“And what good would it be to you, Jason, if you were heir of that fair land?”
“I would take it and keep it.”
“A strong man has taken it and kept it long. Are you stronger than your uncle Pelias the Terrible?”
“I can try my strength with his,” said Jason.
But Cheiron sighed and said, “You have many a danger to go through before you rule in Iolcos by the sea, many a danger and many a woe, and strange troubles in strange lands, such as man never saw before.”
“The happier I,” said Jason, “to see what man never saw before!”
Cheiron sighed and said, “Will you go to Iolcos by the sea? Then promise me two things before you go! Speak harshly to no soul whom you may meet, and stand by the word which you shall speak.”
Jason promised. Then he leapt down the mountain, to take his fortune like a man.
He went down through the thickets and across the downs of thyme, till he came to the vineyard walls, and the olives in the glen. And among the olives roared the river, foaming with a summer flood.
And on the bank of the river sat a woman, all wrinkled, gray and old. Her head shook with old age, and her hands shook on her knees.
When she saw Jason, she spoke, whining, “Who will carry me across the flood?”
But Jason, heeding her not, went towards the waters. Yet he thought twice before he leapt, so loud roared the torrent all brown from the mountain rains.
The old woman whined again, “I am weak and old, fair youth. For Hera’s sake, the Queen of the Immortals, carry me over the torrent.”
Jason was going to answer her scornfully, when Cheiron’s words, “Speak harshly to no soul whom you may meet,” came to his mind.
So he said, “For Hera’s sake, the Queen of the Immortals, I will carry you over the torrent, unless we both are drowned midway.”
Then the old dame leapt upon his back as nimbly as a goat. Jason staggered in, wondering, and the first step was up to his knees.
The first step was up to his knees, and the second step was up to his waist. The stones rolled about his feet, and his feet slipped about the stones. So he went on, staggering and panting, while the old woman cried upon his back, “Fool, you have wet my mantle! Do you mock at poor old souls like me?”
Jason had half a mind to drop her and let her get through the torrent alone, but Cheiron’s words were in his mind, and he said only, “Patience, mother, the best horse may stumble some day.”
At last he staggered to the shore and set her down upon the bank. He lay himself panting awhile, and then leapt up to go upon his journey, but he first cast one look at the old woman, for he thought, “She should thank me once at least.”
And as he looked, she grew fairer than all women and taller than all men on earth.
Her garments shone like the summer sea, and her jewels like the stars of heaven. And she looked down on him with great soft eyes, with great eyes, mild and awful, which filled all the glen with light. Jason fell upon his knees and hid his face between his hands.