Golden Porch - W. M. L. Hutchinson

The Pansy Baby


King Aipytos of Arcadia was a lonely man when he grew old, for he had neither son nor daughter, and his queen was dead. There were no cities in his country, which was a land of wooded hills, and green dales dotted with countless sheep, and few strangers crossed the steep mountains that shut it in on every side. All the King's wealth was in his flocks and herds; his palace was built of oaken timbers, and no one ever wished to make war upon him, because he had little silver and less gold in his dwelling to tempt a spoiler. So there was nothing for him to do, after he was grown too old to go hunting, save to drive his sleek mules and well-burnished car about the uplands, visiting his sheepfolds, or the solitary huts of his woodcutters and goatherds. One day in summer time, while he watched the sheep-shearing on a hillside, two serfs came out of the oak woods where they herded his swine, driving a fat hog before them for the shearers' supper, and the elder was carrying a little child on his shoulder.

"Is that child yours, swineherd?" said King Aipytos. "How comes it then that she is arrayed so finely, and is white of skin as any princess?"

"She is none of mine, lord King," said the swineherd. "It was but yesterday I found her in the woods, sleeping alone under a pine tree. I have brought her hither to know if it may please you to have her reared in your house, for it is well seen she is no peasant brat, but one that will scarce thrive on my rough fare of roots and acorn bread."

The King looked upon the foundling, and his heart was touched by her flower-like face. "I will rear her as my own," he said. "Surely the gods have sent her, to bring joy into my childless house."

So the child was brought up in the palace, and King Aipytos lover her as a daughter, and gave her the name of Evadne. She could remember nothing, before her finding by the swineherd, except that she had fallen asleep under the pine tree in the lap of a lovely lady, with tresses black as night, who sang her a lullaby.

"Was that my mother?" she would ask the King, "and what was her name?"

Then he would answer, "Certainly it was your mother, and her name is Pitané."

For Pitané means "Lady of the Pine," and he guessed that Evadne's mother was the Wood Fairy who haunted that pine tree. But he never guessed that this Fairy herself had sent him her child to take care of, because she knew her tree was going to fall, and as soon as that happened, she would be no more. This is the fate of all the Wood Fairies, for they are the souls of the trees they inhabit, and they always know when their own tree is about to die. Therefore Evadne's Fairy mother had invisibly led the swineherd where her babe lay sleeping, and she whispered, "Take her to the King," so softly in his ear that he fancied the words were only a thought which came to him while he heard the pine tree rustle in the breeze.

Now Evadne, when she grew a maiden, seemed beyond all doubt the true daughter of that lovely Lady of the Pine; her slender body had the grace of a tall sapling, and her hair the blackness of fir woods when you see them against the sunset. That dusky hair is the chief glory of the Pine Fairies, though some say it is less beautiful that the auburn curls of their sisters who are Ladies of the Beeches, or the flaxen locks of those others whose haunt is the Silver Birch.

King Aipytos thought it not strange that the child of such a mother should love to wander in the woodlands, gathering flowers and berries, rather than to weave at the loom and broider robes like other maidens, nor did he ever hinder Evadne from roving early and late to her heart's content. But as time went on, it was told him once and again by his herdsmen and shepherds that she wandered not alone; they had seen a golden-haired stranger walking beside here through forest glades, or sitting at her feet in some mountain meadow.

The King was grieved that his foster-child should meet a lover in secret, as though she feared he would forbid her the desire of her heart, and he said to her, "My child, you are of the age when maidens are wedded, and it may well be that you have seen some youth whom you think worthy of your hand. If it be so, fear not to tell me, for I would gladly see you made a bride before I die, though my house will lack its one jewel when you leave it."

Evadne answered, blushing rosy red, "More than a father have you been to me, and I will never leave you. I have seen no mortal whom I would choose for my lord."

Yet after this she kept away from the King's presence, and would often pass whole days and nights in the summer woods. At last he was sure that the maiden had some secret which she would not tell him, and he thought he would journey to the holy temple at Delphi and ask counsel of the priestess, for his mind was sorely troubled by this thing. Many leagues he journeyed in his mule-chariot over the Arcadian mountain passes and over the lands beyond, till he came to the rocky glen that is called Delphi, where the god Apollo gives oracles to men from his golden shrine, speaking by the mouth of his priestess. Now the inner chamber of that temple is built over a deep cleft in the rock, and a three-legged stool of gold is set over the cleft, whereon the priestess sits when she makes reply to those who inquire of the god. For a cloudy vapour rises out of the cleft at certain seasons, and while it floats round the priestess she falls into a trance and chants divine words of prophecy or counsel, according as Apollo wills her to give his answer.

King Aipytos offered sacrifice and burnt sweet incense on the temple altar, and the priestess bade him speak his request to Apollo, while she entered the inner shrine, where none else might set foot, and took her seat on the golden stool. Then he prayed to know why it was the Evadne passed all her days in the lonely woods, and kept here doings there a secret, even from him to whom she had ever been dutiful and loving. "Lord of Truth," he said, "show me what will come of this, be it good or evil; no longer may I endure to live in fear of some mischief to befall, dreading from day to day lest the maiden come home no more, and I lose the light of my old eyes for ever."

[Illustration] from The Golden Porch by W. M. L. Hutchinson


As the King made an end of speaking, the cloud filled the holy place and hid the form of the priestess from his sight. He knew that it was her voice which came to him out the cloud, yet now it rang so loud and silver-clear that it seemed the voice of the god himself. "King of Arcadia," it sang, "return in peace to your home, for great joy waits you there. Behold I, ever I myself, gave a gift to fair Evadne in the greenwood, and charged her to watch it well, keeping it hidden from all eyes. But now the time is at hand when my secret purpose shall be revealed, and you shall know the blessing that I have wrought you to recompense your love for your foster-child. Say therefore to the maiden, 'Apollo bids you show me his gift.' And in token that it is a true message, say also, 'The gift he gave you on the day when, laying aside your scarlet girdle, you rested by the spring where you had filled your silvern pitcher.'"

Joyfully then the King sped him home again, but Evadne met him with never a smile, and her face was pale as death. And when she heard the message of the god, she broke into long weeping. "Alas, my father," she said at last, "these five days past I have sought in vain for Apollo's gift, till my heart was like to break. Awhile I kept it safe in a green bower that I built with hazel-twigs in a lonely dell, but now it is gone, I know not how, unless some wild beast has carried it away."

"What can the gift be, then," said Aipytos, "if wild beasts could make prey of it? Tell me at least what it is, since you cannot show it me as the god bade."

"I will tell you," she said, "both what it is and how it came to me. Many a time I had sight in the woods of beautiful shapes that I knew were not human creatures; some of them were like my Fairy mother, and there were others that rose out of the mountain streams or skipped on the sheer crags. I longed to speak with them, but always they vanished when I came near, till at last I saw one more glorious than them all, whose countenance shone like ht sun. Golden-haired he was, and had a bow and quiver slung on his white shoulder. He did not fly me, like the rest, but gave me gentle greeting, and we had sweet speech together then and many another day. That gracious friend told me not his name, but I learnt it ere long, for I heard the Wood Fairies whispering 'Apollo' as we walked together in the forest glades. Then I was afraid, for who was I to have companionship with so great a god? But Apollo bade me have no fear; only a little while could he stay in Arcadia, and then he must leave me for his heavenly dwelling, and I, he said, must content me with the lot of a mortal maiden in the house of my foster-father. And he left me at last, one noon-tide, beside a spring, where I had given him drink from my silvern pitcher, and loosed my scarlet girdle, and lain down to sleep. In my sleep, methought that he laid a purple pansy on my bosom, and said, 'I give you Heartsease, Evadne, for a farewell gift. Guard it well, and speak of it to none, until the hour that shall be told you.' At that I woke, and behold he was gone; but instead of the pansy, a dark-eyed babe was lying on my breast."

"This is a strange marvel," said Aipytos, "yet now I see plainly the purpose of the god. Doubtless he has given this child for a gladness and a blessing to my house. Take comfort, daughter, for he will surely be found, and Apollo will not have suffered harm to befall him."

Then the King and all his men made great search in the woods, and Evadne also went with them. At close of day they came upon a dingle filled breast-high with fern, and heard a cooing sound like baby laughter in the midst of the covert. Evadne sprang through the tangled bracken, Aipytos following with the best speed of his old limbs. A wondrous sight it was that me their eyes in the heart of the brake! There nestled in a bed of pansies, lay the lost child, his tender body aglow with the golden and purple gleams from the flowers, that burned like jewels in the broad rays of sunset. On either side of him was coiled a bright-eyed snake, holding in its mouth a piece of honeycomb, and with that they fed the Pansy Baby, while he stroked their emerald necks, laughing in delight. But Evadne trembled for the child, and at her cry of dread, those two strange guardians glided away. Then she caught him in her arms, and gave him to the King, saying, "Father, Apollo's gift is to you also. Let this boy be a son to you in your old age." So they returned to the palace, glad at heart, and Evadne called the child Iamos, which in the speech of Arcadia means Heartsease.


King Aipytos died at last in a green old age, having lived to see the Pansy Child grow up a tall and comely youth, and he left him heir to all that was his. But the folk of Arcadia were ill-pleased that a stranger born should rule over them, and they murmured, saying, "Are there not kinsmen of our dead King in the land, to take his inheritance? Would that one of them were lord over us, for as for this Iamos, we know neither his father nor his kindred." And the old men said, "There is not under the sun so ancient a land as Arcadia, but now the glory is departed from it, for a kinless waif sits in the seat of a hundred kings."

These sayings came to the ears of Iamos, and he was troubled, not knowing what they meant.

"Mother," he said to Evadne, "what is this the people say, that I am no rightful heir of Aipytos? Are not you his daughter, and am not I your child? Yet they call me a stranger and an upstart." Then Evadne told him all the story of his birth, and how he had no mortal father, but was the gift of that bright-haired god who loved her long ago.

"I know," she said, "that Apollo will love you also for my sake, and he promised that his favour should always rest on me and mine. So now, if you are troubled at the murmuring of the folk, entreat him to befriend you, and show you a way to deal with them."

"Must I seek the god in his house at Delphi?" asked Iamos.

"Nay," said Evadne, "there is no need to journey so far. Go this night into the woods, and it may be he will speak to you there, if you call upon him."

Iamos went forth at midnight into the dark heart of the forest, and came by winding mossy ways to a leafy hollow, where a streamlet tinkled unseen in the gloom. A faint, sweet scent that he knew rose from the ground; he could not see what flowers were at his feet, but he felt sure they were pansies, and when he stooped and gathered one, it was indeed his namesake, the heartsease. "Here," he thought, "where Apollo's token blooms, I will call upon his name." He slid down the flowery bank, and stood barefoot in the running brook, for all streams were holy, and men were wont to enter their pure water when they would implore the presence of the stainless gods. Then, having bathed his hands and forehead, he stretched his arms skyward, saying, "God of the Silver Bow, glorious Apollo, draw near and hearken to my prayer. I knew not, till this day, that King Aipytos was not my grandsire, but now it were hateful to me to dwell in Arcadia, bearing the reproaches of the folk, who would fain have a king of the ancient royal blood. Leave me, I pray, to another land, and another people, and give me rule over them, that so I may found a kingdom, and make myself a name among men."

When he had thus spoken, a voice called far off in the darkness, "Iamos, my son."

"Who calls me?" said the lad, trembling, and the voice answered, near at hand, "One who will be to you a father and perform the promise he made to Evadne in the days of her youth. Follow me now in the way that I am going, till we come to the fair place that shall be your home."

Iamos felt that a presence stood close beside him in the dark hollow, but he could discern no form or feature through the gloom. "Gracious Apollo," he said, "lead me where you will, yet how shall I tread in the footsteps of a guide I cannot see?" But now the voice came from farther down the stream, calling "Hither to me," and he hastened after it, and ever, as he sped onward through the mirk of the woods, he heard it crying before him, "Follow, follow." No other sound broke the deep hush of night, save the rippling of the stream, now nearer and now more distant, as they took their way along the narrow vales through which it flowed. It seemed to Iamos that his limbs were become strangely light, and his feet went swifter that ever before; tirelessly he raced on and on, and never tripped or stumbled, though he could not see a spear's length before him under the star-proof forest boughs. At last, in the first greyness of dawn, he found himself in an open valley, where the stream, now broadened to a river, ran between wide and level meads. The voice he had followed was silent, and he cried aloud, "Wither now, Apollo?"

"Look yonder," said the voice beside him, "where the valley widens into a plain under that low wooded hill. There, hard by the ford of the river, stands a temple of my brother Poseidon, and near it is a tomb of a king. That is the place where you must make your dwelling, and though it be solitary now, it shall be thronged in days to come by the great ones of the earth."

Now Iamos had hoped that Apollo would bring him to some fair city, and he marvelled in his heart what kingship could be his in that lonely valley. Also, he desired exceedingly to behold him face to face, and he said, "O heavenly guide, if this be my journey's end, deign to show yourself to your servant before you depart, for the darkness of the night is gone." But looking eagerly round he still saw no one, and the invisible god answered, "My son, of two things you shall now choose one, for to have them both is not granted to any mortal. Either you shall see me this once face to face, or you shall hear me speaking to you henceforth whenever you will, as you hear me now, and talk with me as a man talks with his friend."

Then Iamos, when he had thought a little while, said, "I choose to hear your voice; so shall I always find counsel for every need."

"You have chosen well," said Apollo, "henceforth great shall be your fame in this land, for by communing with me, who know all things in heaven and earth, and all that is to come, you will become the wisest of seers. Moreover, your wisdom shall pass to your children, called after your name, and they shall have the gift of soothsay for all time, though it will not be granted to them to hear my voice, lest, being mortals, they boast of possessing the wisdom of gods. Go now and dwell yonder by the river until you see one coming to the ford, girt with a lion-skin and bearing a bow; that comer will build an altar to a mightier god than Poseidon, and a new gift will be given you in that day, whereby you and yours may reveal truth to men."

So Iamos went and lodged in Poseidon's temple, and took service there, hewing wood and drawing water for the sacrifices, and the folk of the country gave him food from the offerings they brought to the god. But he did not long hold that lowly office before Apollo's word began to be fulfilled, for it was soon noised abroad that the stranger youth who served so diligently in the temple had marvellous skill in the art of a seer, and his true answers to all who inquired of him about things to come were talked of far and near. At last the King of the land himself came to visit him, and bade him interpret a dream that he had dreamed. Iamos gave him no answer till he had spoken with Apollo; then he declared the meaning of the dream, and what he foretold from it came straightway to pass. After this, the King would have had him dwell in his palace in the city, but since Iamos would not leave the place appointed by the god, he build him a goodly house there. The young seer would take no rewards from poor folk when they came to him for prophecies, but from the great of the land he took such gifts as they pleased to bestow, so that his wealth increased with his fame.

Now this King, who name was Augeas, was very rich in flocks and herds, and he kept a thousand oxen stalled in a great byre near his house. The byre was never cleansed from year's end to year's end, and at length the oxen stood so deep in filth that it bred a murrain among them. Then Augeas set his herdsmen to cleanse the stalls, but none fo them had strength to endure that noisome labour, and he took counsel of Iamos what were best to be done, who bade him send heralds abroad to offer a rich recompense to whoever would clear the byre of its foulness. The King did so, and not many days after Iamos saw a man coming to the ford of the river, girt with a lion-skin, and bearing a great bow. "This is the comer," he thought, and he went to meet the stranger, and asked him his name.

"I am called Heracles," said he with the bow, "and I seek King Augeas, for I hear word of a service he needs. If he will pay the price I ask, I will cleanse his byre for him, and that in one day." "I will bring you to him," said Iamos, and they went together to the house of the King. Augeas believed it impossible for one man to do that work even in a year, so he readily promised the stranger the price he asked which was a hundred of the oxen. Then Heracles asked for a mattock and a spade, and they were given him amid laughter and gibing from the King and his men, who deemed him crazed in his wits. And when Heracles began to dig a wide trench at the door the byre, they laughed the more. But he, with more than mortal strength, dug that trench right across the fields that lay between the city and the river, and when he came to the ford he built a dam of earth and stones athwart the stream, so that it was turned from its course and flowed into the trench. And the waters, rushing through their new channel, flooded the byre, and washed away the dung-heaps that filled the stalls, and poured in a torrent down to a pool beneath the city walls. From morning to evening Heracles wrought at the task without rest, and before sunset the byre was cleansed. Then, lest the waters should swamp the city, he went in haste to break down the dam at the ford, and they returned again to the river-bed.

But when he claimed his reward of the hundred oxen, and evil thought came to Augeas, and he said, "What mean you, stranger? I take the gods to witness I made no such promise. Shall I give a hundred oxen for the hire of one day's labour? That wage you shall never have of me, unless you can prove that I promised it." This he said cunningly, for it had so chanced that Iamos did not go with Heracles into the King's presence, and none of his household was with Augeas when he gave the promise except Phyleus, his young son. So the false King, who thought his son was even such as himself, now called for Iamos, and said, "Let the seer judge between us, for he is just and holy." And Iamos said, "Is there not a witness who can say which of the two speaks truly, King Augeas or the stranger?" "Her is Phyleus my son," answered the King, "who was present at our talk together, and can bear witness that I did not promise the hundred oxen." But the young prince blushed red with shame for his father's guile, and said, "Nay, my father, you did promise them, for I heard you." At that Augeas was very wroth, and for all Iamos could say against it, he banished his son out of the land on pain of death, and commanded his servants to drive both him and Heracles forth from the palace. Heracles could have overcome them all single-handed, yet for the sake of Phyleus, and lest harm should come to him, he departed without another word, taking the lad with him. But Iamos shook off the dust from his sandals on the King's threshold, and said, "Woe to this house, and woe to Augeas, because of the thing he has done this day! I say to you, O perjured King, that I will see your face no more, for the god whom I serve abhors lying and deceit." Augeas had a mind to slay him for these words, but he feared to lay hands on him because he was a prophet, and beloved by all the folk, and he let him go back to his own place.

Not long after this, word came to the King that an army was marching upon his borders, and the captain of the host was the man clad in the lion-skin who had cleansed his byre. For Heracles had mustered his friends and comrades out of many cities to make war on Augeas, and he had with him all the fighting men of Arcadia, the birthplace of Iamos, who were his sworn allies because of a service he had done them of old. There was a lake in Arcadia which was the home of a strange tribe of great water-fowl, and they preyed on human flesh, and were the terror fo the land until Heracles scared them away for ever with the twanging of his mighty bowstring and the hissing flight of his arrows. This good deed the men of Arcadia kept in remembrance, and now they repaid it, as they had vowed to do. But the son of Augeas was not with that host, for Heracles had helped the lad to win himself a kingdom in the north country, where he lived prosperously all his days. Then King Augeas and his folk gave battle to the invaders before the gates of the city, and were put to utter rout, and the city was taken and set on fire. Now Heracles had given command to his host that they should give quarter to all, except the King only, therefore there was little slaughter that day, but Augeas himself me the doom he well deserved. All his wealth, and all the spoil of the city, Heracles divided with his comrades, and next day, they set forth with their booty heaped on ox-waggons, and with vast droves of cattle, to return to their homes. When they came to the ford of the river, Iamos met them, and Heracles asked him what temple that was, and why it was built there, apart from any dwellings of me. "It is Poseidon's temple," said Iamos, "which a prince who once ruled this land built in thanksgiving for a victory he won here by that god's help. Pelops was his name, and he came overseas from the East, where his father was a king of surpassing wealth and glory, whom men called the Favourite of the Gods." Then he told Heracles the story of the chariot-race, which has been told in this book already, and showed him the tomb of Pelops, who had bidden his sons bury him beside Poseidon's shrine.

"I also," then said Heracles, "will build a temple here to the god who has given me victory this day, even to most high Zeus, my guardian and deliverer in all perils. And as Pelops ordained chariot-races to be run here for a perpetual memorial, I too will now hold a contest of young men in feats of speed and strength, and leave it in your charge, holy seer, to hold the like once in four years, keeping solemn festival, to the honour of Zeus." Thereupon he chose out rich prizes for the games from his share of the spoil, and gave the remainder to Iamos, saying, "All this I dedicate to Zeus; take it to your keeping, for I make you treasurer of his temple."

So the hero and his comrades marked out a goodly space of the riverside meadow, and fenced it round with an earthen wall, and when they had built an altar of broad stones therein, they burnt sacrifices to Zeus. Then they held the contests, and made Iamos the judge of them; first there was a foot-race, next wrestling, and boxing, and throwing the stone quoit, and last a chariot-race, in honour of Pelops. Heracles himself took no part in the games, because he was the giver of the prizes, and so it was best, for though he was small of stature, his strength was as the strength of fifty men. At evening time, great fires were lighted by the stream, and sheep and oxen were roasted whole for the banquet, and all the host sat down to feast and to make merry. The lovely moon looked down in full-orbed splendour on their festival, and threw her golden light over plain and river. All that midsummer night the warriors held revel, with wine and song and minstrelsy, till the wood fires burned low, and the twittering of birds began to tell that dawn was near. Next noon-tide, Heracles marshalled the host for their journey, and bade Iamos offer sacrifice on the new altar, praying Zeus to give some good omen at their setting forth. Then it was that the second gift of prophecy came to the young seer, as Apollo promised, for, looking on the fire of the altar, his mind was suddenly enlightened with strange knowledge, and he read plain signs of fate in the leaping flames. "Go in peace, Heracles," he cried; "safe and speedy shall be your home-faring, as Zeus grants me to discern from the clear burning of the sacrifice. Henceforth, I know by Apollo's word to me, that I shall thus foretell good or ill hap to all whom make offerings on this altar."

So Heracles went his way with all his company and Iamos saw him no more until another day. But the seer fulfilled all the charge he laid upon him, and dwelt happy and greatly honoured in that holy place, serving the gods faithfully all his days. The gift of divining by fire remained ever after with him and his, according to Apollo's promise, and in after ages, when the sacred Games that Heracles founded were become famous over the whole world, the prophets of the glorious sanctuary were the clan who had their name and lineage from the Pansy Child.