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- Heroes Every Child Should Know - 2/52 -


be preserved and men were to live together in safety and with comfort. When a strong man appeared he helped his fellows to make themselves more at ease in the world. Sometimes he did this by simply making himself more comfortable and thus showing others how to do it; sometimes he did it by working for his fellows. No matter how selfish a man may be, if he does any real work in the world he works not only for himself but for others. In this way a selfish man like Napoleon does the work of a hero without meaning to do it: for the world is so made that no capable man or woman can be entirely selfish, no matter how hard they try to get and keep everything for themselves.

It was not long before men saw that strong men could not work for themselves without working for others, and there came in very early the idea of service as part of the idea of heroism, and the demi- gods, who were among the earliest heroes, were servants as well as masters. Hercules, the most powerful of the heroes to Greek and Roman boys was set to do the most difficult things not for himself but for others. He destroyed lions, hydras, wild boars, birds with brazen beaks and wings, mad bulls, many-headed monsters, horses which fed on human flesh, dragons, he mastered the three-headed dog Cerberus, he tore asunder the rocks at the Strait of Gibraltar which bear his name to open a channel between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. He fought the Centaur and brought back Alcestis, the wife of Admetus, from the pale regions of death where she had gone to save her husband's life. In all these labors, which were so great that works of extraordinary magnitude have since been called Herculean, the brave, patient, suffering hero, was helping other people rather than helping himself.

And this was true of Thor, the strong god of the Norsemen whose hammer was the most terrible weapon in the world, the roll and crash of thunder being the sound of it and the blinding lightning the flash of it. The gods were the friends of men, giving the light and warmth and fertility of the summer that the fields might bear food for them and the long, bright days might bring them peace and happiness. And the giants were the enemies of men, tirelessly trying to make the fields desolate and stop the singing of birds and shroud the sky in darkness by driving away summer with the icy breath of winter. In this perpetual conflict Thor was the hero of strength and courage, beating back the giants, defeating their schemes and fighting the battle for gods and men with tireless zeal; counting no peril or hardship too great if there was heroic work to be done.

Courage and achievement are the two signs of the hero; he may possess or lack many other qualities, but he must be daring and he must do things and not dream or talk about them.

From the days of Hercules to those of Washington and Livingston, men of heroic spirit have not stopped to count the cost when a deed must be done but have done it, usually with very little talk or noise; for heroes, as a rule, are much more interested in getting their work done than in making themselves conspicuous or winning a reputation. Heroes have often been harsh and even brutal, especially in the earliest times when humane feeling and a compassionate spirit had not been developed; Siegfried, Jason, Gustavas Adolphus and Von Tromp were often arbitrary and oppressive in their attitude toward men; and, in later times, Alfred the Great, William the Silent and Nelson were not without serious defects of temper and sometimes of character. Men are not great or heroic because they are faultless; they are great and heroic because they dare, suffer, achieve and serve.

And men love their heroes not because they have been perfect characters under all conditions, but because they have been brave, true, able, and unselfish, A man may have few faults and count for very little in the world, because he lacks force, daring, the greatness of soul which moves before a generation like a flaming torch; a man may lead a stainless life, not because he is really virtuous but because he has very few temptations within or without. Some of the most heroic men have put forth more strength in resisting a single temptation than men of theories and more commonplace natures put forth in a life time. The serious faults of heroes are not overlooked or forgotten; the great man is as much the servant of the moral law as the little man, and pays the same price for disobedience; but generosity of spirit, devotion to high aims and capacity for self-sacrifice often outweigh serious offences. Nelson is less a hero because he yielded to a great temptation; but he remains a hero in spite of the stain on his fame. It is much better not to be profane under any circumstances, but when Washington swore fiercely at Charles Lee on the battle field of Monmouth his profanity was the expression of the righteous wrath of a good man. In judging the hero one must take into account the age in which he lived, the differences in moral standards between the past and the present, and the force of the temptations which come with strength of body, passion, imagination, great position, colossal enterprises; these do not conceal or excuse the faults of heroes but they explain those faults.

The men whose bravery and great deeds are described in these pages have been selected not because they are faultless in character and life, but because they were brave, generous, self-forgetful, self- sacrificing and capable of splendid deeds. Men love and honour them not only because they owe them a great deal of gratitude, but because they see in their heroes the kind of men they would like to be; for the possibilities of the heroic are in almost all men. Stories of the heroes have often made other men strong and brave and true in the face of great perils and tasks, and this book is put forth in the faith that it will not only pass on the fame of the heroes of the past but help make heroes in the present.

H. W. M.

CHAPTER I

PERSEUS

Once upon a time there were two princes who were twins. Their names were Acrisius and Proetus, and they lived in the pleasant vale of Argos, far away in Hellas. They had fruitful meadows and vineyards, sheep and oxen, great herds of horses feeding down in Lerna Fen, 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.

But there came a prophet to Acrisius and prophesied against him, and said, "Because you have risen up against your own blood, your own blood shall rise up against you; because you have sinned against your kindred, by your kindred you shall be punished. Your daughter Danae shall have a son, and by that son's hands you shall die. So the gods have ordained, and it will surely come to pass."

And at that Acrisius was very much afraid; but he did not mend his ways. He had been cruel to his own family, and, instead of repenting and being kind to them, he went on to be more cruel than ever: for 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: but you will see presently whether he was able to escape them.

Now it came to pass that in time a son came to Danae: so beautiful a babe that any but King Acrisius 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, for the winds and the waves to carry them whithersoever they would.

The northwest wind blew freshly out of the blue mountains, and down the pleasant vale of Argos, and away and out to sea. And away and out to sea before it floated the mother and her babe, while all who watched them wept, save that cruel father, King Acrisius.

So they floated on and on, and the chest danced up and down upon the billows, and the baby slept upon its mother's breast: but the poor mother could not sleep, but watched and wept, and she sang to her baby as they floated; and the song which she sang you shall learn yourselves some day.

And now they are past the last blue headland, and in the open sea; and there is nothing round them but the 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 for 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 the 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, all red in the setting sun, and around her rocks and breakers, and flying flakes of foam. She clasped her hands together, and shrieked aloud for help. And when she cried, help met her: for now there came over the rocks a tall and stately man, and looked down wonderingly upon poor Danae tossing about in the chest among the waves.

He wore a rough cloak of frieze, and on his head a broad hat to shade his face; in his hand he carried a trident for spearing fish, and over his shoulder was a casting-net; but Danae could see that he was no common man by his stature, and his walk, and his flowing golden hair and beard; and by the two servants who came behind him, carrying baskets for his fish. But she had hardly time to look at him before he had laid aside his trident and leapt down the rocks, and thrown his casting-net so surely over Danae and the chest, that he drew it, and her, and the baby, safe upon a ledge of rock.

Then the fisherman took Danae by the hand, and lifted her out of the chest, and said:

"O beautiful damsel, what strange chance has brought you to this island in so frail a ship? Who are you, and whence? Surely you are some King's daughter and this boy has somewhat more than mortal."

And as he spoke he pointed to the babe; for its face shone like the morning star.

But Danae only held down her head, and sobbed out:

"Tell me to what land I have come, unhappy that I am; and among what men I have fallen!"

And he said, "This isle is called Seriphos, and I am a Hellen, and dwell in it. I am the brother of Polydectes the King; and men call me Dictys the netter, because I catch the fish of the shore."


Heroes Every Child Should Know - 2/52

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