IX. THE LEMNIAN MAIDENS

Now the Argonauts were no longer on a ship that was being smashed by the sea and beaten by the winds. They had houses to live in, delicious food to eat, and when they went around the island each man had with him one of the maidens of Lemnos. It was a change that was welcome to the weary voyagers.

They helped the women work in the fields; they hunted with them, and over and over again they were surprised at how skillfully the women did everything. Everything in Lemnos was strange to the Argonauts, and they stayed, seeing something new and marvelous every day.

Sometimes they would leave the fields and the hunt, and go with one of the Lemnian maidens,  far into that strange land and look upon lakes that were covered with golden and silver water lilies, or would gather the blue flowers from creepers that grew around dark trees, or would hide themselves so that they might listen to the quick-moving birds that sang in the thickets. Perhaps on their way homeward they would see the Argo in the harbor, and they would think of Hercules who was aboard, and they would call to him. But the ship and the voyage they had been on now seemed far away to them, and the Quest of the Golden Fleece seemed to them a story they had heard and that they had thought of, but that they could never think of again with all that enthusiasm.

When Jason looked at Hypsipyle he saw someone who seemed to him to be only the size of a child. He was amazed at the words that poured forth from her as she stood at the stone throne of King Thoas—he was amazed as one is amazed at the rush of rich notes that comes from the throat of a little bird and all that she said was made lightning-like by her eyes—her eyes that were not clear and quiet like the eyes of the maidens he had seen in Iolcus, but that were dark and burning.

Hypsipyle spoke two languages—one, the language of the mothers of the women of Lemnos, which was rough and harsh, and the other the language of Greece, which their fathers had spoken, and which Hypsipyle spoke in a way that made it sound like strange music. She spoke and walked and did everything in a queen like way, and Jason could see that, for all her youth and childlike size, Hypsipyle was one who was a ruler.

From the moment she took his hand it seemed that she could not bear to be away from him. Where he walked, she walked too and where he sat she sat before him, looking at him with her great eyes while she laughed or sang.

Like the perfume of strange flowers, like the taste of strange fruit was Hypsipyle to Jason. He would spend hour after hour sitting beside her or watching her. Jason did not go to the fields or on a hunt nor did he ever go with the others exploring the island. All day he sat in the palace with her, watching her, or listening to her singing, or to the long, fierce speeches that she made to her nurse or to the four maidens who attended her.

In the evening they would gather in the hall of the palace, the Argonauts and the Lemnian maidens who were their friends. There were dances, and Jason and Hypsipyle always danced together. All the Lemnian maidens sang beautifully, but none of them had any stories to tell.

When the Argonauts had stories to tell, the Lemnian maidens would forbid any tale that was about a god or a hero. Only stories that were about the goddesses or about some maiden were acceptable.

Orpheus, who knew the histories of the gods, would have told them many stories, but the only story of his that they would come from the dance to listen to was a story of the goddesses, of Demeter and her daughter Persephone.