This is a chapter of Evergreen Stories by W. M. L. Hutchinson. It includes the following stories: King Midas and His Strange Adventures — Alcestis, the Noble Wife — The Real Helen — Cupid and Psyche — The Vision of Er — Circe, the Island Witch — Bellerophon, the Rider of Pegasus — How Theseus Slew the Minotaur — Odysseus in the Land of Shadows — Heracles and the Poisoned Robe | The Story of Pheidippides — The Story of Solon, Croesus, and Cyrus
Alcestis, the Noble Wife has the following chapters: 1. Admetus and Alcestis | 2. Admetus’s Godly Servant | 3. Alcestis’s Last Words | 4. Admetus and Alcestis Bid Each Other Farewell | 5. Heracles, an Unexpected Guest | 6. Alcestis’s Obsequies | 7. Heracles’s Unexpected Mission | 8. Admetus’s Mourning | 9. Heracles Saves Alcestis
There was once a king in Thessaly, named Admetus, whose exemplary life and conversation were renowned throughout the land. His piety towards the gods was only less remarkable than his scrupulous fulfillment of his duties towards his fellowmen. He was an obedient son, a tender husband and father, a kind master to his household slaves and the serfs on his demesnes.
Above all, he excelled in the virtue reckoned the highest by men of the ancient world — the virtue of hospitality. No stranger, however humble, ever came to the king’s house in his town of Pherae, but he was received as a welcome guest and given lavish entertainment. And none honored more faithfully than he the sacred reciprocal claims of host and guest — the inviolable bond of the shared meal and the shelter of one roof.
Admetus had become king while he was yet a young man and while his parents were still alive. He, their only son, was born to them late in life, so that they were already old when he came to manhood; and Pheres, his father, oppressed with the infirmities of age, had chosen to give up his kingdom and palace to his heir and live retired on a manor near the town.
But first he arranged a marriage for his son. The wife he chose for him was the daughter of his own brother Pelias — a maiden called Alcestis. Now this Pelias had got by force and fraud the lordship of Iolcus, a harbor town in the north country, dispossessing the rightful king; and he held it many years with the strong hand, until that king’s son, whose name was Jason, overthrew the usurper by divine providence. And strange it was that so bad a man as Pelias should be father to such a pearl among maidens as was Alcestis.
Admetus, who had never seen his cousin until he dutifully went to Iolcus as her suitor, was charmed by her beauty and modesty; he fell in love at first sight and felt that the gods had rewarded his filial obedience. Alcestis had of course no voice in the matter, for that was not the custom of the country; but she was pleased with her husband’s good looks and gentle ways —he was, in fact, a most amiable young man— and was soon entirely happy in her new home.
As time went on, the pair became more and more endeared to each other; and the coming of two children completed their wedded happiness.