carrying with them the gold and jewels of my treasure house; and in the
morning, when the sun arose on Lacedaemon, they were far out at sea.
"You know the rest: how in wrath and great sorrow I hurried home; how I
first counselled with my own elders, and then with my brother
Agamemnon. And now, O noble Nestor, we have come to Pylos, seeking thy
advice. On these two things my mind is set: Helen must be mine again,
and Paris must suffer the punishment due to traitors."
When Menelaus had ended, sage Nestor answered with many words of
counsel. "Keep the thought of vengeance ever before you," he said.
"Yet act not rashly. The power of Troy is very great; and, in case of
war, all the tribes of Asia will make common cause with her. But an
insult to Lacedaemon is an insult to all Greece, and every loyal Greek
will hasten to avenge it. More than this, the chiefs of almost every
state have already sworn to aid you. We have but to call upon them,
and remind them of their oaths, and the mightiest warriors of our land
will take up arms against the power of Troy."
After nearly ten years of preparation, the princes and warriors of
Greece gathered their ships and men together at Aulis, ready to make
war upon Troy. A thousand dark-hulled vessels were moored in the
harbor; and a hundred thousand brave men were on board, ready to follow
their leaders whithersoever they should order.
Chief of all that host was mighty Agamemnon, king of men. He was clad
in flashing armor, and his mind was filled with overweening pride when
he thought how high he stood among the warriors, and that his men were
the goodliest and bravest of all that host.
Next to him was Menelaus, silent and discreet, by no means skilled
above his fellows, and yet, by reason of his noble heart, beloved and
honored by all the Greeks; and it was to avenge his wrongs that this
mighty array of men and ships had been gathered together.
Odysseus came next, shrewd in counsels, earnest and active. He moved
among the men and ships, inspiring all with zeal and courage.
There, also, was young Achilles, tall and handsome, and swift of foot.
His long hair fell about his shoulders like a shower of gold, and his
gray eyes gleamed like those of the mountain eagle. By the shore lay
his trim ships - fifty in all - with thousands of gallant warriors on
One day it chanced that Agamemnon, while hunting, started a fine stag,
and gave it a long chase among the hills and through the wooded dells,
until it sought safety in a grove sacred to Artemis, the huntress
queen. The proud king knew that this was a holy place, where beasts
and birds might rest secure from harm; yet he cared naught for what
Artemis had ordained, and with his swift arrows he slew the panting
Then was the huntress queen moved with anger, and she declared that the
ships of the Greeks should not sail from Aulis until the king had
atoned for his crime. A great calm rested upon the sea, and not a
breath of air stirred the sails at the mast-heads of the ships.
Day after day and week after week went by, and not a speck of cloud was
seen in the sky above, and not a ripple on the glassy face of the deep.
All the ships had been put in order, new vessels had been built, the
warriors had burnished their armor and overhauled their arms a thousand
times; and yet no breeze arose to waft them across the sea. And they
began to murmur, and to talk bitterly against Agamemnon and the chiefs.
At last Agamemnon sent for Calchas, the soothsayer, and asked him in
secret how the anger of the huntress queen might be appeased. And the
soothsayer with tears and lamentations answered that in no wise could
it be done save by the sacrifice to Artemis of the king's daughter,
Then the king cried aloud in his grief, and declared that though Troy
might stand forever, he would not do that thing; and he bade a herald
go through the camp, and among the ships by the shore, and bid every
man depart as he chose to his own country. But before the herald had
gone from his tent, behold, his brother, Menelaus, stood before him
with downcast eyes and saddest of hearts.
"After ten years of labor and hope," said he to Agamemnon, "wouldst
thou give up this enterprise, and lose all?"
Then Odysseus came also into the tent, and added his persuasions to
those of Menelaus. The king hearkened to him, for no man was more
crafty in counsel; and the three recalled the herald, and formed a plan
whereby they might please Artemis by doing as she desired. Agamemnon,
in his weakness, wrote a letter to Clytemnestra his queen, telling her
to bring the maiden, Iphigenia, to Aulis, there to be wedded to the
bravest of all the Greeks.
"_Fail not in this_," added he, "_for the godlike hero will not sail
with us unless my daughter be given to him in marriage_."
And when he had written the letter, he sealed it, and sent it by a
swift messenger to Clytemnestra at Mycenas.
Nevertheless the king's heart was full of sorrow, and when he was alone
he planned how he might yet save his daughter. Night came, but he
could not sleep; he walked the floor of his tent; he wept and lamented
like one bereft of reason. At length he sat down, and wrote another
"_Daughter of Leda, send not thy child to Aulis, for I will give her in
marriage at another time_."
Then he called another messenger, an old and trusted servant of the
household, and put this letter into his hands.
"Take this with all haste to my queen, who, perchance, is even now on
her way to Aulis. Stop not by any cool spring in the groves, and let
not thine eyes close for sleep. And see that the chariot bearing the
queen and Iphigenia pass thee not unnoticed."
The messenger took the letter and hastened away. But hardly had he
passed the line of the tents when Menelaus saw him, and took the letter
away from him. And when he had read it, he went before his brother,
and reproached him| with bitter words.
"Before you were chosen captain of the host," said he, "you were kind
and gentle, and the friend of every man. There was nothing that you
would not do to aid your fellows. Now you are puffed up with pride and
vain conceit, and care nothing even for those who are your equals in
power. Yet, for all, you are not rid of your well-known cowardice; and
when you saw that your leadership was likely to be taken away from you
unless you obeyed the commands of Artemis, you agreed to do this thing.
Now you are trying to break your word, sending secretly to your wife,
and bidding her not to bring her daughter to Aulis."
Then Agamemnon answered, "Why should I destroy my daughter in order to
win back thy wife? Let those who wish go with thee to Troy. In no way
am I bound to serve thee."
"Do as you will," said Menelaus, going away in wrath.
Soon after this, there came a herald to the king, saying, "Behold, your
daughter Iphigenia has come as you directed, and with her mother and
her little brother Orestes she rests by the spring close to the outer
line of tents. The warriors have gathered around them, and are
praising her loveliness, and asking many questions; and some say, 'The
king is sick to see his daughter, whom he loves so deeply, and he has
made up some excuse to bring her to the camp.' But I know why you have
brought her here; for I have been told about the wedding, and the noble
groom who is to lead her in marriage; and we will rejoice and be glad,
because this is a happy day for the maiden."
Then the king was sorely distressed, and knew not what to do. "Sad,
sad, indeed," said he, "is the wedding to which the maiden cometh. For
the name of the bridegroom is Death."
At the same time Menelaus came back, sorrowful and repentant. "You
were right, my brother," said he. "What, indeed, has Iphigenia to do
with this enterprise, and why should the maiden die for me? Send the
Greeks to their homes, and let not this great wrong be done."
"But how can I do that now?" asked Agamemnon. "The warriors, urged on
by Odysseus and Calchas, will force me to do the deed. Or, if I flee
to Mycenae, they will follow me, and slay me, and destroy my city. Oh,
woe am I, that such a day should ever dawn upon my sight!"
Even while they spoke together, the queen's chariot drove up to the
tent door, and the queen and Iphigenia and the little Orestes alighted
quickly, and merrily greeted the king.
"It is well that you have sent for me, my father," said Iphigenia,
"It may be well, and yet it may not," said Agamemnon. "I am exceeding
glad to see thee alive and happy."
"If you are glad, why then do you weep?"
"I am sad because thou wilt be so long time away from me."
"Are you going on a very long voyage, father?"
"A long voyage and a sad one, my child. And thou, also, hast a journey
"Must I make it alone, or will my mother go with me?"
"Thou must make it alone. Neither father nor mother nor any friend can
go with thee, my child."
"But when shall it be? I pray that you will hasten this matter with
Troy, and return home ere then."
"It may be so. But I must offer a sacrifice to the gods before we sail
"That is well. And may I be present?"
"Yes, and thou shalt be very close to the altar."
"Shall I lead in the dances, father?"
Then the king could say no more, for reason of the great sorrow within
him; and he kissed the maiden, and sent her into the tent. A little
while afterward, the queen came and spoke to him and asked him about
the man to whom their daughter was to be wedded; and Agamemnon, still
dissembling, told her that the hero's name was Achilles, and that he
was the son of old Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis.
"And when and where is the marriage to be?" asked the queen.
"On the first lucky day in the present moon, and here in our camp at
Aulis," answered Agamemnon.
"Shall I stay here with thee until then?"
"Nay, thou must go back to Mycenae without delay."
"But may I not come again? If I am not here, who will hold up the
torch for the bride?"
"I will attend to all such matters," answered Agamemnon.
But Clytemnestra was not well pleased, neither could the king persuade
her at all that she should return to Mycenae. While yet they were
talking, Achilles himself came to the tent door, and said aloud to the
servant who kept it, "Tell thy master that Achilles, the son of Peleus,
would be pleased to see him."
When Clytemnestra overheard these words, she hastened to the door, and
offered the hero her hand. But he was abashed and drew back, for it
was deemed an unseemly thing for men to speak thus with women. Then
Clytemnestra said, "Why, indeed, should you, who are about to marry my
daughter, be ashamed to give me your hand?"
Achilles was struck with wonder, and asked her what she meant; and when
she had explained the matter, he said:
"Truly I have never been a suitor for thy daughter, neither has
Agamemnon or Menelaus spoken a word to me regarding her."
And now the queen was astonished in her turn, and cried out with shame
that she had been so cruelly deceived. Then the keeper of the door,
who was the same that had been sent with the letter, came forward and
told the truth regarding the whole matter. And Clytemnestra cried to
Achilles, "O son of silver-footed Thetis! Help me and help my daughter
Iphigenia, in this time of sorest need! For we have no friend in all
this host, and none in whom we can confide but thee."
Achilles answered, "Long time ago I was a pupil of old Cheiron, the
most righteous of men, and from him I learned to be honest and true.
If Agamemnon rule according to right, then I will obey him; but not
otherwise. And now, since thy daughter was brought to this place under
pretence of giving her to me as my bride, I will see that she shall not
be slain, neither shall any one dare take her from me."
On the following day, while Agamemnon sat grief-stricken in his tent,
the maiden came before him carrying the child Orestes in her arms; and
she cast herself upon her knees at his feet, and caressing his hands,
she thus besought him:
"Would, dear father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, to whom even the
rocks did listen! then I would persuade thee. O father! I am thy
child. I was the first to call thee 'Father,' and the first to whom
thou saidst 'My child.'"
The father turned his face away, and wept; he could not speak for
sadness. Then the maiden went on: "O father, hear me! thou to whom my
voice was once so sweet that thou wouldst waken me to hear my prattle.
And when I was older grown, then thou wouldst say to me, 'Some day, my
birdling, thou shalt have a nest of thy own, a home of which thou shalt
be the mistress.' And I did answer, 'Yes, dear father, and when thou
art old I will care for thee, and pay thee with all my heart for the
kindness thou dost show me.' But now thou hast forgotten it all, and
art ready to slay my young life."
A deep groan burst from the lips of the mighty king, but he spoke not a
word. Then, after a deathlike silence broken only by the deep
breathings of father and child, Iphigenia spoke again: "My father, can
there be any prayer more pure and more persuasive than that of a maiden
for her father's welfare? And when, the cruel knife shall strike me
down, thou wilt have one daughter less to pray for thee." A shudder
shook the frame of Agamemnon, but he answered not a word.
At that moment Achilles entered. He had come in haste from the tents
beside the shore, and he spoke in hurried, anxious accents.
"Behold," said he, "a great tumult has arisen in the camp; for Calchas
has given out among the men that you refuse to do what Artemis has
bidden, and that hence these delays and troubles have arisen. And the
rude soldiers are crying out against you, and declaring that the maiden
must die. When I would have stayed their anger, they took up stones to
stone me - my own warriors among the rest. And now they are making
ready to move upon your tent, threatening to sacrifice you also with
your daughter. But I will fight for you to the utmost, and the maiden
shall not die."
As he was speaking, Calchas entered, and, grasping the wrist of the
pleading maiden, lifted her to her feet. She looked up, and saw his
stony face and hard cold eyes; and turning again to Agamemnon, she
said, "O father, the ships shall sail, for I will die for thee."
Then Achilles said to her, "Fair maiden, thou art by far the noblest
and most lovely of thy sex. Fain would I save thee from this fate,
even though every man in Greece be against me. Fly with me quickly to
my long-oared ship, and I will carry thee safely away from this
"Not so," answered Iphigenia: "I will give up my life for my father and
this land of the Greeks, and no man shall suffer for me."
Then the pitiless priest led her through the throng of rude soldiers to
the grove of Artemis, wherein an altar had been built. But Achilles
and Agamemnon covered their faces with their mantles, and stayed inside
As the maiden took her place upon the altar, the king's herald stood
up, and bade the warriors keep silence; and Calchas put a garland of
sweet-smelling flowers about the victim's head.
"Let no man touch me," said the maiden, "for I offer my neck to the
sword with right good will, that so my father may live and prosper."
In silence and great awe, the warriors stood around, while Calchas drew
a sharp knife from its scabbard. But, lo! as he struck, the maiden was
not there; and in her stead, a noble deer lay dying on the altar. Then
the old soothsayer cried out in triumphant tones, "See, now, ye men of
Greece, how the gods have provided for you a sacrifice, and saved the
innocent daughter of the king!" And all the people shouted with joy;
and in that self-same hour, a strong breeze came down the bay, and
filled the idle sails of the waiting ships.
"To Troy! to Troy!" cried the Greeks; and every man hastened aboard his
How it was that fair Iphigenia escaped the knife; by whom she was
saved, or whither she went - no one knew. Some say that Artemis carried
her away to the land of the Taurians, where she had a temple and an
altar; and there is a story that, long years afterward, her brother
Orestes found her there, and led her back to her girlhood's home, even
to Mycenae. But whether this be true or not, I know that there have
been maidens as noble, as loving, as innocent as she, who have given up
their lives in order to make this world a purer and happier place in
which to live; and these are not dead, but live in the grateful
memories of those whom they loved and saved.
THE HOARD OF THE ELVES
When the earth was still very young, and men were feeble and few, and
the Dwarfs were many and strong, the Asa-folk were wont oft-times to
leave their halls in heaven-towering Asgard in order to visit the
new-formed mid-world, and to see what the short-lived sons of men were
doing. Sometimes they came in their own god-like splendor and might;
sometimes they came disguised as feeble men folk, with all man's
weaknesses and all his passions. Sometimes Odin, as a beggar, wandered
from one country to another, craving charity; sometimes, as a warrior
clad in coat of mail, he rode forth to battle for the cause of right;
or as a minstrel he sang from door to door, and played sweet music in
the halls of the great; or as a huntsman he dashed through brakes and
fens, and into dark forests, and climbed steep mountains in search of
game; or as a sailor he embarked upon the sea, and sought new scenes in
unknown lands. And many times did men folk entertain him unawares.
Once on a time he came to the mid-world in company with Hoenir and
Loki; and the three wandered through many lands and in many climes,
each giving gifts wherever they went. Odin gave knowledge and
strength, and taught men how to read the mystic runes; Hoenir gave
gladness and good cheer, and lightened many hearts with the glow of his
comforting presence; but Loki had naught to give but cunning deceit and
base thoughts, and he left behind him bitter strife and many aching
At last, growing tired of the fellowship of men, the three Asas sought
the solitude of the forest, and as huntsmen wandered long among the
hills and over the wooded heights of Hunaland. Late one afternoon they
came to a mountain stream at a place where it poured over a ledge of
rocks and fell in clouds of spray into a rocky gorge below. As they
stood, and with pleased eyes gazed upon the waterfall, they saw near
the bank an otter lazily making ready to eat a salmon which he had
caught. Then Loki, ever bent on doing mischief, hurled a stone at the
harmless beast, and killed it. And he boasted loudly that he had done
a worthy deed. He took both the otter and the fish which it had
caught, and carried them with him as trophies of the day's success.
Just at nightfall the three huntsmen came to a lone farmhouse in the
valley, and asked for food, and for shelter during the night.
"Shelter you shall have," said the farmer, whose name was Hreidmar,
"for the rising clouds foretell a storm. But food I have none to give
you. Surely huntsmen of skill should not want for food, since the
forest teems with game, and the streams are full of fish."
Then Loki threw upon the ground the otter and the fish, and said, "We
have sought in both forest and stream, and we have taken from them at
one blow both flesh and fish. Give us but the shelter you promise, and
we will not trouble you for food."
The farmer gazed with horror upon the lifeless body of the otter and
cried out, "This creature which you mistook for an otter, and which you
have robbed and killed, is my son, Oddar, who for mere pastime had
taken the form of the furry beast. You are but thieves and murderers!"
Then he called loudly for help: and his two sons, Fafnir and Regin,
sturdy and valiant kin of the dwarf-folk, rushed in, and seized upon
the huntsmen, and bound them hand and foot; for the three Asas, having
taken upon themselves the forms of men, had no more than human
strength, and were unable to withstand them.
Then Odin and his fellows bemoaned their ill fate. And Loki said,
"Wherefore did we foolishly take upon ourselves the likenesses of puny
men? Had I my own power once more, I would never part with it in
exchange for man's weaknesses."
And Hoenir sighed, and said, "Now, indeed, will darkness win: and the
frosty breath of the Northern giants will blast the fair handiwork of
the sunlight and the heat; for the givers of life and light and warmth
are helpless prisoners in the hands of these cunning and unforgiving
"Surely," said Odin, "not even the highest are free from obedience to
heaven's behests and the laws of right. I, whom men call the Preserver
of Life, have debased myself by being found in evil company; and,
although I have done no other wrong, I suffer rightly for the doings of
this mischief-maker with whom I have stooped to have fellowship. For
all are known, not so much by what they are as by what they seem to be,
and they bear the bad name which their comrades bear. Now I am fallen
from my high estate. Eternal right is higher than I."
Then the Asas asked Hreidmar, their jailer, what ransom they should pay
for their freedom; and he, not knowing who they were, said, "I must
first know what ransom you are able to give."
"We will give you anything you may ask," hastily answered Loki.
Hreidmar then called his sons, and bade them strip the skin from the
otter's body. When this was done, they brought the furry hide and
spread it upon the ground; and Hreidmar said, "Bring shining gold and
precious stones enough to cover every part of this otter skin. When
you have paid so much ransom, you shall have your freedom."
"That we will do," answered Odin. "But one of us must have leave to go
and fetch it: the other two will stay fast bound until the morning
dawns. If, by that time, the gold is not here, you may do with us as
Hreidmar and the two young men agreed to Odin's offer; and, lots being
cast, it fell to Loki to go and fetch the treasure. When he had been
loosed from the cords which bound him, Loki donned his magic shoes,
which had carried him over land and sea from the farthest bounds of the
mid-world, and hastened away upon his errand. And he sped with the
swiftness of light, over the hills and the wooded slopes, and the deep
dark valleys, and the fields and forests and sleeping hamlets, until he
came to the place where dwelt the swarthy elves and the cunning dwarf
Andvari. There the River Rhine, no larger than a meadow brook, breaks
forth from beneath a mountain of ice, which the Frost giants and the
Winter-king had built long years before; for they had vainly hoped that
they might imprison the river at its fountain head. But the baby brook
had eaten its way beneath the frozen mass, and had sprung out from its
prison, and gone on, leaping and smiling, and kissing the sunlight, in
its ever-widening course toward the distant sea.
Loki came to this place, because he knew that here was the home of the
elves who had laid up the greatest hoard of treasures ever known in the
mid-world. He scanned with careful eyes the mountain side, and the
deep, rocky caverns, and the dark gorge through which the little river
rushed; but in the dim moonlight not a living being could he see, save
a lazy salmon swimming in the quieter eddies of the stream. Anyone but
Loki would have lost all hope of finding treasure there, at least
before the dawn of day; but his wits were quick and his eyes were very
"One salmon has brought us into this trouble, and another shall help us
out of it!" he cried.
Then, swift as thought, he sprang again into the air; and the magic
shoes carried him with greater speed than before down the Rhine valley,
and through Burgundyland and the low meadows, until he came to the
shores of the great North Sea. He sought the halls of old Aegir, the
Ocean-king; but he wist not which way to go - whether across the North
Sea towards Isenland, or whether along the narrow channel between
Britain land and the main. While he paused, uncertain where to turn,
he saw the pale-haired daughters of old Aegir, the white-veiled Waves,
playing in the moonlight near the shore. Of them he asked the way to
"Seven days' journey westward," said they, "beyond the green Isle of
Erin, is our father's hall. Seven days' journey northward, on the
bleak Norwegian shore, is our father's hall. Seek it not."