Bertha Palmer Lane
Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 79
Publication Date: 1932
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Tower Legends is a collection of stories about towers from around the world, each one having some fairy tale attached to it. Fully illustrated, chapters include, The Story Told By The Keeper Of The Pharos, Aeolus And The Tower Of The Winds, The Moon That Shone On The Porcelain Pagoda, The Brahman's Star, The Dragon Of Ghent, The Ox That Helped, The Raven Of The Giralda, The Goblin Of Giotto's Tower, The Leprechaun Of Ardmore Tower, and, The Tower That Sings.
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IN THE year 279 B.C., the Pharos, the great lighthouse, stood on the island of Pharos off the northern coast of Egypt. On a fair morning in that year, Sethos, keeper of the light, and Menna, his sister's boy, were looking down from the top of the tower at the city of Alexandria.
"I want to know how it all began," Menna was saying, "You promised to tell me sometime . . . today?"
"’Tis a big story," answered Sethos deliberately. Sethos was a man of calm movements and steady eyes--Menna's favorite uncle. Menna knew well enough that he could no more be hurried than a sea wave could be hurried to break upon the shore before its time. "But this is the day to tell the story," added Sethos, looking down at the dazzling city of Alexandria, "this is truly the day." "Boy," he exclaimed, with vigor, as he took hold of Menna's arm, "know you today is the greatest day you have ever seen--perhaps ever will see--this day of the festival, of the dedication of the tower?"
Of course Menna knew all that. For, already, at the time of the morning sacrifices, the priests and King Ptolemy Philadelphus had dedicated the newly-finished tower "to the gods, the preservers, for the benefit of mariners," and, in accordance with the king's decree for a day of celebration in honor of his father, Ptolemy, and his mother, Berenice, an immense festival was now in progress. All Alexandria was having a holiday. Everyone was enjoying the varied amusements which were to last from sunrise to sunset. Temples, palaces, gardens were thronged. Chariots, on their way to the race course, were whizzing at breathless speed.
Slow-moving elephants, a recent gift to Ptolemy, trod their heavy pace, and behind them stretched a line of camels, with tinkling bells. High-stepping, delicate, Arabian horses, richly caparisoned, had borne their skillful riders in the long procession to the temple of Isis. Besides Egyptians and Greeks, many foreigners were at the festival--Phoenicians, Libyans, Arabs--all taking part in the gayeties of this first national celebration.
"Know you what a great day this is?" repeated Sethos.
"Yes, I know," said Menna, looking over at the war-fleet brooding like a flock of seabirds on the unruffled water of the Great Harbour. "But I want to hear about the Pharos--our Pharos." And he patted the white marble coping as though he loved it. "I can watch the festival go on while you talk."
For Menna had climbed the wide spiral staircase of the lighthouse early this morning on purpose to hear the story he knew his uncle might tell him, if inclined. Like every Alexandrian, he had been watching the Pharos grow higher and higher, year after year. It had been begun in the reign of the present king's father. To Menna, that seemed a long way back, for he himself was only twelve years old. But now, at last, the tall tower was finished. A fortnight ago, his father had taken him out in his boat to show him the immense inscription on the sea side of the tower. It was a Greek inscription in letters of lead, a cubit high and a span wide, that read:
Sostrates of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the gods, the preservers; for sailors.
There were four main stories of the tower decreasing in size toward the top, and the inscription was at the top of the lowest story. Above it, was a square platform with figures of Tritons. Menna had felt awed when he looked up at the tower. The mighty Pharos! More than four hundred feet it rose into the air and looked fifty miles out to sea.
Menna had felt a tingling pride, that day in the boat--pride because he himself had actually seen the majestic tower finished; and, to himself, he said the Pharos should belong to him and he to the Pharos, forever.
Sethos, turning from the railing of the lantern platform on which he and Menna stood, said briefly, "I'll tell it, then, boy. There'll never be a better day for it." And as they seated themselves on a low, stone bench, the keeper of the tower, with his eyes constantly on the watch seaward, began his tale.
"This tower really rests upon a huge, glass crab," said Sethos, in a matter-of-fact tone, "and a magician has prophesied that some day a cavalcade of horsemen will lose its way when riding through the three hundred rooms of the colonnaded court from which the tower rises, and will ride into an enormous crack in the crab's back and will be drowned."
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