“Have patience, my son,” again said AEthra; but this time the tears were standing in her eyes.
So he went back again to his exercising; and he learned to wield the sword and the battle ax and to throw tremendous weights and to carry tremendous burdens. And men said that since the days of Hercules there was never so great strength in one body. Then, when he was a year older, he climbed the mountain yet another time with his mother, and he stooped and took hold of the stone, and it yielded to his touch; and, lo, when he had lifted it quite out of the ground, he found underneath it a sword of bronze and sandals of gold, and these he gave to his mother.
“Tell me now about my father,” he said.
[Illustration: “She buckled the sword to his belt.”]
AEthra knew that the time had come for which she had waited so long, and she buckled the sword to his belt and fastened the sandals upon his feet. Then she told him who his father was, and why he had left them in Troezen, ands how he had said that when the lad was strong enough to lift the great stone, he must take the sword and sandals and go and seek him in Athens.
Theseus was glad when he heard this, and his proud eyes flashed with eagerness as he said: “I am ready, mother; and I will set out for Athens this very day.”
Then they walked down the mountain together and told King Pittheus what had happened, and showed him the sword and the sandals. But the old man shook his head sadly and tried to dissuade Theseus from going.
“How can you go to Athens in these lawless times?” he said. “The sea is full of pirates. In fact, no ship from Troezen has sailed across the Saronic Sea since your kingly father went home to the help of his people, eighteen years ago.”
Then, finding that this only made Theseus the more determined, he said: “But if you must go, I will have a new ship built for you, stanch and stout and fast sailing; and fifty of the bravest young men in Troezen shall go with you; and mayhap with fair winds and fearless hearts you shall escape the pirates and reach Athens in safety.”
“Which is the most perilous way?” asked Theseus—“to go by ship or to make the journey on foot round the great bend of land?”
“The seaway is full enough of perils,” said his grandfather, “but the landway is beset with dangers tenfold greater. Even if there were good roads and no hindrances, the journey round the shore is a long one and would require many days. But there are rugged mountains to climb, and wide marshes to cross, and dark forests to go through. There is hardly a footpath in all that wild region, nor any place to find rest or shelter; and the woods are full of wild beasts, and dreadful dragons lurk in the marshes, and many cruel robber giants dwell in the mountains.”
“Well,” said Theseus, “if there are more perils by land than by sea, then I shall go by land, and I go at once.”