Apollo heard a sharp, wild cry of pain; and he bounded forward through the grove. There, stretched dying on the grass, he saw his dear Coronis. She had seen him coming, and was running gladly to greet him, when the cruel arrow pierced her heart. Apollo was overcome with grief. He took her form in his arms, and tried to call her back to life again. But it was all in vain. She could only whisper his name, and then she was dead.
A moment afterwards the crow alighted on one of the trees near by. “Cor—Cor—Cor,” it began; for it wanted now to finish its story. But Apollo bade it begone.
“Cursed bird,” he cried, “you shall never say a word but ‘Cor—Cor—Cor!’ all your life; and the feathers of which you are so proud shall no longer be white, but black as midnight.”
And from that time to this, as you very well know, all crows have been black; and they fly from one dead tree to another, always crying, “Cor—cor—cor!”
Soon after this, Apollo took the little AEsculapius in his arms and carried him to a wise old schoolmaster named Cheiron, who lived in a cave under the gray cliffs of a mountain close by the sea.
“Take this child,” he said, “and teach him all the lore of the mountains, the woods, and the fields. Teach him those things which he most needs to know in order to do great good to his fellow-men.”
And AEsculapius proved to be a wise child, gentle and sweet and teachable; and among all the pupils of Cheiron he was the best loved. He learned the lore of the mountains, the woods, and the fields. He found out what virtue there is in herbs and flowers and senseless stones; and he studied the habits of birds and beasts and men. But above all he became skillful in dressing wounds and healing diseases; and to this day physicians remember and honor him as the first and greatest of their craft. When he grew up to manhood his name was heard in every land, and people blessed him because he was the friend of life and the foe of death.
As time went by, AEsculapius cured so many people and saved so many lives that Pluto, the pale-faced king of the Lower World, became alarmed.
“I shall soon have nothing to do,” he said, “if this physician does not stop keeping people away from my kingdom.”
And he sent word to his brother Jupiter, and complained that AEsculapius was cheating him out of what was his due. Great Jupiter listened to his complaint, and stood up among the storm clouds, and hurled his thunderbolts at AEsculapius until the great physician was cruelly slain. Then all the world was filled with grief, and even the beasts and the trees and the stones wept because the friend of life was no more.
When Apollo heard of the death of his son, his grief and wrath were terrible. He could not do anything against Jupiter and Pluto, for they were stronger than he; but he went down into the smithy of Vulcan, underneath the smoking mountains, and slew the giant smiths who had made the deadly thunderbolts.