“But you will at least take fifty young men, your companions, with you?” said King Pittheus.
“Not one shall go with me,” said Theseus; and he stood up and played with his sword hilt, and laughed at the thought of fear.
Then when there was nothing more to say, he kissed his mother and bade his grandfather good-by, and went out of Troezen towards the trackless coastland which lay to the west and north. And with blessings and tears the king and AEthra followed him to the city gates, and watched him until his tall form was lost to sight among the trees which bordered the shore of the sea.
III. ROUGH ROADS AND ROBBERS.
With a brave heart Theseus walked on, keeping the sea always upon his right. Soon the old city of Troezen was left far behind, and he came to the great marshes, where the ground sank under him at every step, and green pools of stagnant water lay on both sides of the narrow pathway. But no fiery dragon came out of the reeds to meet him; and so he walked on and on till he came to the rugged mountain land which bordered the western shore of the sea. Then he climbed one slope after another, until at last he stood on the summit of a gray peak from which he could see the whole country spread out around him. Then downward and onward he went again, but his way led him through dark mountain glens, and along the edges of mighty precipices, and underneath many a frowning cliff, until he came to a dreary wood where the trees grew tall and close together and the light of the sun was seldom seen.
In that forest there dwelt a robber giant, called Club-carrier, who was the terror of all the country. For oftentimes he would go down into the valleys where the shepherds fed their flocks, and would carry off not only sheep and lambs, but sometimes children and the men themselves. It was his custom to hide in the thickets of underbrush, close to a pathway, and, when a traveler passed that way, leap out upon him and beat him to death. When he saw Theseus coming through the woods, he thought that he would have a rich prize, for he knew from the youth’s dress and manner that he must be a prince. He lay on the ground, where leaves of ivy and tall grass screened him from view, and held his great iron club ready to strike.
But Theseus had sharp eyes and quick ears, and neither beast nor robber giant could have taken him by surprise. When Club-carrier leaped out of his hiding place to strike him down, the young man dodged aside so quickly that the heavy club struck the ground behind him; and then, before the robber giant could raise it for a second stroke, Theseus seized the fellow’s legs and tripped him up.
Club-carrier roared loudly, and tried to strike again; but Theseus wrenched the club out of his hands, and then dealt him such a blow on the head that he never again harmed travelers passing through the forest. Then the youth went on his way, carrying the huge club on his shoulder, and singing a song of victory, and looking sharply around him for any other foes that might be lurking among the trees.