If my father will not give it me,
I will seek —and I am able —to be a prince of robbers. And if Leto's most glorious son shall seek me out, I think another and a greater loss will befall him. For I will go to Pytho
to break into his great house, and will plunder therefrom splendid tripods, and cauldrons,
and gold, and plenty of bright iron, and much apparel; and you shall see it if you will.”
With such words they spoke together, the son of Zeus who holds the aegis, and the lady Maia. Now Eos the early born, bringing light to men,
was rising from deep-flowing Ocean, when Apollo, as he went, came to Onchestus, the lovely grove and sacred place of the loud-roaring Holder of the Earth. There he found an old man grazing his beast along the pathway from his court-yard fence, and the all-glorious Son of Leto began and said to him.
“Old man, weeder1
of grassy Onchestus, I am come here from Pieria
seeking cattle, cows all of them, all with curving horns, from my herd. The black bull was grazing alone away from the rest, but fierce-eyed hounds followed the cows,
four of them, all of one mind, like men. These were left behind, the dogs and the bull —which is a great marvel; but the cows strayed out of the soft meadow, away from the pasture when the sun was just going down. Now tell me this, old man born long ago: have you seen
one passing along behind those cows?”
Then the old man answered him and said: “My son, it is hard to tell all that one's eyes see; for many wayfarers pass to and fro this way, some bent on much evil, and some on good:
it is difficult to know each one. However, I was digging about my plot of vineyard all day long until the sun went down, and I thought, good sir, but I do not know for certain, that I marked a child, whoever the child was, that followed long-horned cattle—
an infant who had a staff and kept walking from side to side: he was driving them backwards way, with their heads towards him.”
So said the old man. And when Apollo heard this report, he went yet more quickly on his way, and presently, seeing a long-winged bird, he knew at once by that omen that the thief was the child of Zeus the son of Cronos.