When he had laid waste the whole country he went back into the edge of the forest; but the people were so much afraid of him that they lived in dread every day lest he should come again and tear down the gates of the city.
“We must have forgotten somebody when we gave thanks last year,” said King OEneus. “Who could it have been?”
And then he thought of Diana.
“Diana, the queen of the chase,” said he, “has sent this monster to punish us for forgetting her. I am sure that we shall remember her now as long as we live.”
Then he sent messengers into all the countries near Calydon, asking the bravest men and skillfullest hunters to come at a certain time and help him hunt and kill the great wild boar. Very many of these men had been with Meleager in that wonderful voyage in search of the Golden Fleece, and he felt sure they would come.
IV. THE HUNT IN THE FOREST.
When the day came which King OEneus had set, there was a wonderful gathering of men at Calydon. The greatest heroes in the world were there; and every one was fully armed, and expected to have fine sport hunting the terrible wild boar. With the warriors from the south there came a tall maiden armed with bow and arrows and a long hunting spear. It was our friend Atalanta, the huntress.
“My daughters are having a game of ball in the garden,” said old King OEneus. “Wouldn’t you like to put away your arrows and your spear, and go and play with them?”
Atalanta shook her head and lifted her chin as if in disdain.
“Perhaps you would rather stay with the queen, and look at the women spin and weave,” said OEneus.
“No,” answered Atalanta, “I am going with the warriors to hunt the wild boar in the forest!”
How all the men opened their eyes! They had never heard of such a thing as a girl going out with heroes to hunt wild boars.
“If she goes, then I will not,” said one.
“Nor I, either,” said another.
“Nor I,” said a third. “Why, the whole world would laugh at us, and we should never hear the end of it.”
Several threatened to go home at once; and two brothers of Queen Althea, rude, unmannerly fellows, loudly declared that the hunt was for heroes and not for puny girls.
But Atalanta only grasped her spear more firmly and stood up, tall and straight, in the gateway of the palace. Just then a handsome young man came forward. It was Meleager.