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Page 383

GREAT AMERICAN AUTHORS
THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES

Then they flung beautiful wreaths over his stately head and mighty shoulders, so that the lion's skin was almost entirely covered with roses. They took possession of his ponderous club, and so entwined it about with the brightest, softest, and most fragrant blossoms that not a finger's breadth of its oaken substance could be seen. It looked all like a huge bunch of flowers. Lastly, they joined hands and danced around him, chanting words which became poetry of their own accord and grew into a choral song in honor of the illustrious Hercules.

III. THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA
And Hercules was rejoiced, as any other hero would have been, to know that these fair young girls had heard of the deeds which it had cost him so much toil and danger to achieve. But still he was not satisfied. He could not think that what he had done was worthy of so much honor while there remained any bold adventure to be undertaken.
"Dear maidens," said he, when they paused to take breath, "now that you know my name, will you not tell me how I am to reach the garden of the Hesperides?"
"Ah ! must you go soon?" they exclaimed. "You, that have performed so many wonders and spent such a toilsome life, cannot you content yourself to repose a little while on the margin of this peaceful river?"
Hercules shook his head.
" I must depart now," said he.
" We will then give you the best directions we can," replied the damsels. "You must go to the seashore and find out the Old One, and compel him to inform you where the golden apples are to be found."
"The Old One!" repeated Hercules, laughing at this odd name. "And pray, who may the Old One be?"

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