The Story of A
Winged Tramp by
Tramps, you think, are a modern invention, and a very disagreeable one,
too; but if you had chanced to live so long ago as when the earth was
young, you would know that the institution is a very old and honorable
You would have heard, too, in that far-off golden age, of the winged
tramp—a beautiful youth who spent his life in travelling from place to
place, sometimes on the earth, sometimes in the air, walking or flying
as the humor seized him: a merry fellow withal, and the very Prince of
the wandering brotherhood.
He was, indeed, a true Prince, for his father, Zeus, was King of
Olympia, and his mother, Maia, was descended from the Titans, an ancient
and royal family.
Instead of living in the grand Olympian palace, however, Maia preferred
to remain in her own home—a beautiful grotto on the hill Kyllene, and
it was here that the young Prince Hermes was born.
Even then babies were wonderful beings, as they are now, and always must
be; but of all astonishing and precocious infants Hermes was certainly
the most remarkable.
Cuddled and wrapped in his cradle, and six hours old by the sun, he
leaped to his feet, and ran swiftly across the hard, uneven floor of
Just outside the door he spied a tortoise.
"Aha, my fine fellow!" said this wonderful baby, "you are just the
person I wished to see."
The tortoise was so taken by surprise that he could not find a word to
say, and by the time he had made up his mind that the best thing for him
to do was to get out of the way, there was nothing left of him to get
away with, for the baby Prince had thrust out his eyes, and had
converted his shell into a lyre.
Hermes smiled as he held it between his hands, and then, seating himself
by his mother's side, he began to sing, recounting to her all the most
wonderful events of her life.
It was now that Maia discovered for the first time that her baby wore
on his feet a curious pair of sandals, on each of which grew tiny wings.
She turned quickly to clasp him in her hands, for she knew by the sign
of the winged shoes that he would soon fly away from the little grotto
But Hermes sprang out of her reach, and laughed gayly as she chased him
about the cave, hardly stopping to turn his head as he bounded past her,
and out into the open air, carrying his lyre in his hand, and wearing on
his head a funny little hat, on which were two wings like those upon his
Faster and faster he flew, now floating on the wind like a swallow, now
bounding over the earth, and now rising just above the tops of the
This was the little tramp's first journey, and his errand, I am sorry to
say, was a very wicked and mischievous one; for no sooner did he see the
cows of Prince Apollo feeding in the pastures of Pieria than he decided
to steal a couple of them for his breakfast, and to let the rest stray
away. Having accomplished this piece of mischief, he went back to his
cradle, gliding through the open door as swiftly and softly as the
Phœbus Apollo soon discovered what had happened, and started off in
pursuit of the robber; but Hermes was by this time fast asleep.
"What! I steal your cows!" he exclaimed, rubbing his eyes, as Apollo
stood at the door of Maia's cave. "I beg your pardon, but I do not even
know what a cow is."
Then he laughed to himself, and hid his face under the clothes; but
Apollo was not to be deceived, and Hermes was compelled to leave the
pleasant grotto, and appear before Zeus to answer for his crime.
Still the little tramp denied the theft: "No, no," he said, "I never
stole a cow in my life. I do not know a cow from a goat. I, indeed!" And
the boy turned on his heel, laughing as he spoke.
"Hermes," said Zeus at length, from his royal throne, "it is useless for
you to try longer to deceive us. Return the cows, make up the quarrel,
and Apollo will forgive the theft."
Hermes saw that his secret was discovered, and confessed his fault as
gayly as he had before denied it.
Prince Apollo was still somewhat out of humor, but as the boy led him
back along the sandy shores of Pieria, he told such pleasant stories and
sang such bewitching songs that the angry Prince began to smile, and at
last declared that the music was worth the loss of a hundred cows.
Hermes, who was as generous as he was mischievous, immediately made
Apollo a present of his lyre, and Apollo, not to be outdone, gave him in
return a magic wand. This wand, which was so cunningly carved that it
looked like two serpents twining around a slender rod, was called a
caduceus, and Hermes carried it with him in all his wanderings.
After Apollo and Hermes had exchanged presents, they swore eternal
friendship to each other; and then, having pointed out the place where
the cows were hid, Hermes hurried back to Olympus.
Having once tasted the delights of travel, he could not endure the
thought of a quiet humdrum life in the little cave at Kyllene, and he
besought the King to send him on some foreign mission.
Zeus, pleased with the boy's adventurous spirit, appointed him his
Light of foot and light of heart was the bright-haired messenger of the
gods, the very merriest tramp that ever walked, or flew, or ran.
Sometimes he showed to travellers the road they had lost, and sometimes
he led them far out of the way, stealing their purses, and then laughing
at their tears.
On one occasion, having found Zeus in great distress because the Queen
had determined to kill Io, a lovely young girl of whom the King was very
fond, he declared that he alone would save her.
Zeus at first changed Io into a heifer, but the Queen discovered the
secret, and sent Argus, a monster with a hundred eyes, to watch her.
It seemed impossible that the lovely Io could escape, and the poor old
King was in despair.
"Trust me," said the cheerful Hermes, "I will manage the matter."
Swifter than a cloud that flies before the wind, he glided through the
air until he reached the spot where the monster lay in wait for Io.
With one touch of his wand Hermes put the beast to sleep, and before he
had time to wink even one of his hundred eyes Argus was dead.
It would take too long to tell of all the wonderful deeds which Hermes,
the "Argus slayer," the messenger of the gods, performed.
Wherever he went he was greeted with prayers and songs and gifts, for
although he sometimes wrought more harm than good, the winged tramp was
always a welcome visitor both to gods and men.