HEROES OF GREECE AND ROME
ADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR
PERSEUS AND HIS MOTHER
Once upon a time there were two Princes who were twins. They lived in a pleasant vale far away in Hellas. They had fruitful meadows and vineyards, sheep and oxen, great herds of horses, and all that men could need to make them blest. And yet they were wretched, because they were jealous of each other.
From the moment they were born they began to quarrel, and when they grew up, each tried to take away the other’s share of the kingdom and keep all for himself.
And there came a prophet to one of the hard-hearted Princes and said, “Because you have risen up against your own family, your own family shall rise up against you. Because you have sinned against your kindred, by your kindred shall you be punished. Your daughter Danae shall bear a son, and by that son’s hands you shall die. So the gods have said, and it shall surely come to pass.”
At that the hard-hearted Prince was very much afraid, but he did not mend his ways. For when he became King, he shut up his fair daughter Danae in a cavern underground, lined with brass, that no one might come near her. So he fancied himself more cunning than the gods.
Now it came to pass that in time Danae bore a son, so beautiful a babe that any but the King would have had pity on it. But he had no pity, for he took Danae and her babe down to the seashore, and put them into a great chest and thrust them out to sea, that the winds and the waves might carry them whithersoever they would.
And away and out to sea before the northwest wind floated the mother and her babe, while all who watched them wept, save that cruel King.
So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down upon the billows, and the babe slept in its mother’s arms. But the poor mother could not sleep, but watched and wept, and she sang to her babe as they floated.
Now they are past the last blue headland and in the open sea. There is nothing round them but waves, and the sky and the wind. But the waves are gentle and the sky is clear, and the breeze is tender and low.
So a night passed and a day, and a long day it was to Danae, and another night and day beside, till Danae was faint with hunger and weeping, and yet no land appeared.
And all the while the babe slept quietly, and at last poor Danae drooped her head and fell asleep likewise, with her cheek against her babe’s.
After a while she was awakened suddenly, for the chest was jarring and grinding, and the air was full of sound. She looked up, and over her head were mighty cliffs, and around her rocks and breakers and flying flakes of foam.