THE WOODEN HORSE AND THE FALL OF TROY
By Josephine Preston Peabody
Nine years the Greeks laid siege to Troy, and Troy held out against every device. On both sides the lives of many heroes were spent, and they were forced to acknowledge each other enemies of great valor.
Sometimes the chief warriors fought in single combat, while the armies looked on, and the old men of Troy, with the women, came out to watch afar off from the city walls. King Priam and Queen Hecuba would come, and Cassandra, sad with foreknowledge of their doom, and Andromache, the lovely young wife of Hector, with her little son, whom the people called the city’s king. Sometimes fair Helen came to look across the plain to the fellow-countrymen whom she had forsaken; and although she was the cause of all this war, the Trojans half forgave her when she passed by, because her beauty was like a spell, and warmed hard hearts as the sunshine mellows apples. So for nine years the Greeks plundered the neighboring towns, but the city Troy stood fast, and the Grecian ships waited with folded wings.
In the tenth year of the war the Greeks, who could not take the city by force, pondered how they might take it by craft. At length, with the aid of Ulysses, they devised a plan.
A portion of the Grecian host broke up camp and set sail as if they were homeward bound; but, once out of sight, they anchored their ships behind a neighboring island. The rest of the army then fell to work upon a great image of a horse. They built it of wood, fitted and carved, and with a door so cunningly concealed that none might notice it. When it was finished the horse looked like a prodigious idol; but it was hollow, skillfully pierced here and there, and so spacious that a band of men could lie hidden within and take no harm. Into this hiding-place went Ulysses, Menelaus, and the other chiefs, fully armed, and when the door was shut upon them, the rest of the Grecian army broke camp and went away.
[Illustration: A GREAT IMAGE OF A HORSE. THEY BUILT IT OF WOOD, FITTED AND CARVED, AND WITH A DOOR SO CUNNINGLY CONCEALED THAT NONE MIGHT NOTICE IT. WHEN IT WAS FINISHED THE HORSE LOOKED LIKE A PRODIGIOUS IDOL, BUT IT WAS HOLLOW, SKILLFULLY PIERCED HERE AND THERE]
Meanwhile, in Troy, the people had seen the departure of the ships, and the news had spread like wildfire. The great enemy had lost heart,—after ten years of war! Part of the army had gone,—the rest were going. Already the last of the ships had set sail, and the camp was deserted. The tents that had whitened the plain were gone like a frost before the sun. The war was over!
The whole city went wild with joy. Like one who has been a prisoner for many years, it flung off all restraint, and the people rose as a single man to test the truth of new liberty. The gates were thrown wide, and the Trojans—men, women, and children—thronged over the plain and into the empty camp of the enemy. There stood the Wooden Horse.