a fatal contingency. Althæa's son was to live so long as a log of wood, then on the fire, remained unconsumed. She contrived to keep the log unconsumed for many years, but being angry one day with Meleager, she pushed it into the midst of the fire, and it was consumed in a few minutes. Meleager died at the same time. —Ovid: Metamorphoses, viii. 4.
“The fatal brand Althæa burned.” Shakespeare: 2 Henry VI, Act i. 1.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894