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Jason and the Golden Fleece.
From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
"Look at him! only look at him!" said the man to his next neighbor.
"Do you see? He wears but one sandal!"
Upon this, first one person and then another began to stare at Jason,
and everybody seemed to be greatly struck with something in his
aspect; though they turned their eyes much oftener toward his feet
than to any other part of his figure. Besides, he could hear them
whispering to one another.
"One sandal! One sandal!" they kept saying. "The man with one sandal!
Here he is at last! Whence has he come? What does he mean to do? What
will the king say to the one-sandaled man?"
Poor Jason was greatly abashed and made up his mind that the people of
Iolchos were exceedingly ill-bred to take such public notice of an
accidental deficiency in his dress. Meanwhile, whether it were that
they hustled him forward or that Jason of his own accord thrust a
passage through the crowd, it so happened that he soon found himself
close to the smoking altar, where King Pelias was sacrificing the
black bull. The murmur and hum of the multitude, in their surprise at
the spectacle of Jason with his one bare foot, grew so loud that it
disturbed the ceremonies; and the king, holding the great knife with
which he was just going to cut the bull's throat, turned angrily about
and fixed his eyes on Jason. The people had now withdrawn from around
him, so that the youth stood in an open space, near the smoking altar,
front to front with the angry King Pelias.
"Who are you?" cried the king, with a terrible frown. "And how dare
you make this disturbance, while I am sacrificing a black bull to my
"It is no fault of mine," answered Jason. "Your majesty must blame the
rudeness of your subjects, who have raised all this tumult because one
of my feet happens to be bare."
When Jason said this the king gave a quick, startled glance at his
"Ha!" muttered he, "here is the one-sandaled fellow, sure enough! What
can I do with him?"
And he clutched more closely the great knife in his hand, as if he
were half a mind to slay Jason instead of the black bull. The people
round about caught up the king's words, indistinctly as they were
uttered; and first there was a murmur among them and then a loud
"The one-sandaled man has come! The prophecy must be fulfilled!"
For you are to know that many years before King Pelias had been told
by the Speaking Oak of Dodona that a man with one sandal should cast
him down from his throne. On this account he had given strict orders
that nobody should ever come into his presence unless both sandals
were securely tied upon his feet; and he kept an officer in his palace
whose sole business it was to examine people's sandals and to supply
them with a new pair at the expense of the royal treasury as soon as
the old ones began to wear out. In the whole course of the king's
reign he had never been thrown into such a fright and agitation as by
the spectacle of poor Jason's bare foot. But as he was naturally a
bold and hard-hearted man, he soon took courage and began to consider
in what way he might rid himself of this terrible one-sandaled
"My good young man," said King Pelias, taking the softest tone
imaginable in order to throw Jason off his guard, "you are excessively
welcome to my kingdom. Judging by your dress, you must have traveled a
long distance, for it is not the fashion to wear leopard-skins in this
part of the world. Pray, what may I call your name, and where did you
receive your education?"
"My name is Jason," answered the young stranger. "Ever since my
infancy I have dwelt in the cave of Chiron the Centaur. He was my
instructor, and taught me music and horsemanship and how to cure
wounds, and likewise how to inflict wounds with my weapons!"
"I have heard of Chiron the schoolmaster," replied King Pelias, "and
how that there is an immense deal of learning and wisdom in his head,
although it happens to be set on a horse's body. It gives me great
delight to see one of his scholars at my court. But to test how much
you have profited under so excellent a teacher, will you allow me to
ask you a single question?"
"I do not pretend to be very wise," said Jason; "but ask me what you
please and I will answer to the best of my ability."
Now King Pelias meant cunningly to entrap the young man and to make
him say something that should be the cause of mischief and destruction
to himself. So with a crafty and evil smile upon his face, he spoke as
"What would you do, brave Jason," asked he, "if there were a man in
the world by whom, as you had reason to believe, you were doomed to be
ruined and slain--what would you do, I say, if that man stood before
you and in your power?"
When Jason saw the malice and wickedness which King Pelias could not
prevent from gleaming out of his eyes, he probably guessed that the
king had discovered what he came for, and that he intended to turn his
own words against himself. Still, he scorned to tell a falsehood. Like
an upright and honorable prince, as he was, he determined to speak out
the real truth. Since the king had chosen to ask him the question and
since Jason had promised him an answer, there was no right way save to
tell him precisely what would be the most prudent thing to do if he
had his worst enemy in his power.
Therefore, after a moment's consideration, he spoke up with a firm and
"I would send such a man," said he, "in quest of the Golden Fleece!"
This enterprise, you will understand, was, of all others, the most
difficult and dangerous in the world. In the first place, it would be
necessary to make a long voyage through unknown seas. There was hardly
a hope or a possibility that any young man who should undertake this
voyage would either succeed in obtaining the Golden Fleece or would
survive to return home and tell of the perils he had run. The eyes of
King Pelias sparkled with joy, therefore, when he heard Jason's reply.
"Well said, wise man with the one sandal!" cried he. "Go, then, and at
the peril of your life bring me back the Golden Fleece!"
"I go," answered Jason composedly. "If I fail, you need not fear that
I will ever come back to trouble you again. But if I return to Iolchos
with the prize, then, King Pelias, you must hasten down from your
lofty throne and give me your crown and scepter."
"That I will," said the king, with a sneer. "Meantime I will keep them
very safely for you."
The first thing that Jason thought of doing after he left the king's
presence was to go to Dodona and inquire of the Talking Oak what
course it was best to pursue. This wonderful tree stood in the center
of an ancient wood. Its stately trunk rose up a hundred feet into the
air and threw a broad and dense shadow over more than an acre of
ground. Standing beneath it, Jason looked up among the knotted
branches and green leaves and into the mysterious heart of the old
tree, and spoke aloud, as if he were addressing some person who was
hidden in the depths of the foliage.