Iliad: Hector and Andromache (cont.)

This story is part of the Iliad unit. Story source: The Iliad retold by Alfred J. Church (1907).

Hector and Andromache (cont.)

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Then Hector ran towards the gate, and Andromach√© saw him from where she stood on the wall, and made haste to meet him. And the nurse came with her, carrying the child, Hector's only son, a beautiful boy, with a head like a star, so bright was his golden hair. His father called him Scamandrius, after the river which runs across the plains of Troy, but the people called him Astyănax, which means the "City King," because it was his father who saved the city. And Hector smiled when he saw the child.

But Andromach√© did not smile, for she caught her husband by the hand, and wept, saying, "O Hector, your courage will be your death. You have no pity on your wife and child, and you do not spare yourself. Some day all the Greeks will join together and rush on you and kill you"—for she did not believe that any one of them could conquer him.

"But if I lose you, then it would be better for me to die than to live. I have no comfort but you. My father is dead; for the great Achilles killed him when he took our city. He killed him, but he did him great honour, for he would not take his arms for a spoil, but burnt them with him; yes, and the nymphs of the mountains planted poplars by his grave. I had seven brothers, and they also are dead, for the great Achilles killed them in one day. And my mother also is dead, for when my father had redeemed her with a great sum of money, Artĕmis slew her with one of her deadly arrows.

"But you are father to me and mother, and brother, and husband also. Have pity on me, and stay here upon the wall, lest you leave me a widow and your child an orphan. And set your people in order of battle by this fig-tree, for here the wall is easier to attack. Here too, I see the bravest chiefs of the Greeks."

Hector answered her: "Dear wife, leave these things to me; I will look after them. One thing I cannot bear, that any son or daughter of Troy should see me skulking from battle. I hate the very thought of it; I must always be in front. Alas! I know that Priam and the people of Priam and this holy city of Troy will perish. But it is not for Troy, or for the people of Troy, nor even for my father and my mother, that I care so much; it is for you, when I think how some Greek will carry you away captive, and you be set to spin or to carry water from the spring in a distant land. And someone will say: 'See that slave woman there! She was the wife of Hector, who was the bravest of the Trojans.' "

Then Hector stretched out his arms to take the child. But the child drew back into the bosom of his nurse, making a great cry, for he was frightened by the helmet which shone so brightly and by the horsehair plume which nodded so awfully. And both his father and mother laughed to hear him.

Then Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it on the ground, and caught the boy in his hands, and kissed him and dandled him. And he prayed aloud to Father Zeus and to the other gods, saying: "Grant, Father Zeus, and other gods who are in heaven, that this child may be as I am, a great man in Troy. And may the people say some day when they see him carrying home the bloody spoils of some enemy whom he has killed in battle: 'A better man than his father, this!' And his mother will be glad to hear it."

Then he gave the boy to his mother, and she clasped him to her breast and smiled, but there were tears in her eyes when she smiled. And Hector's heart was moved when he saw the tears, and he stroked her with his hand and said: "Do not let these things trouble you. No man will be able to kill me, unless it be my fate to die. But fate no one may escape, whether he be a brave man or a coward. But go, dear wife, to your spinning again, and give your maids their tasks, and let the men see to the battle."

Then he took up the helmet from the ground, and put it on his head, and Andromaché went to her home, but often, as she went, she turned her eyes to look at her husband. And when she came to her home she called all the maids together, and they wept and wailed for Hector as though he were already dead. And, indeed, she thought in her heart that she should never again see him coming home safe from the battle.

Hector went on his way to the gate, and as he went Paris came running after him. His arms shone brightly in the sun, and he himself went proudly along like a horse that is fresh from his stable, and prances over the grass and tosses his mane. And he said to Hector: "I am afraid that I have kept you when you were in a hurry to get back to your comrades."

Hector answered: "No man doubts that you are brave. But you are wilful, and hold back from the battle when you should be foremost. So it is that the people say shameful things about you. But now let us make haste to the battle."

So they went out by the gate, and fell upon the Greeks and killed many of them, and Glaucus the Lycian went with them.

(1000 words)

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