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Jason and the Golden Fleece.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall.

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After kindly patting the bulls, Jason followed Medea's guidance into the Grove of Mars, where the great oak trees that had been growing for centuries threw so thick a shade that the moonbeams struggled vainly to find their way through it. Only here and there a glimmer fell upon the leaf-strewn earth, or now and then a breeze stirred the boughs aside and gave Jason a glimpse of the sky, lest in that deep obscurity he might forget that there was one overhead. At length, when they had gone further and further into the heart of the duskiness, Medea squeezed Jason's hand. "Look yonder," she whispered. "Do you see it?" Gleaming among the venerable oaks there was a radiance, not like the moonbeams, but rather resembling the golden glory of the setting sun. It proceeded from an object which appeared to be suspended at about a man's height from the ground, a little further within the wood. "What is it?" asked Jason. "Have you come so far to seek it," exclaimed Medea, "and do you not recognize the meed of all your toils and perils when it glitters before your eyes? It is the Golden Fleece." Jason went onward a few steps further, and then stopped to gaze. Oh, how beautiful it looked, shining with a marvelous light of its own, that inestimable prize which so many heroes had longed to behold, but had perished in the quest of it, either by the perils of their voyage or by the fiery breath of the brazen-lunged bulls. "How gloriously it shines!" cried Jason in a rapture. "It has surely been dipped in the richest gold of sunset. Let me hasten onward and take it to my bosom." "Stay," said Medea, holding him back. "Have you forgotten what guards it?"

To say the truth, in the joy of beholding the object of his desires, the terrible dragon had quite slipped out of Jason's memory. Soon, however, something came to pass that reminded him what perils were still to be encountered. An antelope that probably mistook the yellow radiance for sunrise came bounding fleetly through the grove. He was rushing straight toward the Golden Fleece, when suddenly there was a frightful hiss and the immense head and half the scaly body of the dragon was thrust forth (for he was twisted round the trunk of the tree on which the fleece hung), and seizing the poor antelope, swallowed him with one snap of his jaws. After this feat, the dragon seemed sensible that some other living creature was within reach, on which he felt inclined to finish his meal. In various directions he kept poking his ugly snout among the trees, stretching out his neck a terrible long way, now here, now there and now close to the spot where Jason and the princess were hiding behind an oak. Upon my word, as the head came waving and undulating through the air and reaching almost within arm's length of Prince Jason, it was a very hideous and uncomfortable sight. The gape of his enormous jaws was nearly as wide as the gateway of the king's palace. "Well, Jason," whispered Medea (for she was ill natured, as all enchantresses are, and wanted to make the bold youth tremble), "what do you think now of your prospect of winning the Golden Fleece?" Jason answered only by drawing his sword and making a step forward. "Stay, foolish youth," said Medea, grasping his arm. "Do not you see you are lost without me as your good angel? In this gold box I have a magic potion which will do the dragon's business far more effectually than your sword."

The dragon had probably heard the voices, for swift as lightning his black head and forked tongue came hissing among the trees again, darting full forty feet at a stretch. As it approached, Medea tossed the contents of the gold box right down the monster's wide-open throat. Immediately, with an outrageous hiss and a tremendous wriggle--flinging his tail up to the tip-top of the tallest tree and shattering all its branches as it crashed heavily down again--the dragon fell at full length upon the ground and lay quite motionless. "It is only a sleeping potion," said the enchantress to Prince Jason. "One always finds a use for these mischievous creatures sooner or later; so I did not wish to kill him outright. Quick! Snatch the prize and let us begone. You have won the Golden Fleece." Jason caught the fleece from the tree and hurried through the grove, the deep shadows of which were illuminated as he passed, by the golden glory of the precious object that he bore along. A little way before him he beheld the old woman whom he had helped over the stream, with her peacock beside her. She clapped her hands for joy, and beckoning him to haste, disappeared among the duskiness of the trees. Espying the two winged sons of the North Wind (who were disporting themselves in the moonlight a few hundred feet aloft), Jason bade them tell the rest of the Argonauts to embark as speedily as possible. But Lynceus, with his sharp eyes, had already caught a glimpse of him, bringing the Golden Fleece, although several stone walls, a hill, and the black shadows of the Grove of Mars intervened between. By his advice the heroes had seated themselves on the benches of the galley, with their oars held perpendicularly, ready to let fall into the water.

As Jason drew near he heard the Talking Image calling to him with more than ordinary eagerness, in its grave, sweet voice: "Make haste, Prince Jason! For your life, make haste!" With one bound he leaped aboard. At sight of the glorious radiance of the Golden Fleece, the forty-nine heroes gave a mighty shout, and Orpheus, striking his harp, sang a song of triumph, to the cadence of which the galley flew over the water, homeward bound, as if careering along with wings!



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