One day Apollo left Coronis and her child, and went on a journey to visit his favorite home on Mount Parnassus.
“I shall hear from you every day,” he said at parting. “The crow will fly swiftly every morning to Parnassus, and tell me whether you and the child are well, and what you are doing while I am away.”
For Apollo had a pet crow which was very wise, and could talk. The bird was not black, like the crows which you have seen, but as white as snow. Men say that all crows were white until that time, but I doubt whether anybody knows.
Apollo’s crow was a great tattler, and did not always tell the truth. It would see the beginning of something, and then, without waiting to know anything more about it, would hurry off and make up a great story about it. But there was no one else to carry news from Coronis to Apollo; for, as you know, there were no postmen in those days, and there was not a telegraph wire in the whole world.
All went well for several days. Every morning the white bird would wing its way over hills and plains and rivers and forests until it found Apollo, either in the groves on the top of Parnassus or in his own house at Delphi. Then it would alight upon his shoulder and say, “Coronis is well! Coronis is well!”
One day, however, it had a different story. It came much earlier than ever before, and seemed to be in great haste.
“Cor—Cor—Cor!” it cried; but it was so out of breath that it could not speak her whole name.
“What is the matter?” cried Apollo, in alarm. “Has anything happened to Coronis? Speak! Tell me the truth!”
“She does not love you! she does not love you!” cried the crow. “I saw a man—I saw a man,—” and then, without stopping to take breath, or to finish the story, it flew up into the air, and hurried homeward again.
Apollo, who had always been so wise, was now almost as foolish as his crow. He fancied that Coronis had really deserted him for another man, and his mind was filled with grief and rage. With his silver bow in his hands he started at once for his home. He did not stop to speak with any one; he had made up his mind to learn the truth for himself. His swan-team and his golden chariot were not at hand—for, now that he was living with men, he must travel like men. The journey had to be made on foot, and it was no short journey in those days when there were no roads. But after a time, he came to the village where he had lived happily for so many years, and soon he saw his own house half-hidden among the dark-leaved olive trees. In another minute he would know whether the crow had told him the truth.
He heard the footsteps of some one running in the grove. He caught a glimpse of a white robe among the trees. He felt sure that this was the man whom the crow had seen, and that he was trying to run away. He fitted an arrow to his bow quickly. He drew the string. Twang! And the arrow which never missed sped like a flash of light through the air.