Not far from the fountain was a small altar which belonged to the Muses. Comatas thought he should like to bring some gift to it; but he was a slave, and had not a thing in the world which he could call his own. As he spent his life in the care of the goats, he felt that they must belong to him, in part. So, one day, he took a kid from the flock, and sacrificed it on the altar.
That night the master counted the goats, and found one missing. In a violent passion, he took Comatas and put him into a great chest which stood in his palace hall. Then he shut down the lid and locked the chest, leaving the poor goatherd to die of starvation.
But the Muses had not forgotten their worshipper. They missed the sound of his piping, on the grassy slopes of Mount Helicon. Certain great purple moths used to flutter around with them in their moonlight dances. They sent one of these to find out what had become of the goatherd.
The moth flew straight to the huts of the slaves, but it did not find Comatas there. Then it flew in at one of the palace windows. The master of Comatas was sitting at a long table, with his friends, drinking wine. The purple moth took a sip from one of the goblets, then it fluttered airily round one of the tall bronze lamps. Next it crawled over the hangings, where there was a whole field of flowers, done in embroidery. Soon tiring of embroidered flowers, which had no sweetness, it descended to the floor, where it was attracted by the odor of the cedar-chest. Crawling up over the side of the chest, it peeped in at the keyhole, and found Comatas. Then it flew quickly away to Mount Helicon, to tell the Muses.
The next day a honey-bee flew in at the palace gate. It met the master of Comatas, and gave him a fine sting on the nose. Not long after, the house-maids or the guards, if they had been looking, might have seen the same bee crawling up the carved side of the cedar-chest, and going in at the keyhole, which was a door quite large enough for a honey-bee.
Soon other bees came, with their honey-bags full. They went in at the same tiny door, and came out again with their honey-bags empty.
One day, after Comatas had been shut up in the chest a year, his hard-hearted master caused the chest to be opened, expecting, of course, to find nothing but a handful of bones. There sat Comatas alive and well! This was wonderful, indeed.
Comatas told how he had been fed by the bees. His master, knowing that all honey-bees were the special servants of the Muses, believed that the Muses themselves had taken Comatas under their protection, and thereafter treated him with the greatest respect and the utmost kindness.
The Legend and Myth of the Muses and Comatas
The Myth of the Muses and Comatas
The story of the Muses and Comatas is featured in the book entitled Favorite Greek Myths by Lilian Stoughton Hyde, published in 1904 by D. C. Heath and Company.