and the oaks, and
the walnut and chestnut trees overshadow you and me, when we
walk in our own tracts of woodland. At harvest time, they were
forced to go with their little axes and cut down the grain,
exactly as a woodcutter makes a clearing in the forest; and
when a stalk of wheat, with its overburdened top, chanced to
come crashing down upon an unfortunate Pygmy, it was apt to be
a very sad affair. If it did not smash him all to pieces, at
least, I am sure, it must have made the poor little fellow's
head ache. And O, my stars! if the fathers and mothers were so
small, what must the children and babies have been? A whole
family of them might have been put to bed in a shoe, or have
crept into an old glove, and played at hide-and-seek in its
thumb and fingers. You might have hidden a year-old baby under
a thimble.

Now these funny Pygmies, as I told you before, had a Giant for
their neighbor and brother, who was bigger, if possible, than
they were little. He was so very tall that he carried a pine
tree, which was eight feet through the butt, for a walking
stick. It took a far-sighted Pygmy, I can assure you, to
discern his summit without the help of a telescope; and
sometimes, in misty weather, they could not see his upper half,
but only his long legs, which seemed to be striding about by
themselves. But at noonday in a clear atmosphere, when the sun
shone brightly over him, the Giant Antaeus presented a very
grand spectacle. There he used to stand, a perfect mountain of
a man, with his great countenance smiling down upon his little
brothers, and his one vast eye (which was as big as a cart
wheel, and placed right in the center of his forehead) giving a
friendly wink to the whole nation at once.

The Pygmies loved to talk with Antaeus; and fifty times a day,
one or another of them would turn up his head, and shout
through the hollow of his fists, "Halloo, brother Antaeus! How
are you, my good fellow?" And when the small distant squeak of
their voices reached his ear, the Giant would make answer,
"Pretty well, brother Pygmy, I thank you," in a thunderous roar
that would have shaken down the walls of their strongest
temple, only that it came from so far aloft.

It was a happy circumstance that Antaeus was the Pygmy people's
friend; for there was more strength in his little finger than
in ten million of such bodies as this. If he had been as
ill-natured to them as he was to everybody else, he might have
beaten down their biggest city at one kick, and hardly have
known that he did it. With the tornado of his breath, he could
have stripped the roofs from a hundred dwellings and sent
thousands of the inhabitants whirling through the air. He might
have set his immense foot upon a multitude; and when he took it
up again, there would have been a pitiful sight, to be sure.
But, being the son of Mother Earth, as they likewise were, the
Giant gave them his brotherly kindness, and loved them with as
big a love as it was possible to feel for creatures so very
small. And, on their parts, the Pygmies loved Antaeus with as
much affection as their tiny hearts could hold. He was always
ready to do them any good offices that lay in his power; as for
example, when they wanted a breeze to turn their windmills, the
Giant would set all the sails a-going with the mere natural
respiration of his lungs. When the sun was too hot, he often
sat himself down, and let his shadow fall over the kingdom,
from one frontier to the other; and as for matters in general,
he was wise enough to let them alone, and leave the Pygmies to
manage their own affairs--which, after all, is about the best
thing that great people can do for little ones.

In short, as I said before, Antaeus loved the Pygmies, and the
Pygmies loved Antaeus. The Giant's life being as long as his
body was large, while the lifetime of a Pygmy was but a span,
this friendly intercourse had been going on for innumerable
generations and ages. It was written about in the Pygmy
histories, and talked about in their ancient traditions. The
most venerable and white-bearded Pygmy had never heard of a
time, even in his greatest of grandfathers' days, when the
Giant was not their enormous friend. Once, to be sure (as was
recorded on an obelisk, three feet high, erected on the place
of the catastrophe), Antaeus sat down upon about five thousand
Pygmies, who were assembled at a military review. But this was
one of those unlucky accidents for which nobody is to blame; so
that the small folks never took it to heart, and only requested
the Giant to be careful forever afterwards to examine the acre
of ground where he intended to squat himself.

It is a very pleasant picture to imagine Antaeus standing among
the Pygmies, like the spire of the tallest cathedral that ever
was built, while they ran about like pismires at his feet; and
to think that, in spite of their difference in size, there were
affection and sympathy between them and him! Indeed, it has
always seemed to me that the Giant needed the little people
more than the Pygmies needed the Giant. For, unless they had
been his neighbors and well wishers, and, as we may say, his
playfellows, Antaeus would not have had a single friend in the
world. No other being like himself had ever been created. No
creature of his own size had ever talked with him, in thunder-
like accents, face to face. When he stood with his head among
the clouds, he was quite alone, and had been so for hundreds of
years, and would be so forever. Even if he had met another
Giant, Antaeus would have fancied the world not big enough for
two such vast personages, and, instead of being friends with
him, would have fought him till one of the two was killed. But
with the Pygmies he was the most sportive and humorous, and
merry-hearted, and sweet-tempered old Giant that ever washed
his face in a wet cloud.

His little friends, like all other small people, had a great
opinion of their own importance, and used to assume quite a
patronizing air towards the Giant.

"Poor creature!" they said one to another. "He has a very dull
time of it, all by himself; and we ought not to grudge wasting
a little of our precious time to amuse him. He is not half so
bright as we are, to be sure; and, for that reason, he needs us
to look after his comfort and happiness. Let us be kind to the
old fellow. Why, if Mother Earth had not been very kind to
ourselves, we might all have been Giants too."

On all their holidays, the Pygmies had excellent sport with
Antaeus. He often stretched himself out at full length on the
ground, where he looked like the long ridge of a hill; and it
was a good hour's walk, no doubt, for a short-legged Pygmy to
journey from head to foot of the Giant. He would lay down his
great hand flat on the grass, and challenge the tallest of them
to clamber upon it, and straddle from finger to finger. So
fearless were they, that they made nothing of creeping in among
the folds of his garments. When his head lay sidewise on the
earth, they would march boldly up, and peep into the great
cavern of his mouth, and take it all as a joke (as indeed it
was meant) when Antaeus gave a sudden snap of his jaws, as if
he were going to swallow fifty of them at once. You would have
laughed to see the children dodging in and out among his hair,
or swinging from his beard. It is impossible to tell half of
the funny tricks that they played with their huge comrade; but
I do not know that anything was more curious than when a party
of boys were seen running races on his forehead, to try which
of them could get first round the circle of his one great eye.
It was another favorite feat with them to march along the
bridge of his nose, and jump down upon his upper lip.

If the truth must be told, they were sometimes as troublesome
to the Giant as a swarm of ants or mosquitoes, especially as
they had a fondness for mischief, and liked to prick his skin
with their little swords and lances, to see how thick and tough
it was. But Antaeus took it all kindly enough; although, once
in a while, when he happened to be sleepy, he would grumble out
a peevish word or two, like the muttering of a tempest, and ask
them to have done with their nonsense. A great deal oftener,
however, he watched their merriment and gambols until his huge,
heavy, clumsy wits were completely stirred up by them; and then
would he roar out such a tremendous volume of immeasurable
laughter, that the whole nation of Pygmies had to put their
hands to their ears, else it would certainly have deafened

"Ho! ho! ho!" quoth the Giant, shaking his mountainous sides.
"What a funny thing it is to be little! If I were not Antaeus,
I should like to be a Pygmy, just for the joke's sake."

The Pygmies had but one thing to trouble them in the world.
They were constantly at war with the cranes, and had always
been so, ever since the long- lived Giant could remember. From
time to time, very terrible battles had been fought in which
sometimes the little men won the victory, and sometimes the
cranes. According to some historians, the Pygmies used to go to
the battle, mounted on the backs of goats and rams; but such
animals as these must have been far too big for Pygmies to ride
upon; so that, I rather suppose, they rode on squirrel-back, or
rabbit-back, or rat-back, or perhaps got upon hedgehogs, whose
prickly quills would be very terrible to the enemy. However
this might be, and whatever creatures the Pygmies rode upon, I
do not doubt that they made a formidable appearance, armed with
sword and spear, and bow and arrow, blowing their tiny trumpet,
and shouting their little war cry. They never failed to exhort
one another to fight bravely, and recollect that the world had
its eyes upon them; although, in simple truth, the only
spectator was the Giant Antaeus, with his one, great, stupid
eye in the middle of his forehead.

When the two armies joined battle, the cranes would rush
forward, flapping their wings and stretching out their necks,
and would perhaps snatch up some of the Pygmies crosswise in
their beaks. Whenever this happened, it was truly an awful
spectacle to see those little men of might kicking and
sprawling in the air, and at last disappearing down the crane's
long, crooked throat, swallowed up alive. A hero, you know,
must hold himself in readiness for any kind of fate; and
doubtless the glory of the thing was a consolation to him, even
in the crane's gizzard. If Antaeus observed that the battle was
going hard against his little allies, he generally stopped
laughing, and ran with mile-long strides to their assistance,
flourishing his club aloft and shouting at the cranes, who
quacked and croaked, and retreated as fast as they could. Then
the Pygmy army would march homeward in triumph, attributing the
victory entirely to their own valor, and to the warlike skill
and strategy of whomsoever happened to be captain general; and
for a tedious while afterwards, nothing would be heard of but
grand processions, and public banquets, and brilliant
illuminations, and shows of wax-work, with likenesses of the
distinguished officers, as small as life.

In the above-described warfare, if a Pygmy chanced to pluck out
a crane's tail feather, it proved a very great feather in his
cap. Once or twice, if you will believe me, a little man was
made chief ruler of the nation for no other merit in the world
than bringing home such a feather.

But I have now said enough to let you see what a gallant little
people these were, and how happily they and their forefathers,
for nobody knows how many generations, had lived with the
immeasurable Giant Antaeus. In the remaining part of the story,
I shall tell you of a far more astonishing battle than any that
was fought between the Pygmies and the cranes.

One day the mighty Antaeus was lolling at full length among his
little friends. His pine-tree walking stick lay on the ground,
close by his side. His head was in one part of the kingdom, and
his feet extended across the boundaries of another part; and he
was taking whatever comfort he could get, while the Pygmies
scrambled over him, and peeped into his cavernous mouth, and
played among his hair. Sometimes, for a minute or two, the
Giant dropped asleep, and snored like the rush of a whirlwind.
During one of these little bits of slumber, a Pygmy chanced to
climb upon his shoulder, and took a view around the horizon, as
from the summit of a hill; and he beheld something, a long way
off, which made him rub the bright specks of his eyes, and look
sharper than before. At first he mistook it for a mountain, and
wondered how it had grown up so suddenly out of the earth. But
soon he saw the mountain move. As it came nearer and nearer,
what should it turn out to be but a human shape, not so big as
Antaeus, it is true, although a very enormous figure, in
comparison with Pygmies, and a vast deal bigger than the men we
see nowadays.

When the Pygmy was quite satisfied that his eyes had not
deceived him, he scampered, as fast as his legs would carry
him, to the Giant's ear, and stooping over its cavity, shouted
lustily into it:

"Halloo, brother Antaeus! Get up this minute, and take your
pine-tree walking stick in your hand. Here comes another Giant
to have a tussle with you."

"Poh, poh!" grumbled Antaeus, only half awake. "None of your
nonsense, my little fellow! Don't you see I'm sleepy? There is
not a Giant on earth for whom I would take the trouble to get

But the Pygmy looked again, and now perceived that the stranger
was coming directly towards the prostrate form of Antaeus. With
every step, he looked less like a blue mountain, and more like
an immensely large man. He was soon so nigh, that there could
be no possible mistake about the matter. There he was, with the
sun flaming on his golden helmet, and flashing from his
polished breastplate; he had a sword by his side, and a lion's
skin over his back, and on his right shoulder he carried a
club, which looked bulkier and heavier than the pine-tree
walking stick of Antaeus.

By this time, the whole nation of the Pygmies had seen the new
wonder, and a million of them set up a shout all together; so
that it really made quite an audible squeak.

"Get up, Antaeus! Bestir yourself, you lazy old Giant! Here
comes another Giant, as strong as you are, to fight with you."

"Nonsense, nonsense!" growled the sleepy Giant. "I'll have my
nap out, come who may."

Still the stranger drew nearer; and now the Pygmies could
plainly discern that, if his stature were less lofty than the
Giant's, yet his shoulders were even broader. And, in truth,
what a pair of shoulders they must have been! As I told you, a
long while ago, they once upheld the sky. The Pygmies, being
ten times as vivacious as their great numskull of a brother,
could not abide the Giant's slow movements, and were determined
to have him on his feet. So they kept shouting to him, and even
went so far as to prick him with their swords.

"Get up, get up, get up," they cried. "Up with you, lazy bones!
The strange Giant's club is bigger than your own, his shoulders
are the broadest, and we think him the stronger of the two."

Antaeus could not endure to have it said that any mortal was
half so mighty as himself. This latter remark of the Pygmies
pricked him deeper than their swords; and, sitting up, in
rather a sulky humor, he gave a gape of several yards wide,
rubbed his eyes, and finally turned his stupid head in the
direction whither his little friends were eagerly pointing.

No sooner did he set eyes on the stranger, than, leaping on his
feet, and seizing his walking stick, he strode a mile or two to
meet him; all the while brandishing the sturdy pine tree, so
that it whistled through the air.

"Who are you?" thundered the Giant. "And what do you want in
my dominions?"

There was one strange thing about Antaeus, of which I have not
yet told you, lest, hearing of so many wonders all in a lump,
you might not believe much more than half of them. You are to
know, then, that whenever this redoubtable Giant touched the
ground, either with his hand, his foot, or any other part of
his body, he grew stronger than ever he had been before. The
Earth, you remember, was his mother, and was very fond of him,
as being almost the biggest of her children; and so she took
this method of keeping him always in full vigor. Some persons
affirm that he grew ten times stronger at every touch; others
say that it was only twice as strong. But only think of it!
Whenever Antaeus took a walk, supposing it were but ten miles,
and that he stepped a hundred yards at a stride, you may try to
cipher out how much mightier he was, on sitting down again,
than when he first started. And whenever he flung himself on
the earth to take a little repose, even if he got up the very
next instant, he would be as strong as exactly ten just such
giants as his former self. It was well for the world that
Antaeus happened to be of a sluggish disposition and liked ease
better than exercise; for, if he had frisked about like the
Pygmies, and touched the earth as often as they did, he would
long ago have been strong enough to pull down the sky about
people's ears. But these great lubberly fellows resemble
mountains, not only in bulk, but in their disinclination to

Any other mortal man, except the very one whom Antaeus had now
encountered, would have been half frightened to death by the
Giant's ferocious aspect and terrible voice. But the stranger
did not seem at all disturbed. He carelessly lifted his club,
and balanced it in his hand, measuring Antaeus with his eye,
from head to foot, not as if wonder-smitten at his stature, but
as if he had seen a great many Giants before, and this was by
no means the biggest of them. In fact, if the Giant had been no
bigger than the Pygmies (who stood pricking up their ears, and
looking and listening to what was going forward), the stranger
could not have been less afraid of him.

"Who are you, I say?" roared Antaeus again. "What's your name?
Why do you come hither? Speak, you vagabond, or I'll try the
thickness of your skull with my walking-stick!"

"You are a very discourteous Giant," answered the stranger
quietly, "and I shall probably have to teach you a little
civility, before we part. As for my name, it is Hercules. I
have come hither because this is my most convenient road to the
garden of the Hesperides, whither I am going to get three of
the golden apples for King Eurystheus."

"Caitiff, you shall go no farther!" bellowed Antaeus, putting
on a grimmer look than before; for he had heard of the mighty
Hercules, and hated him because he was said to be so strong."
Neither shall you go back whence you came!"

"How will you prevent me," asked Hercules, "from going whither
I please?"

"By hitting you a rap with this pine tree here," shouted
Antaeus, scowling so that he made himself the ugliest monster
in Africa. "I am fifty times stronger than you; and now that I
stamp my foot upon the ground, I am five hundred times
stronger! I am ashamed to kill such a puny little dwarf as you
seem to be. I will make a slave of you, and you shall likewise
be the slave of my brethren here, the Pygmies. So throw down
your club and your other weapons; and as for that lion's skin,
I intend to have a pair of gloves made of it."

"Come and take it off my shoulders, then," answered Hercules,
lifting his club.

Then the Giant, grinning with rage, strode tower-like towards
the stranger (ten times strengthened at every step), and
fetched a monstrous blow at him with his pine tree, which
Hercules caught upon his club; and being more skilful than
Antaeus, he paid him back such a rap upon the sconce, that down
tumbled the great lumbering man-mountain, flat upon the ground.
The poor little Pygmies (who really never dreamed that anybody
in the world was half so strong as their brother Antaeus) were
a good deal dismayed at this. But no sooner was the Giant down,
than up he bounced again, with tenfold might, and such a
furious visage as was horrible to behold. He aimed another blow
at Hercules, but struck awry, being blinded with wrath, and
only hit his poor innocent Mother Earth, who groaned and
trembled at the stroke. His pine tree went so deep into the
ground, and stuck there so fast, that, before Antaeus could get
it out, Hercules brought down his club across his shoulders
with a mighty thwack, which made the Giant roar as if all sorts
of intolerable noises had come screeching and rumbling out of
his immeasurable lungs in that one cry. Away it went, over
mountains and valleys, and, for aught I know, was heard on the
other side of the African deserts.

As for the Pygmies, their capital city was laid in ruins by the
concussion and vibration of the air; and, though there was
uproar enough without their help, they all set up a shriek out
of three millions of little throats, fancying, no doubt, that
they swelled the Giant's bellow by at least ten times as much.
Meanwhile, Antaeus had scrambled upon his feet again, and
pulled his pine tree out of the earth; and, all aflame with
fury, and more outrageously strong than ever, he ran at
Hercules, and brought down another blow.

"This time, rascal," shouted he, "you shall not escape me."

But once more Hercules warded off the stroke with his club, and
the Giant's pine tree was shattered into a thousand splinters,
most of which flew among the Pygmies, and did them more
mischief than I like to think about. Before Antaeus could get
out of the way, Hercules let drive again, and gave him another
knock- down blow, which sent him heels over head, but served
only to increase his already enormous and insufferable
strength. As for his rage, there is no telling what a fiery
furnace it had now got to be. His one eye was nothing but a
circle of red flame. Having now no weapons but his fists, he
doubled them up (each bigger than a hogshead), smote one
against the other, and danced up and down with absolute frenzy,
flourishing his immense arms about, as if he meant not merely
to kill Hercules, but to smash the whole world to pieces.

"Come on!" roared this thundering Giant. "Let me hit you but
one box on the ear, and you'll never have the headache again."

Now Hercules (though strong enough, as you already know, to
hold the sky up) began to be sensible that he should never win
the victory, if he kept on knocking Antaeus down; for, by and
by, if he hit him such hard blows, the Giant would inevitably,
by the help of his Mother Earth, become stronger than the
mighty Hercules himself. So, throwing down his club, with which
he had fought so many dreadful battles, the hero stood ready to
receive his antagonist with naked arms.

"Step forward," cried he. "Since I've broken your pine tree,
we'll try which is the better man at a wrestling match."

"Aha! then I'll soon satisfy you," shouted the Giant; for, if
there was one thing on which he prided himself more than
another, it was his skill in wrestling. "Villain, I'll fling
you where you can never pick yourself up again."

On came Antaeus, hopping and capering with the scorching heat
of his rage, and getting new vigor wherewith to wreak his
passion, every time he hopped.

But Hercules, you must understand, was wiser than this numskull
of a Giant, and had thought of a way to fight him--huge,
earth-born monster that he was--and to conquer him too, in
spite of all that his Mother Earth could do for him. Watching
his opportunity, as the mad Giant made a rush at him, Hercules
caught him round the middle with both hands, lifted him high
into the air, and held him aloft overhead.

Just imagine it, my dear little friends. What a spectacle it
must have been, to see this monstrous fellow sprawling in the
air, face downwards, kicking out his long legs and wriggling
his whole vast body, like a baby when its father holds it at
arm's length towards the ceiling.

But the most wonderful thing was, that, as soon as Antaeus was
fairly off the earth, he began to lose the vigor which he had
gained by touching it. Hercules very soon perceived that his
troublesome enemy was growing weaker, both because he struggled
and kicked with less violence, and because the thunder of his
big voice subsided into a grumble. The truth was that unless
the Giant touched Mother Earth as often as once in five
minutes, not only his overgrown strength, but the very breath
of his life, would depart from him. Hercules had guessed this
secret; and it may be well for us all to remember it, in case
we should ever have to fight a battle with a fellow like
Antaeus. For these earth-born creatures are only difficult to
conquer on their own ground, but may easily be managed if we
can contrive to lift them into a loftier and purer region. So
it proved with the poor Giant, whom I am really a little sorry
for, notwithstanding his uncivil way of treating strangers who
came to visit him.

When his strength and breath were quite gone, Hercules gave his
huge body a toss, and flung it about a mile off, where it fell
heavily, and lay with no more motion than a sand hill. It was
too late for the Giant's Mother Earth to help him now; and I
should not wonder if his ponderous bones were lying on the same
spot to this very day, and were mistaken for those of an
uncommonly large elephant.

But, alas me! What a wailing did the poor little Pygmies set up
when they saw their enormous brother treated in this terrible
manner! If Hercules heard their shrieks, however, he took no
notice, and perhaps fancied them only the shrill, plaintive
twittering of small birds that had been frightened from their
nests by the uproar of the battle between himself and Antaeus.
Indeed, his thoughts had been so much taken up with the Giant,
that he had never once looked at the Pygmies, nor even knew
that there was such a funny little nation in the world. And
now, as he had traveled a good way, and was also rather weary
with his exertions in the fight, he spread out his lion's skin
on the ground, and, reclining himself upon it, fell fast

As soon as the Pygmies saw Hercules preparing for a nap, they
nodded their little heads at one another, and winked with their
little eyes. And when his deep, regular breathing gave them
notice that he was asleep, they assembled together in an
immense crowd, spreading over a space of about twenty-seven
feet square. One of their most eloquent orators (and a valiant
warrior enough, besides, though hardly so good at any other
weapon as he was with his tongue) climbed upon a toadstool,
and, from that elevated position, addressed the multitude. His
sentiments were pretty much as follows; or, at all events,
something like this was probably the upshot of his speech:

"Tall Pygmies and mighty little men! You and all of us have
seen what a public calamity has been brought to pass, and what
an insult has here been offered to the majesty of our nation.
Yonder lies Antaeus, our great friend and brother, slain,
within our territory, by a miscreant who took him at
disadvantage, and fought him (if fighting it can be called) in
a way that neither man, nor Giant, nor Pygmy ever dreamed of
fighting, until this hour. And, adding a grievous contumely to
the wrong already done us, the miscreant has now fallen asleep
as quietly as if nothing were to be dreaded from our wrath! It
behooves you, fellow-countrymen, to consider in what aspect we
shall stand before the world, and what will be the verdict of
impartial history, should we suffer these accumulated outrages
to go unavenged.

"Antaeus was our brother, born of that same beloved parent to
whom we owe the thews and sinews, as well as the courageous
hearts, which made him proud of our relationship. He was our
faithful ally, and fell fighting as much for our national
rights and immunities as for his own personal ones. We and our
forefathers have dwelt in friendship with him, and held
affectionate intercourse as man to man, through immemorial
generations. You remember how often our entire people have
reposed in his great shadow, and how our little ones have
played at hide-and-seek in the tangles of his hair, and how his
mighty footsteps have familiarly gone to and fro among us, and
never trodden upon any of our toes. And there lies this dear
brother-- this sweet and amiable friend--this brave and
faithful ally---this virtuous Giant--this blameless and
excellent Antaeus--dead! Dead! Silent! Powerless! A mere
mountain of clay! Forgive my tears! Nay, I behold your own.
Were we to drown the world with them, could the world blame us?

"But to resume: Shall we, my countrymen, suffer this wicked
stranger to depart unharmed, and triumph in his treacherous
victory, among distant communities of the earth? Shall we not
rather compel him to leave his bones here on our soil, by the
side of our slain brother's bones? so that, while one skeleton
shall remain as the everlasting monument of our sorrow, the
other shall endure as long, exhibiting to the whole human race
a terrible example of Pygmy vengeance! Such is the question. I
put it to you in full confidence of a response that shall be
worthy of our national character, and calculated to increase,
rather than diminish, the glory which our ancestors have
transmitted to us, and which we ourselves have proudly
vindicated in our warfare with the cranes."

The orator was here interrupted by a burst of irrepressible
enthusiasm; every individual Pygmy crying out that the national
honor must be preserved at all hazards. He bowed, and, making a
gesture for silence, wound up his harangue in the following
admirable manner:

"It only remains for us, then, to decide whether we shall carry
on the war in our national capacity--one united people against
a common enemy--or whether some champion, famous in former
fights, shall be selected to defy the slayer of our brother
Antaeus to single combat. In the latter case, though not
unconscious that there may be taller men among you, I hereby
offer myself for that enviable duty. And believe me, dear
countrymen, whether I live or die, the honor of this great
country, and the fame bequeathed us by our heroic progenitors,
shall suffer no diminution in my hands. Never, while I can
wield this sword, of which I now fling away the
scabbard--never, never, never, even if the crimson hand that
slew the great Antaeus shall lay me prostrate, like him, on the
soil which I give my life to defend."

So saying, this valiant Pygmy drew out his weapon (which was
terrible to behold, being as long as the blade of a penknife),
and sent the scabbard whirling over the heads of the multitude.
His speech was followed by an uproar of applause, as its
patriotism and self-devotion unquestionably deserved; and the
shouts and clapping of hands would have been greatly prolonged,
had they not been rendered quite inaudible by a deep
respiration, vulgarly called a snore, from the sleeping

It was finally decided that the whole nation of Pygmies should
set to work to destroy Hercules; not, be it understood, from
any doubt that a single champion would be capable of putting
him to the sword, but because he was a public enemy, and all
were desirous of sharing in the glory of his defeat. There was
a debate whether the national honor did not demand that a
herald should be sent with a trumpet, to stand over the ear of
Hercules, and after blowing a blast right into it, to defy him
to the combat by formal proclamation. But two or three
venerable and sagacious Pygmies, well versed in state affairs,
gave it as their opinion that war already existed, and that it
was their rightful privilege to take the enemy by surprise.
Moreover, if awakened, and allowed to get upon his feet,
Hercules might happen to do them a mischief before he could be
beaten down again. For, as these sage counselors remarked, the
stranger's club was really very big, and had rattled like a
thunderbolt against the skull of Antaeus. So the Pygmies
resolved to set aside all foolish punctilios, and assail their
antagonist at once.

Accordingly, all the fighting men of the nation took their

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