Read The Tortoise and the Dare Online

Authors: Terry Deary

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The Tortoise and the Dare (3 page)

BOOK: The Tortoise and the Dare
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The evening sun was low in the sky and the earth was still warm as we lay on the ground, panting.

“You’re a tortoise compared to me, Cypselis. A tortoise!”

I looked down into the valley. The stadium stood there with its high banks casting long shadows over the track. Some boys were racing down the course.

“There’s Big Bacchiad,” Cypselis said, and he pointed at the boy in the lead.

Bacchiad was tall and powerful. He was the son of Olympia’s richest farmer and had the strength of one of his father’s bulls.

“Let’s see how fast he is,” I said. I got up and trotted down the hill ahead of Cypselis.

In the stadium, Bacchiad was sweating but pleased with himself. He saw Cypselis and laughed aloud. “I’ve beaten everyone, Cypselis. And tomorrow I’ll beat you.”

“You couldn’t even beat his sister,” I jeered.

The laughter died in Bacchiad’s throat. “Who are you to say that?”

“His sister,” I said and smiled sweetly.

“My prize,” he breathed. “When I win, you will work till you drop.” His eyes glittered darkly in his ugly face. “You will rise with the sun and gather wood for the fire. You’ll fetch water from the well and cook breakfast. You’ll weed in the fields till dark and then…”

“You haven’t won me yet,” I said.

“But I will.”

“Like I said, you couldn’t even run against me and win. And Cypselis is faster than me,” I lied.

Big Bacchiad looked around the group of boys. “Want to see me race a girl?” he said.

They nodded.

“Then you be the starter, Telemachus. We’ll race the length of the stadium, turn at the pillar and run back.”

“Take your marks…” Telemachus began.

*
A Greek teacher called Aristotle had that potty idea – he said that the gods made men to rule the world; women and slaves could not even
think
because they had such weak brains.Women and slaves were just there to do as men told them! Of course Aristotle was a
man
. He
would
say that.

Chapter Three

“Go!” Telemachus cried, and we set off down the track with the low sun in our faces.

Big Bacchiad made the earth shake with his heavy legs. I floated like a butterfly alongside him.

I had speed. But he had strength. We reached the pillar that marked the turning point and we were shoulder to shoulder.

Bacchiad took a step to the side and caught me with his elbow, so he turned first and was five paces ahead of me before I recovered.

I was angry – he brought out the worst of my temper. I made my arms fly like a sparrow’s wings and pull me along. I caught up with him before we were halfway down the home stretch.

He saw my shadow alongside him and swayed so he’d barge me aside.

This time I was ready for him. I skipped to his left and passed him on the inside.

There were 30 paces left to run. I had the speed. But did I have the strength? With 20 paces to go, Big Bacchiad was alongside me. He was grunting with the effort. Every pace took him further into the lead and he passed the finish line well ahead.

He sank to the ground, shaking with the pain and forced a grin. “You are quite good, girl. But your brother will have to be better to get near me.”

As I walked home with Cypselis, my brother hung his head. “Big Bacchiad beat you … and you are faster than me. I’ll lose.”

I smiled. “That’s what Bacchiad thinks,” I said.

“He beat you.”

“I slowed down. I could have beaten him by the length of a goat,” I said.

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