|In a sunny
land in Greece
called Arcadia there lived a king and a queen who had no children. They
wanted very much to have a son who might live to rule over Arcadia when
the king was dead, and so, as the years went by, they prayed to great
on the mountain top that he would send them a son. After a while a
was born to them, but it was a little girl. The father was in a great
with Jupiter and everybody else.
"What is a
girl good for?"
he said. "She can never do anything but sing, and spin, and spend
If the child had been a boy, he might have learned to do many
ride, and to hunt, and to fight in the wars,-and by and by he would
been king of Arcadia. But this girl can never be a king."
called to one of
his men and bade him take the babe out to a mountain where there was
but rocks and thick woods, and leave it there to be eaten up by the
bears that lived in the caves and thickets. It would be the easiest
he said, to get rid of the useless little creature.
carried the child
far up on the mountain side and laid it down on a bed of moss in the
of a great rock. The child stretched out its baby hands towards him and
smiled, but he turned away and left it there, for he did not dare to
For a whole
night and a whole
day the babe lay on its bed of moss, wailing for its mother; but only
birds among the trees heard its pitiful cries. At last it grew so weak
for want of food that it could only moan and move its head a little
side to side. It would have died before another day if nobody had cared
dark on the second
evening, a she-bear came strolling down the mountain side from her den.
She was out looking for her cubs, for some hunters had stolen them that
very day while she was away from home. She heard the moans of the
babe, and wondered if it was not one of her lost cubs; and when she saw
it lying so helpless on the moss she went to it and looked at it
Was it possible that a little bear could be changed into a pretty babe
with fat white hands and with a beautiful gold chain around its neck?
old bear did not know; and as the child looked at her with its bright
eyes, she growled softly and licked its face with her warm tongue and
lay down beside it, just as she would have done with her own little
The babe was too young to feel afraid, and it cuddled close to the old
bear and felt that it had found a friend. After a while it fell asleep;
but the bear guarded it until morning and then went down the mountain
to look for food.
evening, before dark,
the bear came again and carried the child to her own den under the
of a rock where vines and wild flowers grew; and every day after that
came and gave the child food and played with it. And all the bears on
mountain learned about the wonderful cub that had been found, and came
to see it; but not one of them offered to harm it. And the little girl
grew fast and became strong, and after a while could walk and run among
the trees and rocks and brambles on the round top of the mountain; but
her bear mother would not allow her to wander far from the den beneath
the rock where the vines and the wild flowers grew.
some hunters came
up the mountain to look for game, and one of them pulled aside the
which grew in front of the old bear's home. He was surprised to see the
beautiful child lying on the grass and playing with the flowers which
had gathered. But at sight of him she leaped to her feet and bounded
like a frightened deer. She led the hunters a fine chase among the
and rocks; but there were a dozen of them, and it was not long till
had never taken
such game as that before, and they were so well satisfied that they did
not care to hunt any more that day. The child struggled and fought as
as she knew how, but it was of no use. The hunters carried her down the
mountain, and took her to the house where they lived on the other side
of the forest. At first she cried all the time, for she sadly missed
bear that had been a mother to her so long. But the hunters made a
pet of her, and gave her many pretty things to play with, and were very
kind; and it was not long till she began to like her new home.
named her Atalanta,
and when she grew older, they made her a bow and arrows, and taught her
how to shoot; and they gave her a light spear, and showed her how to
it and how to hurl it at the game or at an enemy. Then they took her
them when they went hunting, and there was nothing in the world that
her so much as roaming through the woods and running after the deer and
other wild animals. Her feet became very swift, so that she could run
than any of the men; and her arms were so strong and her eyes so sharp
and true that with her arrow or her spear she never missed the mark.
she grew up to be very tall and graceful, and was known throughout all
Arcadia as the fleet-footed huntress.