very far from the
land of Arcadia there was a little city named Calydon. It lay in the
of rich wheat fields and fruitful vineyards; but beyond the vineyards
was a deep dense forest where many wild beasts lived. The king of
was named Oeneus, and he dwelt in a white palace with his wife Althea
his boys and girls. His kingdom was so small that it was not much
to govern it, and so he spent the most of his time in hunting or in
or in looking after his grape vines. He was said to be a very brave
and he was the friend of all the great heroes of that heroic time.
daughters of Oeneus
and Althea were famed all over the world for their beauty; and one of
was the wife of the hero Hercules, who had freed Prometheus from his
and done many other mighty deeds. The six sons of Oeneus and Althea
noble, handsome fellows; but the noblest and handsomest of them all was
Meleager, the youngest.
Meleager was a tiny
babe only seven days old, a strange thing happened in the white palace
of the king. Queen Althea awoke in the middle of the night, and saw a
blazing on the hearth. She wondered what it could mean; and she lay
still by the side of the babe, and looked and listened. Three strange
were standing by the hearth. They were tall, and two of them were
and the faces of all were stern. Althea knew at once that they were the
Fates who give gifts of some kind to every child that is born, and who
say whether his life shall be a happy one or full of sadness and sorrow.
we give to this
child?" said the eldest and sternest of the three strangers. Her name
Atropos, and she held a pair of sharp shears in her hand.
"I give him
a brave heart,"
said the youngest and fairest. Her name was Clotho, and she held a
full of flax, from which she was spinning a golden thread.
"And I give
him a gentle,
noble mind," said the dark-haired one, whose name was Lachesis. She
drew out the thread which Clotho spun, and turning to stern Atropos,
"Lay aside those shears, sister, and give the child your gift."
"I give him
life until this
brand shall be burned to ashes," was the answer; and Atropos took a
stick of wood and laid it on the burning coals.
till the stick was ablaze, and then they were gone. Althea sprang up
She saw nothing but the fire on the hearth and the stick burning slowly
away. She made haste to pour water upon the blaze, and when every spark
was put out, she took the charred stick and put it into a strong chest
where she kept her treasures, and locked it up.
that the child's
life is safe," she said, "so long as that stick is kept unburned."
And so, as
the years went
by, Meleager grew up to be a brave young man, so gentle and noble that
his name became known in every land of Greece. He did many daring deeds
and, with other heroes, went on a famous voyage across the seas in
of a marvelous fleece of gold; and when he returned to Calydon the
declared that he was the worthiest of the sons of Oeneus to become