Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles - Padraic Colum

King Pelias

That day King Pelias, walking through the streets of his city, saw coming toward him a youth who was half shod. He remembered the words of the oracle that bade him beware of a half-shod man, and straightway he gave orders to his guards to lay hands upon the youth.

But the guards wavered when they went toward him, for there was something about the youth that put them in awe of him. He came with the guards, however, and he stood before the king's judgment seat.

Fearfully did Pelias look upon him. But not fearfully did the youth look upon the king. With head lifted high he cried out, "Thou art Pelias, but I do not salute thee as king. Know that I am Jason, the son of Æson from whom thou hast taken the throne and scepter that were rightfully his."

[Illustration] from Golden Fleece by Padraic Colum

King Pelias looked to his guards. He would have given them a sign to destroy the youth's life with their spears, but behind his guards he saw a threatening multitude—the dwellers of the city of Iolcus; they gathered around, and Pelias knew that he had become more and more hated by them. And from the multitude a cry went up, "Æson, Æson! May Æson come back to us! Jason, son of Æson! May nothing evil befall thee, brave youth!"

Then Pelias knew that the youth might not be slain. He bent his head while he plotted against him in his heart. Then he raised his eyes, and looking upon Jason he said, "O goodly youth, it well may be that thou art the son of Æson, my brother. I am well pleased to see thee here. I have had hopes that I might be friends with Æson, and thy coming here may be the means to the renewal of our friendship. We two brothers may come together again. I will send for thy father now, and he will be brought to meet thee in my royal palace. Go with my guards and with this rejoicing people, and in a little while thou and I and thy father Æson will sit at a feast of friends."

So Pelias said, and Jason went with the guards and the crowd of people, and he came to the palace of the king and he was brought within. The maids led him to the bath and gave him new robes to wear. Dressed in these Jason looked a prince indeed.

But all that while King Pelias remained on his judgment seat with his crowned head bent down. When he raised his head his dark brows were gathered together and his thin lips were very close. He looked to the swords and spears of his guards, and he made a sign to the men to stand close to him. Then he left the judgment seat and he went to the palace.