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Jason and the Golden Fleece.
From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
The armed men were now so nigh that Jason could discern the fire
flashing out of their enraged eyes, when he let fly the stone and saw
it strike the helmet of a tall warrior who was rushing upon him with
his blade aloft. The stone glanced from this man's helmet to the
shield of his nearest comrade, and thence flew right into the angry
face of another, hitting him smartly between the eyes. Each of the
three who had been struck by the stone took it for granted that his
next neighbor had given him a blow; and instead of running any further
toward Jason, they began to fight among themselves. The confusion
spread through the host, so that it seemed scarcely a moment before
they were all hacking, hewing and stabbing at one another, lopping off
arms, heads and legs and doing such memorable deeds that Jason was
filled with immense admiration; although, at the same time, he could
not help laughing to behold these mighty men punishing each other for
an offense which he himself had committed. In an incredibly short
space of time (almost as short, indeed, as it had taken them to grow
up) all but one of the heroes of the dragon's teeth were stretched
lifeless on the field. The last survivor, the bravest and strongest of
the whole, had just force enough to wave his crimson sword over his
head and give a shout of exultation, crying, "Victory! Victory!
Immortal fame!" when he himself fell down and lay quietly among his
And there was the end of the army that had sprouted from the dragon's
teeth. That fierce and feverish fight was the only enjoyment which
they had tasted on this beautiful earth.
"Let them sleep in the bed of honor," said the Princess Medea, with a
sly smile at Jason. "The world will always have simpletons enough,
just like them, fighting and dying for they know not what, and
fancying that posterity will take the trouble to put laurel wreaths on
their rusty and battered helmets. Could you help smiling, Prince
Jason, to see the self-conceit of that last fellow, just as he tumbled
"It made me very sad," answered Jason gravely. "And to tell you the
truth, princess, the Golden Fleece does not appear so well worth the
winning, after what I have here beheld."
"You will think differently in the morning," said Medea. "True, the
Golden Fleece may not be so valuable as you have thought it; but then
there is nothing better in the world, and one must needs have an
object, you know. Come! Your night's work has been well performed; and
tomorrow you can inform King Ĉetes that the first part of your
allotted task is fulfilled."
Agreeably to Medea's advice, Jason went betimes in the morning to the
palace of king Ĉetes. Entering the presence chamber, he stood at the
foot of the throne and made a low obeisance.
"Your eyes look heavy, Prince Jason," observed the king; "you appear
to have spent a sleepless night. I hope you have been considering the
matter a little more wisely and have concluded not to get yourself
scorched to a cinder in attempting to tame my brazen-lunged bulls."
"That is already accomplished, may it please your majesty," replied
Jason. "The bulls have been tamed and yoked; the field has been
plowed; the dragon's teeth have been sown broadcast and harrowed into
the soil; the crop of armed warriors has sprung up and they have slain
one another to the last man. And now I solicit your majesty's
permission to encounter the dragon, that I may take down the Golden
Fleece from the tree and depart with my forty-nine comrades."
King Ĉetes scowled and looked very angry and excessively disturbed;
for he knew that, in accordance with his kingly promise, he ought now
to permit Jason to win the fleece if his courage and skill should
enable him to do so. But since the young man had met with such good
luck in the matter of the brazen bulls and dragon's teeth, the king
feared that he would be equally successful in slaying the dragon. And
therefore, though he would gladly have seen Jason snapped up at a
mouthful, he was resolved (and it was a very wrong thing of this
wicked potentate) not to run any further risk of losing his beloved
"You never would have succeeded in this business, young man," said he,
"if my undutiful daughter Medea had not helped you with her
enchantments. Had you acted fairly, you would have been at this
instant a black cinder or a handful of white ashes. I forbid you, on
pain of death, to make any more attempts to get the Golden Fleece. To
speak my mind plainly, you shall never set eyes on so much as one of
its glistening locks."
Jason left the king's presence in great sorrow and anger. He could
think of nothing better to be done than to summon together his
forty-nine brave Argonauts, march at once to the grove of Mars, slay
the dragon, take possession of the Golden Fleece, get on board the
Argo and spread all sail for Iolchos. The success of this scheme
depended, it is true, on the doubtful point whether all the fifty
heroes might not be snapped up as so many mouthfuls by the dragon. But
as Jason was hastening down the palace steps, the Princess Medea
called after him and beckoned him to return. Her black eyes shone upon
him with such a keen intelligence that he felt as if there were a
serpent peeping out of them, and although she had done him so much
service only the night before, he was by no means very certain that
she would not do him an equally great mischief before sunset. These
enchantresses, you must know, are never to be depended upon.
"What says King Ĉetes, my royal and upright father?" inquired Medea,
slightly smiling. "Will he give you the Golden Fleece without any
further risk or trouble?"
"On the contrary," answered Jason, "he is very angry with me for
taming the brazen bulls and sowing the dragon's teeth. And he forbids
me to make any more attempts, and positively refuses to give up the
Golden Fleece, whether I slay the dragon or no."
"Yes, Jason," said the princess, "and I can tell you more. Unless you
set sail from Colchis before tomorrow's sunrise, the king means to
burn your fifty-oared galley and put yourself and your forty-nine
brave comrades to the sword. But be of good courage. The Golden Fleece
you shall have if it lies within the power of my enchantments to get
it for you. Wait for me here an hour before midnight."
At the appointed hour you might again have seen Prince Jason and the
Princess Medea, side by side, stealing through the streets of Colchis
on their way to the sacred grove, in the center of which the Golden
Fleece was suspended to a tree. While they were crossing the pasture
ground the brazen bulls came toward Jason, lowing, nodding their heads
and thrusting forth their snouts, which, as other cattle do, they
loved to have rubbed and caressed by a friendly hand. Their fierce
nature was thoroughly tamed; and with their fierceness, the two
furnaces in their stomachs had likewise been extinguished, insomuch
that they probably enjoyed far more comfort in grazing and chewing
their cuds than ever before. Indeed, it had heretofore been a great
inconvenience to these poor animals that, whenever they wished to eat
a mouthful of grass, the fire out of their nostrils had shriveled it
up before they could manage to crop it. How they contrived to keep
themselves alive is more than I can imagine. But now, instead of
emitting jets of flame and streams of sulphurous vapor, they breathed
the very sweetest of cow breath.