A T the foot of a very high mountain there lived, many, many years ago, a little boy named Theseus. His grandfather was the ruler of the country and a very brave, wise man.
Theseus was a bright little lad. He had never seen his father, but, as far back as Theseus could remember, his mother had taken him very often to a deep wood, and a huge rock which was covered with moss and sunk down into the earth.
Here she talked to him about his father, telling him that his name was Ægeus, and that he was a great king. Little Theseus was very fond of hearing about his father, and he sometimes asked his mother why King Ægeus did not come to live with them.
"Ah, my dear little boy!" she would say with a sigh, "a king has his people to take care of—the men and women over whom he rules are his children. A king cannot spare the time to love his own children as other fathers do. Your father will never be able to leave his kingdom for the sake of seeing his little boy."
"Why may I not go to the famous city of Athens and tell King Ægeus that I am his son?" asked Theseus. But his mother told him he was not strong enough to set out on such an errand, and she asked him to try and lift the rock upon which they sat as they talked.
The little boy felt that he was very strong, and he tried his hardest to move the rock, but he could not stir it. It seemed rooted to the ground.
"You must be much stronger than you are now," said his mother, "before I can trust you to go to Athens. When you are able to lift this rock and show me what is underneath I promise you that you may go to see your father."
Again and again Theseus and his mother went to the rock, and each time Theseus asked his mother if it were yet time for him to go to Athens. Then his mother would point to the rock and tell him that he was still a very little boy, and it would be a great many years before he could move it. But still Theseus tried harder and harder to lift it.
One day he cried: "I have started it!" His mother saw that the rock had really moved a little, and, although she was proud of her little boy's strength, she felt very sad. She knew that her son was no longer a little child, and he would soon have to go away to this far city alone.
In another year Theseus tried again. "I never felt so strong as I do now!" he cried, as he strained and pulled at the great stone; and at last he raised it slowly from the earth and bedded moss, uprooting the flowers, and laid it upon its side. Little Theseus had done what he had been trying so faithfully for many years. He looked joyfully at his mother who smiled at him through her tears, as she said: "Yes, Theseus, the time has come. You must stay no longer at my side. Your father will be glad to see you. He will show you his stately palace and introduce you to his subjects, and some day you will be a king, too."
And what do you think Theseus' father had left for his son under the rock?—a golden sword and a pair of wonderful sandals which would carry him quickly away from all danger!
When Theseus' grandfather heard of the long journey he was to take alone, he said he must go in a ship, as he was too small a boy to be trusted on a road where he would meet robbers. But when Theseus learned of the robbers he wanted all the more to travel by land and face them with his sword. "My sandals will carry me quickly away from them," he said.
By the time he had reached his journey's end he had done many brave deeds with his sword, and he was called the bravest young man of the day. Even before he arrived at Athens the news of the brave acts had reached there first. As he entered the city he heard the people saying: "Theseus, the great hero, the son of the king, is coming!"
King Ægeus was glad, indeed, to see his brave son, and he gave him a place beside him upon the throne and never tired of hearing him tell about his dear mother, his own childhood, and the many, many times he tried to lift the heavy stone.
|— Adapted by Mary E. Spooner|