Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales - For girls and boys
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales - For girls and boys" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            A WONDER BOOK

                                 AND

                           TANGLEWOOD TALES

                          FOR GIRLS AND BOYS

                        BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE


    WITH PICTURES BY
    MAXFIELD PARRISH

    NEW YORK
    DUFFIELD & COMPANY
    MCMX

    COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY DUFFIELD & COMPANY

    THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.



[Illustration: JASON AND THE TALKING OAK

(From the original in the collection of Austin M. Purves, Esqu're
Philadelphia)]



Preface

The author has long been of opinion that many of the classical myths
were capable of being rendered into very capital reading for children.
In the little volume here offered to the public, he has worked up half a
dozen of them, with this end in view. A great freedom of treatment was
necessary to his plan; but it will be observed by every one who attempts
to render these legends malleable in his intellectual furnace, that they
are marvellously independent of all temporary modes and circumstances.
They remain essentially the same, after changes that would affect the
identity of almost anything else.

He does not, therefore, plead guilty to a sacrilege, in having sometimes
shaped anew, as his fancy dictated, the forms that have been hallowed by
an antiquity of two or three thousand years. No epoch of time can claim
a copyright in these immortal fables. They seem never to have been made;
and certainly, so long as man exists, they can never perish; but, by
their indestructibility itself, they are legitimate subjects for every
age to clothe with its own garniture of manners and sentiment, and to
imbue with its own morality. In the present version they may have lost
much of their classical aspect (or, at all events, the author has not
been careful to preserve it), and have, perhaps, assumed a Gothic or
romantic guise.

In performing this pleasant task,--for it has been really a task fit for
hot weather, and one of the most agreeable, of a literary kind, which
he ever undertook,--the author has not always thought it necessary to
write downward, in order to meet the comprehension of children. He has
generally suffered the theme to soar, whenever such was its tendency,
and when he himself was buoyant enough to follow without an effort.
Children possess an unestimated sensibility to whatever is deep or high,
in imagination or feeling, so long as it is simple, likewise. It is only
the artificial and the complex that bewilder them.

LENOX, _July 15, 1851_.



Contents


A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys


The Gorgon's Head

The Golden Touch

The Paradise of Children

The Three Golden Apples

The Miraculous Pitcher

The Chimæra


Tanglewood Tales


The Wayside--_Introductory_

The Minotaur

The Pygmies

The Dragon's Teeth

Circe's Palace

The Pomegranate Seeds

The Golden Fleece



Illustrations


JASON AND THE TALKING OAK

PANDORA

ATLAS

BELLEROPHON BY THE FOUNTAIN OF PIRENE

THE FOUNTAIN OF PIRENE

CADMUS SOWING THE DRAGON'S TEETH

CIRCE'S PALACE

PROSERPINA

JASON AND HIS TEACHER

THE ARGONAUTS IN QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE



A Wonder Book



THE GORGON'S HEAD


Tanglewood Porch

_Introductory to "The Gorgon's Head"_

Beneath the porch of the country-seat called Tanglewood, one fine
autumnal morning, was assembled a merry party of little folks, with a
tall youth in the midst of them. They had planned a nutting expedition,
and were impatiently waiting for the mists to roll up the hill-slopes,
and for the sun to pour the warmth of the Indian summer over the fields
and pastures, and into the nooks of the many-colored woods. There was a
prospect of as fine a day as ever gladdened the aspect of this beautiful
and comfortable world. As yet, however, the morning mist filled up the
whole length and breadth of the valley, above which, on a gently sloping
eminence, the mansion stood.

This body of white vapor extended to within less than a hundred yards of
the house. It completely hid everything beyond that distance, except a
few ruddy or yellow tree-tops, which here and there emerged, and were
glorified by the early sunshine, as was likewise the broad surface of
the mist. Four or five miles off to the southward rose the summit of
Monument Mountain, and seemed to be floating on a cloud. Some fifteen
miles farther away, in the same direction, appeared the loftier Dome of
Taconic, looking blue and indistinct, and hardly so substantial as the
vapory sea that almost rolled over it. The nearer hills, which bordered
the valley, were half submerged, and were specked with little
cloud-wreaths all the way to their tops. On the whole, there was so
much cloud, and so little solid earth, that it had the effect of a
vision.

The children above-mentioned, being as full of life as they could hold,
kept overflowing from the porch of Tanglewood, and scampering along the
gravel-walk, or rushing across the dewy herbage of the lawn. I can
hardly tell how many of these small people there were; not less than
nine or ten, however, nor more than a dozen, of all sorts, sizes, and
ages, whether girls or boys. They were brothers, sisters, and cousins,
together with a few of their young acquaintances, who had been invited
by Mr. and Mrs. Pringle to spend some of this delightful weather with
their own children, at Tanglewood. I am afraid to tell you their names,
or even to give them any names which other children have ever been
called by; because, to my certain knowledge, authors sometimes get
themselves into great trouble by accidentally giving the names of real
persons to the characters in their books. For this reason I mean to call
them Primrose, Periwinkle, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Blue Eye, Clover,
Huckleberry, Cowslip, Squash-Blossom, Milkweed, Plantain, and Buttercup;
although, to be sure, such titles might better suit a group of fairies
than a company of earthly children.

It is not to be supposed that these little folks were to be permitted by
their careful fathers and mothers, uncles, aunts, or grandparents, to
stray abroad into the woods and fields, without the guardianship of some
particularly grave and elderly person. Oh no, indeed! In the first
sentence of my book, you will recollect that I spoke of a tall youth,
standing in the midst of the children. His name--(and I shall let you
know his real name, because he considers it a great honor to have told
the stories that are here to be printed)--his name was Eustace Bright.
He was a student at Williams College, and had reached, I think, at this
period, the venerable age of eighteen years; so that he felt quite like
a grandfather towards Periwinkle, Dandelion, Huckleberry,
Squash-Blossom, Milkweed, and the rest, who were only half or a third as
venerable as he. A trouble in his eyesight (such as many students think
it necessary to have, nowadays, in order to prove their diligence at
their books) had kept him from college a week or two after the beginning
of the term. But, for my part, I have seldom met with a pair of eyes
that looked as if they could see farther or better than those of Eustace
Bright.

This learned student was slender, and rather pale, as all Yankee
students are; but yet of a healthy aspect, and as light and active as if
he had wings to his shoes. By the by, being much addicted to wading
through streamlets and across meadows, he had put on cowhide boots for
the expedition. He wore a linen blouse, a cloth cap, and a pair of green
spectacles, which he had assumed, probably, less for the preservation of
his eyes than for the dignity that they imparted to his countenance. In
either case, however, he might as well have let them alone; for
Huckleberry, a mischievous little elf, crept behind Eustace as he sat on
the steps of the porch, snatched the spectacles from his nose, and
clapped them on her own; and as the student forgot to take them back,
they fell off into the grass, and lay there till the next spring.

Now, Eustace Bright, you must know, had won great fame among the
children, as a narrator of wonderful stories; and though he sometimes
pretended to be annoyed, when they teased him for more, and more, and
always for more, yet I really doubt whether he liked anything quite so
well as to tell them. You might have seen his eyes twinkle, therefore,
when Clover, Sweet Fern, Cowslip, Buttercup, and most of their
playmates, besought him to relate one of his stories, while they were
waiting for the mist to clear up.

"Yes, Cousin Eustace," said Primrose, who was a bright girl of twelve,
with laughing eyes, and a nose that turned up a little, "the morning is
certainly the best time for the stories with which you so often tire out
our patience. We shall be in less danger of hurting your feelings, by
falling asleep at the most interesting points,--as little Cowslip and I
did last night!"

"Naughty Primrose," cried Cowslip, a child of six years old; "I did not
fall asleep, and I only shut my eyes, so as to see a picture of what
Cousin Eustace was telling about. His stories are good to hear at night,
because we can dream about them asleep; and good in the morning, too,
because then we can dream about them awake. So I hope he will tell us
one this very minute."

"Thank you, my little Cowslip," said Eustace; "certainly you shall have
the best story I can think of, if it were only for defending me so well
from that naughty Primrose. But, children, I have already told you so
many fairy tales, that I doubt whether there is a single one which you
have not heard at least twice over. I am afraid you will fall asleep in
reality, if I repeat any of them again."

"No, no, no!" cried Blue Eye, Periwinkle, Plantain, and half a dozen
others. "We like a story all the better for having heard it two or three
times before."

And it is a truth, as regards children, that a story seems often to
deepen its mark in their interest, not merely by two or three, but by
numberless repetitions. But Eustace Bright, in the exuberance of his
resources, scorned to avail himself of an advantage which an older
story-teller would have been glad to grasp at.

"It would be a great pity," said he, "if a man of my learning (to say
nothing of original fancy) could not find a new story every day, year in
and year out, for children such as you. I will tell you one of the
nursery tales that were made for the amusement of our great old
grandmother, the Earth, when she was a child in frock and pinafore.
There are a hundred such; and it is a wonder to me that they have not
long ago been put into picture-books for little girls and boys. But,
instead of that, old gray-bearded grandsires pore over them in musty
volumes of Greek, and puzzle themselves with trying to find out when,
and how, and for what they were made."

"Well, well, well, well, Cousin Eustace!" cried all the children at
once; "talk no more about your stories, but begin."

"Sit down, then, every soul of you," said Eustace Bright, "and be all as
still as so many mice. At the slightest interruption, whether from
great, naughty Primrose, little Dandelion, or any other, I shall bite
the story short off between my teeth, and swallow the untold part. But,
in the first place, do any of you know what a Gorgon is?"

"I do," said Primrose.

"Then hold your tongue!" rejoined Eustace, who had rather she would have
known nothing about the matter. "Hold all your tongues, and I shall tell
you a sweet pretty story of a Gorgon's head."

And so he did, as you may begin to read on the next page. Working up his
sophomorical erudition with a good deal of tact, and incurring great
obligations to Professor Anthon, he, nevertheless, disregarded all
classical authorities, whenever the vagrant audacity of his imagination
impelled him to do so.


The Gorgon's Head

Perseus was the son of Danaë, who was the daughter of a king. And when
Perseus was a very little boy, some wicked people put his mother and
himself into a chest, and set them afloat upon the sea. The wind blew
freshly, and drove the chest away from the shore, and the uneasy billows
tossed it up and down; while Danaë clasped her child closely to her
bosom, and dreaded that some big wave would dash its foamy crest over
them both. The chest sailed on, however, and neither sank nor was upset;
until, when night was coming, it floated so near an island that it got
entangled in a fisherman's nets, and was drawn out high and dry upon the
sand. The island was called Seriphus, and it was reigned over by King
Polydectes, who happened to be the fisherman's brother.

This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an exceedingly humane and
upright man. He showed great kindness to Danaë and her little boy; and
continued to befriend them, until Perseus had grown to be a handsome
youth, very strong and active, and skilful in the use of arms. Long
before this time, King Polydectes had seen the two strangers--the mother
and her child--who had come to his dominions in a floating chest. As he
was not good and kind, like his brother the fisherman, but extremely
wicked, he resolved to send Perseus on a dangerous enterprise, in which
he would probably be killed, and then to do some great mischief to Danaë
herself. So this bad-hearted king spent a long while in considering what
was the most dangerous thing that a young man could possibly undertake
to perform. At last, having hit upon an enterprise that promised to
turn out as fatally as he desired, he sent for the youthful Perseus.

The young man came to the palace, and found the king sitting upon his
throne.

"Perseus," said King Polydectes, smiling craftily upon him, "you are
grown up a fine young man. You and your good mother have received a
great deal of kindness from myself, as well as from my worthy brother
the fisherman, and I suppose you would not be sorry to repay some of
it."

"Please your Majesty," answered Perseus, "I would willingly risk my life
to do so."

"Well, then," continued the king, still with a cunning smile on his
lips, "I have a little adventure to propose to you; and, as you are a
brave and enterprising youth, you will doubtless look upon it as a great
piece of good luck to have so rare an opportunity of distinguishing
yourself. You must know, my good Perseus, I think of getting married to
the beautiful Princess Hippodamia; and it is customary, on these
occasions, to make the bride a present of some far-fetched and elegant
curiosity. I have been a little perplexed, I must honestly confess,
where to obtain anything likely to please a princess of her exquisite
taste. But, this morning, I flatter myself, I have thought of precisely
the article."

"And can I assist your Majesty in obtaining it?" cried Perseus, eagerly.

"You can, if you are as brave a youth as I believe you to be," replied
King Polydectes, with the utmost graciousness of manner. "The bridal
gift which I have set my heart on presenting to the beautiful Hippodamia
is the head of the Gorgon Medusa with the snaky locks; and I depend on
you, my dear Perseus, to bring it to me. So, as I am anxious to settle
affairs with the princess, the sooner you go in quest of the Gorgon, the
better I shall be pleased."

"I will set out to-morrow morning," answered Perseus.

"Pray do so, my gallant youth," rejoined the king. "And, Perseus, in
cutting off the Gorgon's head, be careful to make a clean stroke, so as
not to injure its appearance. You must bring it home in the very best
condition, in order to suit the exquisite taste of the beautiful
Princess Hippodamia."

Perseus left the palace, but was scarcely out of hearing before
Polydectes burst into a laugh; being greatly amused, wicked king that he
was, to find how readily the young man fell into the snare. The news
quickly spread abroad that Perseus had undertaken to cut off the head of
Medusa with the snaky locks. Everybody was rejoiced; for most of the
inhabitants of the island were as wicked as the king himself, and would
have liked nothing better than to see some enormous mischief happen to
Danaë and her son. The only good man in this unfortunate island of
Seriphus appears to have been the fisherman. As Perseus walked along,
therefore, the people pointed after him, and made mouths, and winked to
one another, and ridiculed him as loudly as they dared.

"Ho, ho!" cried they; "Medusa's snakes will sting him soundly!"

Now, there were three Gorgons alive at that period; and they were the
most strange and terrible monsters that had ever been since the world
was made, or that have been seen in after days, or that are likely to be
seen in all time to come. I hardly know what sort of creature or
hobgoblin to call them. They were three sisters, and seem to have borne
some distant resemblance to women, but were really a very frightful and
mischievous species of dragon. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine what
hideous beings these three sisters were. Why, instead of locks of hair,
if you can believe me, they had each of them a hundred enormous snakes
growing on their heads, all alive, twisting, wriggling, curling, and
thrusting out their venomous tongues, with forked stings at the end!
The teeth of the Gorgons were terribly long tusks; their hands were made
of brass; and their bodies were all over scales, which, if not iron,
were something as hard and impenetrable. They had wings, too, and
exceedingly splendid ones, I can assure you; for every feather in them
was pure, bright, glittering, burnished gold, and they looked very
dazzlingly, no doubt, when the Gorgons were flying about in the
sunshine.

But when people happened to catch a glimpse of their glittering
brightness, aloft in the air, they seldom stopped to gaze, but ran and
hid themselves as speedily as they could. You will think, perhaps, that
they were afraid of being stung by the serpents that served the Gorgons
instead of hair,--or of having their heads bitten off by their ugly
tusks,--or of being torn all to pieces by their brazen claws. Well, to
be sure, these were some of the dangers, but by no means the greatest,
nor the most difficult to avoid. For the worst thing about these
abominable Gorgons was, that, if once a poor mortal fixed his eyes full
upon one of their faces, he was certain, that very instant, to be
changed from warm flesh and blood into cold and lifeless stone!

Thus, as you will easily perceive, it was a very dangerous adventure
that the wicked King Polydectes had contrived for this innocent young
man. Perseus himself, when he had thought over the matter, could not
help seeing that he had very little chance of coming safely through it,
and that he was far more likely to become a stone image than to bring
back the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. For, not to speak of other
difficulties, there was one which it would have puzzled an older man
than Perseus to get over. Not only must he fight with and slay this
golden-winged, iron-scaled, long-tusked, brazen-clawed, snaky-haired
monster, but he must do it with his eyes shut, or, at least, without so
much as a glance at the enemy with whom he was contending. Else, while
his arm was lifted to strike, he would stiffen into stone, and stand
with that uplifted arm for centuries, until time, and the wind and
weather, should crumble him quite away. This would be a very sad thing
to befall a young man who wanted to perform a great many brave deeds,
and to enjoy a great deal of happiness, in this bright and beautiful
world.

So disconsolate did these thoughts make him, that Perseus could not bear
to tell his mother what he had undertaken to do. He therefore took his
shield, girded on his sword, and crossed over from the island to the
mainland, where he sat down in a solitary place, and hardly refrained
from shedding tears.

But, while he was in this sorrowful mood, he heard a voice close beside
him.

"Perseus," said the voice, "why are you sad?"

He lifted his head from his hands, in which he had hidden it, and
behold! all alone as Perseus had supposed himself to be, there was a
stranger in the solitary place. It was a brisk, intelligent, and
remarkably shrewd-looking young man, with a cloak over his shoulders, an
odd sort of cap on his head, a strangely twisted staff in his hand, and
a short and very crooked sword hanging by his side. He was exceedingly
light and active in his figure, like a person much accustomed to
gymnastic exercises, and well able to leap or run. Above all, the
stranger had such a cheerful, knowing, and helpful aspect (though it was
certainly a little mischievous, into the bargain), that Perseus could
not help feeling his spirits grow livelier as he gazed at him. Besides,
being really a courageous youth, he felt greatly ashamed that anybody
should have found him with tears in his eyes, like a timid little
school-boy, when, after all, there might be no occasion for despair. So
Perseus wiped his eyes, and answered the stranger pretty briskly,
putting on as brave a look as he could.

"I am not so very sad," said he, "only thoughtful about an adventure
that I have undertaken."

"Oho!" answered the stranger. "Well, tell me all about it, and possibly
I may be of service to you. I have helped a good many young men through
adventures that looked difficult enough beforehand. Perhaps you may have
heard of me. I have more names than one; but the name of Quicksilver
suits me as well as any other. Tell me what the trouble is, and we will
talk the matter over, and see what can be done."

The stranger's words and manner put Perseus into quite a different mood
from his former one. He resolved to tell Quicksilver all his
difficulties, since he could not easily be worse off than he already
was, and, very possibly, his new friend might give him some advice that
would turn out well in the end. So he let the stranger know, in few
words, precisely what the case was,--how that King Polydectes wanted the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks as a bridal gift for the beautiful
Princess Hippodamia, and how that he had undertaken to get it for him,
but was afraid of being turned into stone.

"And that would be a great pity," said Quicksilver, with his mischievous
smile. "You would make a very handsome marble statue, it is true, and it
would be a considerable number of centuries before you crumbled away;
but, on the whole, one would rather be a young man for a few years, than
a stone image for a great many."

"Oh, far rather!" exclaimed Perseus, with the tears again standing in
his eyes. "And, besides, what would my dear mother do, if her beloved
son were turned into a stone?"

"Well, well, let us hope that the affair will not turn out so very
badly," replied Quicksilver, in an encouraging tone. "I am the very
person to help you, if anybody can. My sister and myself will do our
utmost to bring you safe through the adventure, ugly as it now looks."

"Your sister?" repeated Perseus.

"Yes, my sister," said the stranger. "She is very wise, I promise you;
and as for myself, I generally have all my wits about me, such as they
are. If you show yourself bold and cautious, and follow our advice, you
need not fear being a stone image yet awhile. But, first of all, you
must polish your shield, till you can see your face in it as distinctly
as in a mirror."

This seemed to Perseus rather an odd beginning of the adventure; for he
thought it of far more consequence that the shield should be strong
enough to defend him from the Gorgon's brazen claws, than that it should
be bright enough to show him the reflection of his face. However,
concluding that Quicksilver knew better than himself, he immediately set
to work, and scrubbed the shield with so much diligence and good-will,
that it very quickly shone like the moon at harvest-time. Quicksilver
looked at it with a smile, and nodded his approbation. Then, taking off
his own short and crooked sword, he girded it about Perseus, instead of
the one which he had before worn.

"No sword but mine will answer your purpose," observed he; "the blade
has a most excellent temper, and will cut through iron and brass as
easily as through the slenderest twig. And now we will set out. The next
thing is to find the Three Gray Women, who will tell us where to find
the Nymphs."

"The Three Gray Women!" cried Perseus, to whom this seemed only a new
difficulty in the path of his adventure; "pray who may the Three Gray
Women be? I never heard of them before."

"They are three very strange old ladies," said Quicksilver, laughing.
"They have but one eye among them, and only one tooth. Moreover, you
must find them out by starlight, or in the dusk of the evening; for they
never show themselves by the light either of the sun or moon."

"But," said Perseus, "why should I waste my time with these Three Gray
Women? Would it not be better to set out at once in search of the
terrible Gorgons?"

"No, no," answered his friend. "There are other things to be done,
before you can find your way to the Gorgons. There is nothing for it but
to hunt up these old ladies; and when we meet with them, you may be sure
that the Gorgons are not a great way off. Come, let us be stirring!"

Perseus, by this time, felt so much confidence in his companion's
sagacity, that he made no more objections, and professed himself ready
to begin the adventure immediately. They accordingly set out, and walked
at a pretty brisk pace; so brisk, indeed, that Perseus found it rather
difficult to keep up with his nimble friend Quicksilver. To say the
truth, he had a singular idea that Quicksilver was furnished with a pair
of winged shoes, which, of course, helped him along marvellously. And
then, too, when Perseus looked sideways at him, out of the corner of his
eye, he seemed to see wings on the side of his head; although, if he
turned a full gaze, there were no such things to be perceived, but only
an odd kind of cap. But, at all events, the twisted staff was evidently
a great convenience to Quicksilver, and enabled him to proceed so fast,
that Perseus, though a remarkably active young man, began to be out of
breath.

"Here!" cried Quicksilver, at last,--for he knew well enough, rogue that
he was, how hard Perseus found it to keep pace with him,--"take you the
staff, for you need it a great deal more than I. Are there no better
walkers than yourself in the island of Seriphus?"

"I could walk pretty well," said Perseus, glancing slyly at his
companion's feet, "if I had only a pair of winged shoes."

"We must see about getting you a pair," answered Quicksilver.

But the staff helped Perseus along so bravely, that he no longer felt
the slightest weariness. In fact, the stick seemed to be alive in his
hand, and to lend some of its life to Perseus. He and Quicksilver now
walked onward at their ease, talking very sociably together; and
Quicksilver told so many pleasant stories about his former adventures,
and how well his wits had served him on various occasions, that Perseus
began to think him a very wonderful person. He evidently knew the world;
and nobody is so charming to a young man as a friend who has that kind
of knowledge. Perseus listened the more eagerly, in the hope of
brightening his own wits by what he heard.

At last, he happened to recollect that Quicksilver had spoken of a
sister, who was to lend her assistance in the adventure which they were
now bound upon.

"Where is she?" he inquired. "Shall we not meet her soon?"

"All at the proper time," said his companion. "But this sister of mine,
you must understand, is quite a different sort of character from myself.
She is very grave and prudent, seldom smiles, never laughs, and makes it
a rule not to utter a word unless she has something particularly
profound to say. Neither will she listen to any but the wisest
conversation."

"Dear me!" ejaculated Perseus; "I shall be afraid to say a syllable."

"She is a very accomplished person, I assure you," continued
Quicksilver, "and has all the arts and sciences at her fingers' ends. In
short, she is so immoderately wise, that many people call her wisdom
personified. But, to tell you the truth, she has hardly vivacity enough
for my taste; and I think you would scarcely find her so pleasant a
travelling companion as myself. She has her good points, nevertheless;
and you will find the benefit of them, in your encounter with the
Gorgons."

By this time it had grown quite dusk. They were now come to a very wild
and desert place, overgrown with shaggy bushes, and so silent and
solitary that nobody seemed ever to have dwelt or journeyed there. All
was waste and desolate, in the gray twilight, which grew every moment
more obscure. Perseus looked about him, rather disconsolately, and
asked Quicksilver whether they had a great deal farther to go.

"Hist! hist!" whispered his companion. "Make no noise! This is just the
time and place to meet the Three Gray Women. Be careful that they do not
see you before you see them; for, though they have but a single eye
among the three, it is as sharp-sighted as half a dozen common eyes."

"But what must I do," asked Perseus, "when we meet them?"

Quicksilver explained to Perseus how the Three Gray Women managed with
their one eye. They were in the habit, it seems, of changing it from one
to another, as if it had been a pair of spectacles, or--which would have
suited them better--a quizzing-glass. When one of the three had kept the
eye a certain time, she took it out of the socket and passed it to one
of her sisters, whose turn it might happen to be, and who immediately
clapped it into her own head, and enjoyed a peep at the visible world.
Thus it will easily be understood that only one of the Three Gray Women
could see, while the other two were in utter darkness; and, moreover, at
the instant when the eye was passing from hand to hand, neither of the
poor old ladies was able to see a wink. I have heard of a great many
strange things, in my day, and have witnessed not a few; but none, it
seems to me, that can compare with the oddity of these Three Gray Women,
all peeping through a single eye.

So thought Perseus, likewise, and was so astonished that he almost
fancied his companion was joking with him, and that there were no such
old women in the world.

"You will soon find whether I tell the truth or no," observed
Quicksilver. "Hark! hush! hist! hist! There they come, now!"

Perseus looked earnestly through the dusk of the evening, and there,
sure enough, at no great distance off, he descried the Three Gray Women.
The light being so faint, he could not well make out what sort of
figures they were; only he discovered that they had long gray hair; and,
as they came nearer, he saw that two of them had but the empty socket of
an eye, in the middle of their foreheads. But, in the middle of the
third sister's forehead, there was a very large, bright, and piercing
eye, which sparkled like a great diamond in a ring; and so penetrating
did it seem to be, that Perseus could not help thinking it must possess
the gift of seeing in the darkest midnight just as perfectly as at
noonday. The sight of three persons' eyes was melted and collected into
that single one.

Thus the three old dames got along about as comfortably, upon the whole,
as if they could all see at once. She who chanced to have the eye in her
forehead led the other two by the hands, peeping sharply about her, all
the while; insomuch that Perseus dreaded lest she should see right
through the thick clump of bushes behind which he and Quicksilver had
hidden themselves. My stars! it was positively terrible to be within
reach of so very sharp an eye!

But, before they reached the clump of bushes, one of the Three Gray
Women spoke.

"Sister! Sister Scarecrow!" cried she, "you have had the eye long
enough. It is my turn now!"

"Let me keep it a moment longer, Sister Nightmare," answered Scarecrow.
"I thought I had a glimpse of something behind that thick bush."

"Well, and what of that?" retorted Nightmare, peevishly. "Can't I see
into a thick bush as easily as yourself? The eye is mine as well as
yours; and I know the use of it as well as you, or may be a little
better. I insist upon taking a peep immediately!"

But here the third sister, whose name was Shakejoint, began to complain,
and said that it was her turn to have the eye, and that Scarecrow and
Nightmare wanted to keep it all to themselves. To end the dispute, old
Dame Scarecrow took the eye out of her forehead, and held it forth in
her hand.

"Take it, one of you," cried she, "and quit this foolish quarrelling.
For my part, I shall be glad of a little thick darkness. Take it
quickly, however, or I must clap it into my own head again!"

Accordingly, both Nightmare and Shakejoint put out their hands, groping
eagerly to snatch the eye out of the hand of Scarecrow. But, being both
alike blind, they could not easily find where Scarecrow's hand was; and
Scarecrow, being now just as much in the dark as Shakejoint and
Nightmare, could not at once meet either of their hands, in order to put
the eye into it. Thus (as you will see, with half an eye, my wise little
auditors), these good old dames had fallen into a strange perplexity.
For, though the eye shone and glistened like a star, as Scarecrow held
it out, yet the Gray Women caught not the least glimpse of its light,
and were all three in utter darkness, from too impatient a desire to
see.

Quicksilver was so much tickled at beholding Shakejoint and Nightmare
both groping for the eye, and each finding fault with Scarecrow and one
another, that he could scarcely help laughing aloud.

"Now is your time!" he whispered to Perseus. "Quick, quick! before they
can clap the eye into either of their heads. Rush out upon the old
ladies, and snatch it from Scarecrow's hand!"

In an instant, while the Three Gray Women were still scolding each
other, Perseus leaped from behind the clump of bushes, and made himself
master of the prize. The marvellous eye, as he held it in his hand,
shone very brightly, and seemed to look up into his face with a knowing
air, and an expression as if it would have winked, had it been provided
with a pair of eyelids for that purpose. But the Gray Women knew nothing
of what had happened; and, each supposing that one of her sisters was
in possession of the eye, they began their quarrel anew. At last, as
Perseus did not wish to put these respectable dames to greater
inconvenience than was really necessary, he thought it right to explain
the matter.

"My good ladies," said he, "pray do not be angry with one another. If
anybody is in fault, it is myself; for I have the honor to hold your
very brilliant and excellent eye in my own hand!"

"You! you have our eye! And who are you?" screamed the Three Gray Women,
all in a breath; for they were terribly frightened, of course, at
hearing a strange voice, and discovering that their eyesight had got
into the hands of they could not guess whom. "Oh, what shall we do,
sisters? what shall we do? We are all in the dark! Give us our eye! Give
us our one, precious, solitary eye! You have two of your own! Give us
our eye!"

"Tell them," whispered Quicksilver to Perseus, "that they shall have
back the eye as soon as they direct you where to find the Nymphs who
have the flying slippers, the magic wallet, and the helmet of darkness."

"My dear, good, admirable old ladies," said Perseus, addressing the Gray
Women, "there is no occasion for putting yourselves into such a fright.
I am by no means a bad young man. You shall have back your eye, safe and
sound, and as bright as ever, the moment you tell me where to find the
Nymphs."

"The Nymphs! Goodness me! sisters, what Nymphs does he mean?" screamed
Scarecrow. "There are a great many Nymphs, people say; some that go a
hunting in the woods, and some that live inside of trees, and some that
have a comfortable home in fountains of water. We know nothing at all
about them. We are three unfortunate old souls, that go wandering about
in the dusk, and never had but one eye amongst us, and that one you
have stolen away. Oh, give it back, good stranger!--whoever you are,
give it back!"

All this while the Three Gray Women were groping with their outstretched
hands, and trying their utmost to get hold of Perseus. But he took good
care to keep out of their reach.

"My respectable dames," said he,--for his mother had taught him always
to use the greatest civility,--"I hold your eye fast in my hand, and
shall keep it safely for you, until you please to tell me where to find
these Nymphs. The Nymphs, I mean, who keep the enchanted wallet, the
flying slippers, and the what is it?--the helmet of invisibility."

"Mercy on us, sisters! what is the young man talking about?" exclaimed
Scarecrow, Nightmare, and Shakejoint, one to another, with great
appearance of astonishment. "A pair of flying slippers, quoth he! His
heels would quickly fly higher than his head, if he were silly enough to
put them on. And a helmet of invisibility! How could a helmet make him
invisible, unless it were big enough for him to hide under it? And an
enchanted wallet! What sort of a contrivance may that be, I wonder? No,
no, good stranger! we can tell you nothing of these marvellous things.
You have two eyes of your own, and we have but a single one amongst us
three. You can find out such wonders better than three blind old
creatures, like us."

Perseus, hearing them talk in this way, began really to think that the
Gray Women knew nothing of the matter; and, as it grieved him to have
put them to so much trouble, he was just on the point of restoring their
eye and asking pardon for his rudeness in snatching it away. But
Quicksilver caught his hand.

"Don't let them make a fool of you!" said he. "These Three Gray Women
are the only persons in the world that can tell you where to find the
Nymphs; and, unless you get that information, you will never succeed in
cutting off the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. Keep fast hold of
the eye, and all will go well."

As it turned out, Quicksilver was in the right. There are but few things
that people prize so much as they do their eyesight; and the Gray Women
valued their single eye as highly as if it had been half a dozen, which
was the number they ought to have had. Finding that there was no other
way of recovering it, they at last told Perseus what he wanted to know.
No sooner had they done so, than he immediately, and with the utmost
respect, clapped the eye into the vacant socket in one of their
foreheads, thanked them for their kindness, and bade them farewell.
Before the young man was out of hearing, however, they had got into a
new dispute, because he happened to have given the eye to Scarecrow, who
had already taken her turn of it when their trouble with Perseus
commenced.

It is greatly to be feared that the Three Gray Women were very much in
the habit of disturbing their mutual harmony by bickerings of this sort;
which was the more pity, as they could not conveniently do without one
another, and were evidently intended to be inseparable companions. As a
general rule, I would advise all people, whether sisters or brothers,
old or young, who chance to have but one eye amongst them, to cultivate
forbearance, and not all insist upon peeping through it at once.

Quicksilver and Perseus, in the mean time, were making the best of their
way in quest of the Nymphs. The old dames had given them such particular
directions, that they were not long in finding them out. They proved to
be very different persons from Nightmare, Shakejoint, and Scarecrow;
for, instead of being old, they were young and beautiful; and instead of
one eye amongst the sisterhood, each Nymph had two exceedingly bright
eyes of her own, with which she looked very kindly at Perseus. They
seemed to be acquainted with Quicksilver; and, when he told them the
adventure which Perseus had undertaken, they made no difficulty about
giving him the valuable articles that were in their custody. In the
first place, they brought out what appeared to be a small purse, made of
deer skin, and curiously embroidered, and bade him be sure and keep it
safe. This was the magic wallet. The Nymphs next produced a pair of
shoes, or slippers, or sandals, with a nice little pair of wings at the
heel of each.

"Put them on, Perseus," said Quicksilver. "You will find yourself as
light-heeled as you can desire for the remainder of our journey."

So Perseus proceeded to put one of the slippers on, while he laid the
other on the ground by his side. Unexpectedly, however, this other
slipper spread its wings, fluttered up off the ground, and would
probably have flown away, if Quicksilver had not made a leap, and
luckily caught it in the air.

"Be more careful," said he, as he gave it back to Perseus. "It would
frighten the birds, up aloft, if they should see a flying slipper
amongst them."

When Perseus had got on both of these wonderful slippers, he was
altogether too buoyant to tread on earth. Making a step or two, lo and
behold! upward he popped into the air, high above the heads of
Quicksilver and the Nymphs, and found it very difficult to clamber down
again. Winged slippers, and all such high-flying contrivances, are
seldom quite easy to manage until one grows a little accustomed to them.
Quicksilver laughed at his companion's involuntary activity, and told
him that he must not be in so desperate a hurry, but must wait for the
invisible helmet.

The good-natured Nymphs had the helmet, with its dark tuft of waving
plumes, all in readiness to put upon his head. And now there happened
about as wonderful an incident as anything that I have yet told you. The
instant before the helmet was put on, there stood Perseus, a beautiful
young man, with golden ringlets and rosy cheeks, the crooked sword by
his side, and the brightly polished shield upon his arm,--a figure that
seemed all made up of courage, sprightliness, and glorious light. But
when the helmet had descended over his white brow, there was no longer
any Perseus to be seen! Nothing but empty air! Even the helmet, that
covered him with its invisibility, had vanished!

"Where are you, Perseus?" asked Quicksilver.

"Why, here, to be sure!" answered Perseus, very quietly, although his
voice seemed to come out of the transparent atmosphere. "Just where I
was a moment ago. Don't you see me?"

"No, indeed!" answered his friend. "You are hidden under the helmet.
But, if I cannot see you, neither can the Gorgons. Follow me, therefore,
and we will try your dexterity in using the winged slippers."

With these words, Quicksilver's cap spread its wings, as if his head
were about to fly away from his shoulders; but his whole figure rose
lightly into the air, and Perseus followed. By the time they had
ascended a few hundred feet, the young man began to feel what a
delightful thing it was to leave the dull earth so far beneath him, and
to be able to flit about like a bird.

It was now deep night. Perseus looked upward, and saw the round, bright,
silvery moon, and thought that he should desire nothing better than to
soar up thither, and spend his life there. Then he looked downward
again, and saw the earth, with its seas and lakes, and the silver
courses of its rivers, and its snowy mountain-peaks, and the breadth of
its fields, and the dark cluster of its woods, and its cities of white
marble; and, with the moonshine sleeping over the whole scene, it was as
beautiful as the moon or any star could be. And, among other objects, he
saw the island of Seriphus, where his dear mother was. Sometimes he and
Quicksilver approached a cloud, that, at a distance, looked as if it
were made of fleecy silver; although, when they plunged into it, they
found themselves chilled and moistened with gray mist. So swift was
their flight, however, that, in an instant, they emerged from the cloud
into the moonlight again. Once, a high-soaring eagle flew right against
the invisible Perseus. The bravest sights were the meteors, that gleamed
suddenly out, as if a bonfire had been kindled in the sky, and made the
moonshine pale for as much as a hundred miles around them.

As the two companions flew onward, Perseus fancied that he could hear
the rustle of a garment close by his side; and it was on the side
opposite to the one where he beheld Quicksilver, yet only Quicksilver
was visible.

"Whose garment is this," inquired Perseus, "that keeps rustling close
beside me in the breeze?"

"Oh, it is my sister's!" answered Quicksilver. "She is coming along with
us, as I told you she would. We could do nothing without the help of my
sister. You have no idea how wise she is. She has such eyes, too! Why,
she can see you, at this moment, just as distinctly as if you were not
invisible; and I'll venture to say, she will be the first to discover
the Gorgons."

By this time, in their swift voyage through the air, they had come
within sight of the great ocean, and were soon flying over it. Far
beneath them, the waves tossed themselves tumultuously in mid-sea, or
rolled a white surf-line upon the long beaches, or foamed against the
rocky cliffs, with a roar that was thunderous, in the lower world;
although it became a gentle murmur, like the voice of a baby half
asleep, before it reached the ears of Perseus. Just then a voice spoke
in the air close by him. It seemed to be a woman's voice, and was
melodious, though not exactly what might be called sweet, but grave and
mild.

"Perseus," said the voice, "there are the Gorgons."

"Where?" exclaimed Perseus. "I cannot see them."

"On the shore of that island beneath you," replied the voice. "A
pebble, dropped from your hand, would strike in the midst of them."

"I told you she would be the first to discover them," said Quicksilver
to Perseus. "And there they are!"

Straight downward, two or three thousand feet below him, Perseus
perceived a small island, with the sea breaking into white foam all
around its rocky shore, except on one side, where there was a beach of
snowy sand. He descended towards it, and, looking earnestly at a cluster
or heap of brightness, at the foot of a precipice of black rocks,
behold, there were the terrible Gorgons! They lay fast asleep, soothed
by the thunder of the sea; for it required a tumult that would have
deafened everybody else to lull such fierce creatures into slumber. The
moonlight glistened on their steely scales, and on their golden wings,
which drooped idly over the sand. Their brazen claws, horrible to look
at, were thrust out, and clutched the wave-beaten fragments of rock,
while the sleeping Gorgons dreamed of tearing some poor mortal all to
pieces. The snakes that served them instead of hair seemed likewise to
be asleep; although, now and then, one would writhe, and lift its head,
and thrust out its forked tongue, emitting a drowsy hiss, and then let
itself subside among its sister snakes.

The Gorgons were more like an awful, gigantic kind of insect,--immense,
golden-winged beetles, or dragon-flies, or things of that sort,--at once
ugly and beautiful,--than like anything else; only that they were a
thousand and a million times as big. And, with all this, there was
something partly human about them, too. Luckily for Perseus, their faces
were completely hidden from him by the posture in which they lay; for,
had he but looked one instant at them, he would have fallen heavily out
of the air, an image of senseless stone.

"Now," whispered Quicksilver, as he hovered by the side of
Perseus,--"now is your time to do the deed! Be quick; or, if one of the
Gorgons should awake, you are too late!"

"Which shall I strike at?" asked Perseus, drawing his sword and
descending a little lower. "They all three look alike. All three have
snaky locks. Which of the three is Medusa?"

It must be understood that Medusa was the only one of these
dragon-monsters whose head Perseus could possibly cut off. As for the
other two, let him have the sharpest sword that ever was forged, and he
might have hacked away by the hour together, without doing them the
least harm.

"Be cautious," said the calm voice which had before spoken to him. "One
of the Gorgons is stirring in her sleep, and is just about to turn over.
That is Medusa. Do not look at her! The sight would turn you to stone!
Look at the reflection of her face and figure in the bright mirror of
your shield."

Perseus now understood Quicksilver's motive for so earnestly exhorting
him to polish his shield. In its surface he could safely look at the
reflection of the Gorgon's face. And there it was,--that terrible
countenance,--mirrored in the brightness of the shield, with the
moonlight falling over it, and displaying all its horror. The snakes,
whose venomous natures could not altogether sleep, kept twisting
themselves over the forehead. It was the fiercest and most horrible face
that ever was seen or imagined, and yet with a strange, fearful, and
savage kind of beauty in it. The eyes were closed, and the Gorgon was
still in a deep slumber; but there was an unquiet expression disturbing
her features, as if the monster was troubled with an ugly dream. She
gnashed her white tusks, and dug into the sand with her brazen claws.

The snakes, too, seemed to feel Medusa's dream, and to be made more
restless by it. They twined themselves into tumultuous knots, writhed
fiercely, and uplifted a hundred hissing heads, without opening their
eyes.

"Now, now!" whispered Quicksilver, who was growing impatient. "Make a
dash at the monster!"

"But be calm," said the grave, melodious voice, at the young man's side.
"Look in your shield, as you fly downward, and take care that you do not
miss your first stroke."

Perseus flew cautiously downward, still keeping his eyes on Medusa's
face, as reflected in his shield. The nearer he came, the more terrible
did the snaky visage and metallic body of the monster grow. At last,
when he found himself hovering over her within arm's length, Perseus
uplifted his sword, while, at the same instant, each separate snake upon
the Gorgon's head stretched threateningly upward, and Medusa unclosed
her eyes. But she awoke too late. The sword was sharp; the stroke fell
like a lightning-flash; and the head of the wicked Medusa tumbled from
her body!

"Admirably done!" cried Quicksilver. "Make haste, and clap the head into
your magic wallet."

To the astonishment of Perseus, the small, embroidered wallet, which he
had hung about his neck, and which had hitherto been no bigger than a
purse, grew all at once large enough to contain Medusa's head. As quick
as thought, he snatched it up, with the snakes still writhing upon it,
and thrust it in.

"Your task is done," said the calm voice. "Now fly; for the other
Gorgons will do their utmost to take vengeance for Medusa's death."

It was, indeed, necessary to take flight; for Perseus had not done the
deed so quietly but that the clash of his sword, and the hissing of the
snakes, and the thump of Medusa's head as it tumbled upon the sea-beaten
sand, awoke the other two monsters. There they sat, for an instant,
sleepily rubbing their eyes with their brazen fingers, while all the
snakes on their heads reared themselves on end with surprise, and with
venomous malice against they knew not what. But when the Gorgons saw
the scaly carcass of Medusa, headless, and her golden wings all
ruffled, and half spread out on the sand, it was really awful to hear
what yells and screeches they set up. And then the snakes! They sent
forth a hundred-fold hiss, with one consent, and Medusa's snakes
answered them out of the magic wallet.

No sooner were the Gorgons broad awake than they hurtled upward into the
air, brandishing their brass talons, gnashing their horrible tusks, and
flapping their huge wings so wildly, that some of the golden feathers
were shaken out, and floated down upon the shore. And there, perhaps,
those very feathers lie scattered, till this day. Up rose the Gorgons,
as I tell you, staring horribly about, in hopes of turning somebody to
stone. Had Perseus looked them in the face, or had he fallen into their
clutches, his poor mother would never have kissed her boy again! But he
took good care to turn his eyes another way; and, as he wore the helmet
of invisibility, the Gorgons knew not in what direction to follow him;
nor did he fail to make the best use of the winged slippers, by soaring
upward a perpendicular mile or so. At that height, when the screams of
those abominable creatures sounded faintly beneath him, he made a
straight course for the island of Seriphus, in order to carry Medusa's
head to King Polydectes.

I have no time to tell you of several marvellous things that befell
Perseus, on his way homeward; such as his killing a hideous sea-monster,
just as it was on the point of devouring a beautiful maiden; nor how he
changed an enormous giant into a mountain of stone, merely by showing
him the head of the Gorgon. If you doubt this latter story, you may make
a voyage to Africa, some day or other, and see the very mountain, which
is still known by the ancient giant's name.

Finally, our brave Perseus arrived at the island, where he expected to
see his dear mother. But, during his absence, the wicked king had
treated Danaë so very ill that she was compelled to make her escape,
and had taken refuge in a temple, where some good old priests were
extremely kind to her. These praise-worthy priests, and the kind-hearted
fisherman, who had first shown hospitality to Danaë and little Perseus
when he found them afloat in the chest, seem to have been the only
persons on the island who cared about doing right. All the rest of the
people, as well as King Polydectes himself, were remarkably ill-behaved,
and deserved no better destiny than that which was now to happen.

Not finding his mother at home, Perseus went straight to the palace, and
was immediately ushered into the presence of the king. Polydectes was by
no means rejoiced to see him; for he had felt almost certain, in his own
evil mind, that the Gorgons would have torn the poor young man to
pieces, and have eaten him up, out of the way. However, seeing him
safely returned, he put the best face he could upon the matter and asked
Perseus how he had succeeded.

"Have you performed your promise?" inquired he. "Have you brought me the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks? If not, young man, it will cost you
dear; for I must have a bridal present for the beautiful Princess
Hippodamia, and there is nothing else that she would admire so much."

"Yes, please your Majesty," answered Perseus, in a quiet way, as if it
were no very wonderful deed for such a young man as he to perform. "I
have brought you the Gorgon's head, snaky locks and all!"

"Indeed! Pray let me see it," quoth King Polydectes. "It must be a very
curious spectacle, if all that travellers tell about it be true!"

"Your Majesty is in the right," replied Perseus. "It is really an object
that will be pretty certain to fix the regards of all who look at it.
And, if your Majesty think fit, I would suggest that a holiday be
proclaimed, and that all your Majesty's subjects be summoned to behold
this wonderful curiosity. Few of them, I imagine, have seen a Gorgon's
head before, and perhaps never may again!"

The king well knew that his subjects were an idle set of reprobates, and
very fond of sight-seeing, as idle persons usually are. So he took the
young man's advice, and sent out heralds and messengers, in all
directions, to blow the trumpet at the street-corners, and in the
market-places, and wherever two roads met, and summon everybody to
court. Thither, accordingly, came a great multitude of good-for-nothing
vagabonds, all of whom, out of pure love of mischief, would have been
glad if Perseus had met with some ill-hap in his encounter with the
Gorgons. If there were any better people in the island (as I really hope
there may have been, although the story tells nothing about any such),
they stayed quietly at home, minding their business, and taking care of
their little children. Most of the inhabitants, at all events, ran as
fast as they could to the palace, and shoved, and pushed, and elbowed
one another, in their eagerness to get near a balcony, on which Perseus
showed himself, holding the embroidered wallet in his hand.

On a platform, within full view of the balcony, sat the mighty King
Polydectes, amid his evil counsellors, and with his flattering courtiers
in a semicircle round about him. Monarch, counsellors, courtiers, and
subjects, all gazed eagerly towards Perseus.

"Show us the head! Show us the head!" shouted the people; and there was
a fierceness in their cry as if they would tear Perseus to pieces,
unless he should satisfy them with what he had to show. "Show us the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks!"

A feeling of sorrow and pity came over the youthful Perseus.

"O King Polydectes," cried he, "and ye many people, I am very loath to
show you the Gorgon's head!"

"Ah, the villain and coward!" yelled the people, more fiercely than
before. "He is making game of us! He has no Gorgon's head! Show us the
head, if you have it, or we will take your own head for a football!"

The evil counsellors whispered bad advice in the king's ear; the
courtiers murmured, with one consent, that Perseus had shown disrespect
to their royal lord and master; and the great King Polydectes himself
waved his hand, and ordered him, with the stern, deep voice of
authority, on his peril, to produce the head.

"Show me the Gorgon's head, or I will cut off your own!"

And Perseus sighed.

"This instant," repeated Polydectes, "or you die!"

"Behold it, then!" cried Perseus, in a voice like the blast of a
trumpet.

And, suddenly holding up the head, not an eyelid had time to wink before
the wicked King Polydectes, his evil counsellors, and all his fierce
subjects were no longer anything but the mere images of a monarch and
his people. They were all fixed, forever, in the look and attitude of
that moment! At the first glimpse of the terrible head of Medusa, they
whitened into marble! And Perseus thrust the head back into his wallet,
and went to tell his dear mother that she need no longer be afraid of
the wicked King Polydectes.


Tanglewood Porch

_After the Story_

"Was not that a very fine story?" asked Eustace.

"Oh yes, yes!" cried Cowslip, clapping her hands.

"And those funny old women, with only one eye amongst them! I never
heard of anything so strange."

"As to their one tooth, which they shifted about," observed Primrose,
"there was nothing so very wonderful in that. I suppose it was a false
tooth. But think of your turning Mercury into Quicksilver, and talking
about his sister! You are too ridiculous!"

"And was she not his sister?" asked Eustace Bright. "If I had thought of
it sooner, I would have described her as a maiden lady, who kept a pet
owl!"

"Well, at any rate," said Primrose, "your story seems to have driven
away the mist."

And, indeed, while the tale was going forward, the vapors had been quite
exhaled from the landscape. A scene was now disclosed which the
spectators might almost fancy as having been created since they had last
looked in the direction where it lay. About half a mile distant, in the
lap of the valley, now appeared a beautiful lake, which reflected a
perfect image of its own wooded banks, and of the summits of the more
distant hills. It gleamed in glassy tranquillity, without the trace of a
winged breeze on any part of its bosom. Beyond its farther shore was
Monument Mountain, in a recumbent position, stretching almost across the
valley. Eustace Bright compared it to a huge, headless sphinx, wrapped
in a Persian shawl; and, indeed, so rich and diversified was the
autumnal foliage of its woods, that the simile of the shawl was by no
means too high-colored for the reality. In the lower ground, between
Tanglewood and the lake, the clumps of trees and borders of woodland
were chiefly golden-leaved or dusky brown, as having suffered more from
frost than the foliage on the hill-sides.

Over all this scene there was a genial sunshine, intermingled with a
slight haze, which made it unspeakably soft and tender. Oh, what a day
of Indian summer was it going to be! The children snatched their
baskets, and set forth, with hop, skip, and jump, and all sorts of
frisks and gambols; while Cousin Eustace proved his fitness to preside
over the party, by outdoing all their antics, and performing several new
capers, which none of them could ever hope to imitate. Behind went a
good old dog, whose name was Ben. He was one of the most respectable and
kind-hearted of quadrupeds, and probably felt it to be his duty not to
trust the children away from their parents without some better guardian
than this feather-brained Eustace Bright.



THE GOLDEN TOUCH


Shadow Brook

_Introductory to "The Golden Touch"_

At noon, our juvenile party assembled in a dell, through the depths of
which ran a little brook. The dell was narrow, and its steep sides, from
the margin of the stream upward, were thickly set with trees, chiefly
walnuts and chestnuts, among which grew a few oaks and maples. In the
summer time, the shade of so many clustering branches, meeting and
intermingling across the rivulet, was deep enough to produce a noontide
twilight. Hence came the name of Shadow Brook. But now, ever since
autumn had crept into this secluded place, all the dark verdure was
changed to gold, so that it really kindled up the dell, instead of
shading it. The bright yellow leaves, even had it been a cloudy day,
would have seemed to keep the sunlight among them; and enough of them
had fallen to strew all the bed and margin of the brook with sunlight,
too. Thus the shady nook, where summer had cooled herself, was now the
sunniest spot anywhere to be found.

The little brook ran along over its pathway of gold, here pausing to
form a pool, in which minnows were darting to and fro; and then it
hurried onward at a swifter pace, as if in haste to reach the lake; and,
forgetting to look whither it went, it tumbled over the root of a tree,
which stretched quite across its current. You would have laughed to hear
how noisily it babbled about this accident. And even after it had run
onward, the brook still kept talking to itself, as if it were in a
maze. It was wonder-smitten, I suppose, at finding its dark dell so
illuminated, and at hearing the prattle and merriment of so many
children. So it stole away as quickly as it could, and hid itself in the
lake.

In the dell of Shadow Brook, Eustace Bright and his little friends had
eaten their dinner. They had brought plenty of good things from
Tanglewood, in their baskets, and had spread them out on the stumps of
trees, and on mossy trunks, and had feasted merrily, and made a very
nice dinner indeed. After it was over, nobody felt like stirring.

"We will rest ourselves here," said several of the children, "while
Cousin Eustace tells us another of his pretty stories."

Cousin Eustace had a good right to be tired, as well as the children,
for he had performed great feats on that memorable forenoon. Dandelion,
Clover, Cowslip, and Buttercup were almost most persuaded that he had
winged slippers, like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus; so often had
the student shown himself at the tip-top of a nut-tree, when only a
moment before he had been standing on the ground. And then, what showers
of walnuts had he sent rattling down upon their heads, for their busy
little hands to gather into the baskets! In short, he had been as active
as a squirrel or a monkey, and now, flinging himself down on the yellow
leaves, seemed inclined to take a little rest.

But children have no mercy nor consideration for anybody's weariness;
and if you had but a single breath left, they would ask you to spend it
in telling them a story.

"Cousin Eustace," said Cowslip, "that was a very nice story of the
Gorgon's Head. Do you think you could tell us another as good?"

"Yes, child," said Eustace, pulling the brim of his cap over his eyes,
as if preparing for a nap. "I can tell you a dozen, as good or better,
if I choose."

"O Primrose and Periwinkle, do you hear what he says?" cried Cowslip,
dancing with delight. "Cousin Eustace is going to tell us a dozen better
stories than that about the Gorgon's Head!"

"I did not promise you even one, you foolish little Cowslip!" said
Eustace, half pettishly. "However, I suppose you must have it. This is
the consequence of having earned a reputation! I wish I were a great
deal duller than I am, or that I had never shown half the bright
qualities with which nature has endowed me; and then I might have my nap
out, in peace and comfort!"

But Cousin Eustace, as I think I have hinted before, was as fond of
telling his stories as the children of hearing them. His mind was in a
free and happy state, and took delight in its own activity, and scarcely
required any external impulse to set it at work.

How different is this spontaneous play of the intellect from the trained
diligence of maturer years, when toil has perhaps grown easy by long
habit, and the day's work may have become essential to the day's
comfort, although the rest of the matter has bubbled away! This remark,
however, is not meant for the children to hear.

Without further solicitation, Eustace Bright proceeded to tell the
following really splendid story. It had come into his mind as he lay
looking upward into the depths of a tree, and observing how the touch of
Autumn had transmuted every one of its green leaves into what resembled
the purest gold. And this change, which we have all of us witnessed, is
as wonderful as anything that Eustace told about in the story of Midas.


The Golden Touch

Once upon a time, there lived a very rich man, and a king besides, whose
name was Midas; and he had a little daughter, whom nobody but myself
ever heard of, and whose name I either never knew, or have entirely
forgotten. So, because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to
call her Marygold.

This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything else in the world.
He valued his royal crown chiefly because it was composed of that
precious metal. If he loved anything better, or half so well, it was the
one little maiden who played so merrily around her father's footstool.
But the more Midas loved his daughter, the more did he desire and seek
for wealth. He thought, foolish man! that the best thing he could
possibly do for this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest
pile of yellow, glistening coin, that had ever been heaped together
since the world was made. Thus, he gave all his thoughts and all his
time to this one purpose. If ever he happened to gaze for an instant at
the gold-tinted clouds of sunset, he wished that they were real gold,
and that they could be squeezed safely into his strong box. When little
Marygold ran to meet him, with a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, he
used to say, "Poh, poh, child! If these flowers were as golden as they
look, they would be worth the plucking!"

And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so entirely possessed of
this insane desire for riches, King Midas had shown a great taste for
flowers. He had planted a garden, in which grew the biggest and
beautifullest and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw or smelt.
These roses were still growing in the garden, as large, as lovely, and
as fragrant, as when Midas used to pass whole hours in gazing at them,
and inhaling their perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all, it was
only to calculate how much the garden would be worth if each of the
innumerable rose-petals were a thin plate of gold. And though he once
was fond of music (in spite of an idle story about his ears, which were
said to resemble those of an ass), the only music for poor Midas, now,
was the chink of one coin against another.

At length, as people always grow more and more foolish, unless they take
care to grow wiser and wiser, Midas had got to be so exceedingly
unreasonable, that he could scarcely bear to see or touch any object
that was not gold. He made it his custom, therefore, to pass a large
portion of every day in a dark and dreary apartment, under ground, at
the basement of his palace. It was here that he kept his wealth. To this
dismal hole--for it was little better than a dungeon--Midas betook
himself, whenever he wanted to be particularly happy. Here, after
carefully locking the door, he would take a bag of gold coin, or a gold
cup as big as a washbowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck-measure of
gold-dust, and bring them from the obscure corners of the room into the
one bright and narrow sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like window. He
valued the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure would not
shine without its help. And then would he reckon over the coins in the
bag; toss up the bar, and catch it as it came down; sift the gold-dust
through his fingers; look at the funny image of his own face, as
reflected in the burnished circumference of the cup; and whisper to
himself, "O Midas, rich King Midas, what a happy man art thou!" But it
was laughable to see how the image of his face kept grinning at him, out
of the polished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware of his
foolish behavior, and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of him.

Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he was not yet quite so
happy as he might be. The very tip-top of enjoyment would never be
reached, unless the whole world were to become his treasure-room, and be
filled with yellow metal which should be all his own.

Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as you are, that in
the old, old times, when King Midas was alive, a great many things came
to pass, which we should consider wonderful if they were to happen in
our own day and country. And, on the other hand, a great many things
take place nowadays, which seem not only wonderful to us, but at which
the people of old times would have stared their eyes out. On the whole,
I regard our own times as the strangest of the two; but, however that
may be, I must go on with my story.

Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure-room, one day, as usual, when
he perceived a shadow fall over the heaps of gold; and, looking suddenly
up, what should he behold but the figure of a stranger, standing in the
bright and narrow sunbeam! It was a young man, with a cheerful and ruddy
face. Whether it was that the imagination of King Midas threw a yellow
tinge over everything, or whatever the cause might be, he could not help
fancying that the smile with which the stranger regarded him had a kind
of golden radiance in it. Certainly, although his figure intercepted the
sunshine, there was now a brighter gleam upon all the piled-up treasures
than before. Even the remotest corners had their share of it, and were
lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with tips of flame and sparkles
of fire.

As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key in the lock, and that
no mortal strength could possibly break into his treasure-room, he, of
course, concluded that his visitor must be something more than mortal.
It is no matter about telling you who he was. In those days, when the
earth was comparatively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the
resort of beings endowed with supernatural power, and who used to
interest themselves in the joys and sorrows of men, women, and children,
half playfully and half seriously. Midas had met such beings before now,
and was not sorry to meet one of them again. The stranger's aspect,
indeed, was so good-humored and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would
have been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief. It was
far more probable that he came to do Midas a favor. And what could that
favor be, unless to multiply his heaps of treasure?

The stranger gazed about the room; and when his lustrous smile had
glistened upon all the golden objects that were there, he turned again
to Midas.

"You are a wealthy man, friend Midas!" he observed. "I doubt whether any
other four walls, on earth, contain so much gold as you have contrived
to pile up in this room."

"I have done pretty well,--pretty well," answered Midas, in a
discontented tone. "But, after all, it is but a trifle, when you
consider that it has taken me my whole life to get it together. If one
could live a thousand years, he might have time to grow rich!"

"What!" exclaimed the stranger. "Then you are not satisfied?"

Midas shook his head.

"And pray what would satisfy you?" asked the stranger. "Merely for the
curiosity of the thing, I should be glad to know."

Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment that this stranger,
with such a golden lustre in his good-humored smile, had come hither
with both the power and the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes.
Now, therefore, was the fortunate moment, when he had but to speak, and
obtain whatever possible, or seemingly impossible, thing it might come
into his head to ask. So he thought, and thought, and thought, and
heaped up one golden mountain upon another, in his imagination, without
being able to imagine them big enough. At last, a bright idea occurred
to King Midas. It seemed really as bright as the glistening metal which
he loved so much.

Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in the face.

"Well, Midas," observed his visitor, "I see that you have at length hit
upon something that will satisfy you. Tell me your wish."

"It is only this," replied Midas. "I am weary of collecting my treasures
with so much trouble, and beholding the heap so diminutive, after I have
done my best. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to gold!"

The stranger's smile grew so very broad, that it seemed to fill the room
like an outburst of the sun, gleaming into a shadowy dell, where the
yellow autumnal leaves--for so looked the lumps and particles of
gold--lie strewn in the glow of light.

"The Golden Touch!" exclaimed he. "You certainly deserve credit, friend
Midas, for striking out so brilliant a conception. But are you quite
sure that this will satisfy you?"

"How could it fail?" said Midas.

"And will you never regret the possession of it?"

"What could induce me?" asked Midas. "I ask nothing else, to render me
perfectly happy."

"Be it as you wish, then," replied the stranger, waving his hand in
token of farewell. "To-morrow, at sunrise, you will find yourself gifted
with the Golden Touch."

The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly bright, and Midas
involuntarily closed his eyes. On opening them again, he beheld only one
yellow sunbeam in the room, and, all around him, the glistening of the
precious metal which he had spent his life in hoarding up.

Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story does not say. Asleep
or awake, however, his mind was probably in the state of a child's, to
whom a beautiful new plaything has been promised in the morning. At any
rate, day had hardly peeped over the hills, when King Midas was broad
awake, and, stretching his arms out of bed, began to touch the objects
that were within reach. He was anxious to prove whether the Golden Touch
had really come, according to the stranger's promise. So he laid his
finger on a chair by the bedside, and on various other things, but was
grievously disappointed to perceive that they remained of exactly the
same substance as before. Indeed, he felt very much afraid that he had
only dreamed about the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter had
been making game of him. And what a miserable affair would it be, if,
after all his hopes, Midas must content himself with what little gold he
could scrape together by ordinary means, instead of creating it by a
touch!

All this while, it was only the gray of the morning, with but a streak
of brightness along the edge of the sky, where Midas could not see it.
He lay in a very disconsolate mood, regretting the downfall of his
hopes, and kept growing sadder and sadder, until the earliest sunbeam
shone through the window, and gilded the ceiling over his head. It
seemed to Midas that this bright yellow sunbeam was reflected in rather
a singular way on the white covering of the bed. Looking more closely,
what was his astonishment and delight, when he found that this linen
fabric had been transmuted to what seemed a woven texture of the purest
and brightest gold! The Golden Touch had come to him with the first
sunbeam!

Midas started up, in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran about the room,
grasping at everything that happened to be in his way. He seized one of
the bed-posts, and it became immediately a fluted golden pillar. He
pulled aside a window-curtain, in order to admit a clear spectacle of
the wonders which he was performing; and the tassel grew heavy in his
hand,--a mass of gold. He took up a book from the table. At his first
touch, it assumed the appearance of such a splendidly bound and
gilt-edged volume as one often meets with, nowadays; but, on running his
fingers through the leaves, behold! it was a bundle of thin golden
plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had grown illegible. He
hurriedly put on his clothes, and was enraptured to see himself in a
magnificent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flexibility and
softness, although it burdened him a little with its weight. He drew out
his handkerchief, which little Marygold had hemmed for him. That was
likewise gold, with the dear child's neat and pretty stitches running
all along the border, in gold thread!

Somehow or other, this last transformation did not quite please King
Midas. He would rather that his little daughter's handiwork should have
remained just the same as when she climbed his knee and put it into his
hand.

But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle. Midas now took
his spectacles from his pocket, and put them on his nose, in order that
he might see more distinctly what he was about. In those days,
spectacles for common people had not been invented, but were already
worn by kings; else, how could Midas have had any? To his great
perplexity, however, excellent as the glasses were, he discovered that
he could not possibly see through them. But this was the most natural
thing in the world; for, on taking them off, the transparent crystals
turned out to be plates of yellow metal, and, of course, were worthless
as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It struck Midas as rather
inconvenient that, with all his wealth, he could never again be rich
enough to own a pair of serviceable spectacles.

"It is no great matter, nevertheless," said he to himself, very
philosophically. "We cannot expect any great good, without its being
accompanied with some small inconvenience. The Golden Touch is worth the
sacrifice of a pair of spectacles, at least, if not of one's very
eyesight. My own eyes will serve for ordinary purposes, and little
Marygold will soon be old enough to read to me."

Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune, that the palace
seemed not sufficiently spacious to contain him. He therefore went down
stairs, and smiled, on observing that the balustrade of the staircase
became a bar of burnished gold, as his hand passed over it, in his
descent. He lifted the door-latch (it was brass only a moment ago, but
golden when his fingers quitted it), and emerged into the garden. Here,
as it happened, he found a great number of beautiful roses in full
bloom, and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. Very
delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze. Their delicate
blush was one of the fairest sights in the world; so gentle, so modest,
and so full of sweet tranquillity, did these roses seem to be.

But Midas knew a way to make them far more precious, according to his
way of thinking, than roses had ever been before. So he took great pains
in going from bush to bush, and exercised his magic touch most
indefatigably; until every individual flower and bud, and even the worms
at the heart of some of them, were changed to gold. By the time this
good work was completed, King Midas was summoned to breakfast; and as
the morning air had given him an excellent appetite, he made haste back
to the palace.

What was usually a king's breakfast in the days of Midas, I really do
not know, and cannot stop now to investigate. To the best of my belief,
however, on this particular morning, the breakfast consisted of hot
cakes, some nice little brook trout, roasted potatoes, fresh boiled
eggs, and coffee, for King Midas himself, and a bowl of bread and milk
for his daughter Marygold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set
before a king; and, whether he had it or not, King Midas could not have
had a better.

Little Marygold had not yet made her appearance. Her father ordered her
to be called, and, seating himself at table, awaited the child's coming,
in order to begin his own breakfast. To do Midas justice, he really
loved his daughter, and loved her so much the more this morning, on
account of the good fortune which had befallen him. It was not a great
while before he heard her coming along the passageway crying bitterly.
This circumstance surprised him, because Marygold was one of the
cheerfullest little people whom you would see in a summer's day, and
hardly shed a thimbleful of tears in a twelvemonth. When Midas heard her
sobs, he determined to put little Marygold into better spirits, by an
agreeable surprise; so, leaning across the table, he touched his
daughter's bowl (which was a China one, with pretty figures all around
it), and transmuted it to gleaming gold.

Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened the door, and
showed herself with her apron at her eyes, still sobbing as if her heart
would break.

"How now, my little lady!" cried Midas. "Pray what is the matter with
you, this bright morning?"

Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes, held out her hand, in
which was one of the roses which Midas had so recently transmuted.

"Beautiful!" exclaimed her father. "And what is there in this
magnificent golden rose to make you cry?"

"Ah, dear father!" answered the child, as well as her sobs would let
her; "it is not beautiful, but the ugliest flower that ever grew! As
soon as I was dressed I ran into the garden to gather some roses for
you; because I know you like them, and like them the better when
gathered by your little daughter. But, oh dear, dear me! What do you
think has happened? Such a misfortune! All the beautiful roses, that
smelled so sweetly and had so many lovely blushes, are blighted and
spoilt! They are grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no
longer any fragrance! What can have been the matter with them?"

"Poh, my dear little girl,--pray don't cry about it!" said Midas, who
was ashamed to confess that he himself had wrought the change which so
greatly afflicted her. "Sit down and eat your bread and milk! You will
find it easy enough to exchange a golden rose like that (which will last
hundreds of years) for an ordinary one which would wither in a day."

"I don't care for such roses as this!" cried Marygold, tossing it
contemptuously away. "It has no smell, and the hard petals prick my
nose!"

The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied with her grief for
the blighted roses that she did not even notice the wonderful
transmutation of her China bowl. Perhaps this was all the better; for
Marygold was accustomed to take pleasure in looking at the queer
figures, and strange trees and houses, that were painted on the
circumference of the bowl; and these ornaments were now entirely lost in
the yellow hue of the metal.

Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee, and, as a matter of
course, the coffee-pot, whatever metal it may have been when he took it
up, was gold when he set it down. He thought to himself, that it was
rather an extravagant style of splendor, in a king of his simple habits,
to breakfast off a service of gold, and began to be puzzled with the
difficulty of keeping his treasures safe. The cupboard and the kitchen
would no longer be a secure place of deposit for articles so valuable as
golden bowls and coffee-pots.

Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee to his lips, and,
sipping it, was astonished to perceive that, the instant his lips
touched the liquid, it became molten gold, and, the next moment,
hardened into a lump!

"Ha!" exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.

"What is the matter, father?" asked little Marygold, gazing at him, with
the tears still standing in her eyes.

"Nothing, child, nothing!" said Midas. "Eat your milk, before it gets
quite cold."

He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and, by way of
experiment, touched its tail with his finger. To his horror, it was
immediately transmuted from an admirably fried brook-trout into a
gold-fish, though not one of those gold-fishes which people often keep
in glass globes, as ornaments for the parlor. No; but it was really a
metallic fish, and looked as if it had been very cunningly made by the
nicest goldsmith in the world. Its little bones were now golden wires;
its fins and tail were thin plates of gold; and there were the marks of
the fork in it, and all the delicate, frothy appearance of a nicely
fried fish, exactly imitated in metal. A very pretty piece of work, as
you may suppose; only King Midas, just at that moment, would much rather
have had a real trout in his dish than this elaborate and valuable
imitation of one.

"I don't quite see," thought he to himself, "how I am to get any
breakfast!"

He took one of the smoking-hot cakes, and had scarcely broken it, when,
to his cruel mortification, though, a moment before, it had been of the
whitest wheat, it assumed the yellow hue of Indian meal. To say the
truth, if it had really been a hot Indian cake, Midas would have prized
it a good deal more than he now did, when its solidity and increased
weight made him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in
despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg, which immediately underwent
a change similar to those of the trout and the cake. The egg, indeed,
might have been mistaken for one of those which the famous goose, in
the story-book, was in the habit of laying; but King Midas was the only
goose that had had anything to do with the matter.

"Well, this is a quandary!" thought he, leaning back in his chair, and
looking quite enviously at little Marygold, who was now eating her bread
and milk with great satisfaction. "Such a costly breakfast before me,
and nothing that can be eaten!"

Hoping that, by dint of great dispatch, he might avoid what he now felt
to be a considerable inconvenience, King Midas next snatched a hot
potato, and attempted to cram it into his mouth, and swallow it in a
hurry. But the Golden Touch was too nimble for him. He found his mouth
full, not of mealy potato, but of solid metal, which so burnt his tongue
that he roared aloud, and, jumping up from the table, began to dance and
stamp about the room, both with pain and affright.

"Father, dear father!" cried little Marygold, who was a very
affectionate child, "pray what is the matter? Have you burnt your
mouth?"

"Ah, dear child," groaned Midas, dolefully, "I don't know what is to
become of your poor father!"

And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of such a pitiable
case in all your lives? Here was literally the richest breakfast that
could be set before a king, and its very richness made it absolutely
good for nothing. The poorest laborer, sitting down to his crust of
bread and cup of water, was far better off than King Midas, whose
delicate food was really worth its weight in gold. And what was to be
done? Already, at breakfast, Midas was excessively hungry. Would he be
less so by dinner-time? And how ravenous would be his appetite for
supper, which must undoubtedly consist of the same sort of indigestible
dishes as those now before him! How many days, think you, would he
survive a continuance of this rich fare?

These reflections so troubled wise King Midas, that he began to doubt
whether, after all, riches are the one desirable thing in the world, or
even the most desirable. But this was only a passing thought. So
fascinated was Midas with the glitter of the yellow metal, that he would
still have refused to give up the Golden Touch for so paltry a
consideration as a breakfast. Just imagine what a price for one meal's
victuals! It would have been the same as paying millions and millions of
money (and as many millions more as would take forever to reckon up) for
some fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a cup of coffee!

"It would be quite too dear," thought Midas.

Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the perplexity of his
situation, that he again groaned aloud, and very grievously too. Our
pretty Marygold could endure it no longer. She sat, a moment, gazing at
her father, and trying, with all the might of her little wits, to find
out what was the matter with him. Then, with a sweet and sorrowful
impulse to comfort him, she started from her chair, and, running to
Midas, threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He bent down and
kissed her. He felt that his little daughter's love was worth a thousand
times more than he had gained by the Golden Touch.

"My precious, precious Marygold!" cried he.

But Marygold made no answer.

Alas, what had he done? How fatal was the gift which the stranger
bestowed! The moment the lips of Midas touched Marygold's forehead, a
change had taken place. Her sweet, rosy face, so full of affection as it
had been, assumed a glittering yellow color, with yellow tear-drops
congealing on her cheeks. Her beautiful brown ringlets took the same
tint. Her soft and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within
her father's encircling arms. Oh, terrible misfortune! The victim of his
insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was a human child no
longer, but a golden statue!

Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, and pity,
hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and most woful sight that
ever mortal saw. All the features and tokens of Marygold were there;
even the beloved little dimple remained in her golden chin. But, the
more perfect was the resemblance, the greater was the father's agony at
beholding this golden image, which was all that was left him of a
daughter. It had been a favorite phrase of Midas, whenever he felt
particularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth her weight in
gold. And now the phrase had become literally true. And now, at last,
when it was too late, he felt how infinitely a warm and tender heart,
that loved him, exceeded in value all the wealth that could be piled up
betwixt the earth and sky!

It would be too sad a story, if I were to tell you how Midas, in the
fulness of all his gratified desires, began to wring his hands and
bemoan himself; and how he could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor
yet to look away from her. Except when his eyes were fixed on the image,
he could not possibly believe that she was changed to gold. But,
stealing another glance, there was the precious little figure, with a
yellow tear-drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so piteous and tender,
that it seemed as if that very expression must needs soften the gold,
and make it flesh again. This, however, could not be. So Midas had only
to wring his hands, and to wish that he were the poorest man in the wide
world, if the loss of all his wealth might bring back the faintest
rose-color to his dear child's face.

While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly beheld a stranger
standing near the door. Midas bent down his head, without speaking; for
he recognized the same figure which had appeared to him, the day before,
in the treasure-room, and had bestowed on him this disastrous faculty of
the Golden Touch. The stranger's countenance still wore a smile, which
seemed to shed a yellow lustre all about the room, and gleamed on
little Marygold's image, and on the other objects that had been
transmuted by the touch of Midas.

"Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, "pray how do you succeed with
the Golden Touch?"

Midas shook his head.

"I am very miserable," said he.

"Very miserable, indeed!" exclaimed the stranger. "And how happens that?
Have I not faithfully kept my promise with you? Have you not everything
that your heart desired?"

"Gold is not everything," answered Midas. "And I have lost all that my
heart really cared for."

"Ah! So you have made a discovery, since yesterday?" observed the
stranger. "Let us see, then. Which of these two things do you think is
really worth the most,--the gift of the Golden Touch, or one cup of
clear cold water?"

"O blessed water!" exclaimed Midas. "It will never moisten my parched
throat again!"

"The Golden Touch," continued the stranger, "or a crust of bread?"

"A piece of bread," answered Midas, "is worth all the gold on earth!"

"The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, "or your own little Marygold,
warm, soft, and loving as she was an hour ago?"

"Oh my child, my dear child!" cried poor Midas, wringing his hands. "I
would not have given that one small dimple in her chin for the power of
changing this whole big earth into a solid lump of gold!"

"You are wiser than you were, King Midas!" said the stranger, looking
seriously at him. "Your own heart, I perceive, has not been entirely
changed from flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would indeed be
desperate. But you appear to be still capable of understanding that the
commonest things, such as lie within everybody's grasp, are more
valuable than the riches which so many mortals sigh and struggle after.
Tell me, now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this Golden
Touch?"

"It is hateful to me!" replied Midas.

A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the floor; for it,
too, had become gold. Midas shuddered.

"Go, then," said the stranger, "and plunge into the river that glides
past the bottom of your garden. Take likewise a vase of the same water,
and sprinkle it over any object that you may desire to change back again
from gold into its former substance. If you do this in earnestness and
sincerity, it may possibly repair the mischief which your avarice has
occasioned."

King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his head, the lustrous stranger
had vanished.

You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in snatching up a great
earthen pitcher (but, alas me! it was no longer earthen after he touched
it), and hastening to the river-side. As he scampered along, and forced
his way through the shrubbery, it was positively marvellous to see how
the foliage turned yellow behind him, as if the autumn had been there,
and nowhere else. On reaching the river's brink, he plunged headlong in,
without waiting so much as to pull off his shoes.

"Poof! poof! poof!" snorted King Midas, as his head emerged out of the
water. "Well; this is really a refreshing bath, and I think it must have
quite washed away the Golden Touch. And now for filling my pitcher!"

As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it gladdened his very heart to
see it change from gold into the same good, honest earthen vessel which
it had been before he touched it. He was conscious, also, of a change
within himself. A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have gone out
of his bosom. No doubt, his heart had been gradually losing its human
substance, and transmuting itself into insensible metal, but had now
softened back again into flesh. Perceiving a violet, that grew on the
bank of the river, Midas touched it with his finger, and was overjoyed
to find that the delicate flower retained its purple hue, instead of
undergoing a yellow blight. The curse of the Golden Touch had,
therefore, really been removed from him.

King Midas hastened back to the palace; and, I suppose, the servants
knew not what to make of it when they saw their royal master so
carefully bringing home an earthen pitcher of water. But that water,
which was to undo all the mischief that his folly had wrought, was more
precious to Midas than an ocean of molten gold could have been. The
first thing he did, as you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by
handfuls over the golden figure of little Marygold.

No sooner did it fall on her than you would have laughed to see how the
rosy color came back to the dear child's cheek! and how she began to
sneeze and sputter!--and how astonished she was to find herself dripping
wet, and her father still throwing more water over her!

"Pray do not, dear father!" cried she. "See how you have wet my nice
frock, which I put on only this morning!"

For Marygold did not know that she had been a little golden statue; nor
could she remember anything that had happened since the moment when she
ran with outstretched arms to comfort poor King Midas.

Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved child how very
foolish he had been, but contented himself with showing how much wiser
he had now grown. For this purpose, he led little Marygold into the
garden, where he sprinkled all the remainder of the water over the
rose-bushes, and with such good effect that above five thousand roses
recovered their beautiful bloom. There were two circumstances, however,
which, as long as he lived, used to put King Midas in mind of the Golden
Touch. One was, that the sands of the river sparkled like gold; the
other, that little Marygold's hair had now a golden tinge, which he had
never observed in it before she had been transmuted by the effect of his
kiss. This change of hue was really an improvement, and made Marygold's
hair richer than in her babyhood.

When King Midas had grown quite an old man, and used to trot Marygold's
children on his knee, he was fond of telling them this marvellous story,
pretty much as I have now told it to you. And then would he stroke their
glossy ringlets, and tell them that their hair, likewise, had a rich
shade of gold, which they had inherited from their mother.

"And to tell you the truth, my precious little folks," quoth King Midas,
diligently trotting the children all the while, "ever since that
morning, I have hated the very sight of all other gold, save this!"


Shadow Brook

_After the Story_

"Well, children," inquired Eustace, who was very fond of eliciting a
definite opinion from his auditors, "did you ever, in all your lives,
listen to a better story than this of 'The Golden Touch'?"

"Why, as to the story of King Midas," said saucy Primrose, "it was a
famous one thousands of years before Mr. Eustace Bright came into the
world, and will continue to be so as long after he quits it. But some
people have what we may call 'The Leaden Touch,' and make everything
dull and heavy that they lay their fingers upon."

"You are a smart child, Primrose, to be not yet in your teens," said
Eustace, taken rather aback by the piquancy of her criticism. "But you
well know, in your naughty little heart, that I have burnished the old
gold of Midas all over anew, and have made it shine as it never shone
before. And then that figure of Marygold! Do you perceive no nice
workmanship in that? And how finely I have brought out and deepened the
moral! What say you, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Clover, Periwinkle? Would
any of you, after hearing this story, be so foolish as to desire the
faculty of changing things to gold?"

"I should like," said Periwinkle, a girl of ten, "to have the power of
turning everything to gold with my right forefinger; but, with my left
forefinger, I should want the power of changing it back again, if the
first change did not please me. And I know what I would do, this very
afternoon!"

"Pray tell me," said Eustace.

"Why," answered Periwinkle, "I would touch every one of these golden
leaves on the trees with my left forefinger, and make them all green
again; so that we might have the summer back at once, with no ugly
winter in the mean time."

"O Periwinkle!" cried Eustace Bright, "there you are wrong, and would do
a great deal of mischief. Were I Midas, I would make nothing else but
just such golden days as these over and over again, all the year
throughout. My best thoughts always come a little too late. Why did not
I tell you how old King Midas came to America, and changed the dusky
autumn, such as it is in other countries, into the burnished beauty
which it here puts on? He gilded the leaves of the great volume of
Nature."

"Cousin Eustace," said Sweet Fern, a good little boy, who was always
making particular inquiries about the precise height of giants and the
littleness of fairies, "how big was Marygold, and how much did she weigh
after she was turned to gold?"

"She was about as tall as you are," replied Eustace, "and, as gold is
very heavy, she weighed at least two thousand pounds, and might have
been coined into thirty or forty thousand gold dollars. I wish Primrose
were worth half as much. Come, little people, let us clamber out of the
dell, and look about us."

They did so. The sun was now an hour or two beyond its noontide mark,
and filled the great hollow of the valley with its western radiance, so
that it seemed to be brimming with mellow light, and to spill it over
the surrounding hill-sides, like golden wine out of a bowl. It was such
a day that you could not help saying of it, "There never was such a day
before!" although yesterday was just such a day, and to-morrow will be
just such another. Ah, but there are very few of them in a twelvemonth's
circle! It is a remarkable peculiarity of these October days, that each
of them seems to occupy a great deal of space, although the sun rises
rather tardily at that season of the year, and goes to bed, as little
children ought, at sober six o'clock, or even earlier. We cannot,
therefore, call the days long; but they appear, somehow or other, to
make up for their shortness by their breadth; and when the cool night
comes, we are conscious of having enjoyed a big armful of life, since
morning.

"Come, children, come!" cried Eustace Bright. "More nuts, more nuts,
more nuts! Fill all your baskets; and, at Christmas time, I will crack
them for you, and tell you beautiful stories!"

So away they went; all of them in excellent spirits, except little
Dandelion, who, I am sorry to tell you, had been sitting on a
chestnut-bur, and was stuck as full as a pincushion of its prickles.
Dear me, how uncomfortably he must have felt!



THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN


Tanglewood Play-Room

_Introductory to "The Paradise of Children"_

The golden days of October passed away, as so many other Octobers have,
and brown November likewise, and the greater part of chill December,
too. At last came merry Christmas, and Eustace Bright along with it,
making it all the merrier by his presence. And, the day after his
arrival from college, there came a mighty snow-storm. Up to this time,
the winter had held back, and had given us a good many mild days, which
were like smiles upon its wrinkled visage. The grass had kept itself
green, in sheltered places, such as the nooks of southern hill-slopes,
and along the lee of the stone fences. It was but a week or two ago, and
since the beginning of the month, that the children had found a
dandelion in bloom, on the margin of Shadow Brook, where it glides out
of the dell.

But no more green grass and dandelions now. This was such a snow-storm!
Twenty miles of it might have been visible at once, between the windows
of Tanglewood and the dome of Taconic, had it been possible to see so
far among the eddying drifts that whitened all the atmosphere. It seemed
as if the hills were giants, and were flinging monstrous handfuls of
snow at one another, in their enormous sport. So thick were the
fluttering snow-flakes, that even the trees, midway down the valley,
were hidden by them the greater part of the time. Sometimes, it is
true, the little prisoners of Tanglewood could discern a dim outline of
Monument Mountain, and the smooth whiteness of the frozen lake at its
base, and the black or gray tracts of woodland in the nearer landscape.
But these were merely peeps through the tempest.

Nevertheless, the children rejoiced greatly in the snow-storm. They had
already made acquaintance with it, by tumbling heels over head into its
highest drifts, and flinging snow at one another, as we have just
fancied the Berkshire mountains to be doing. And now they had come back
to their spacious play-room, which was as big as the great drawing-room,
and was lumbered with all sorts of playthings, large and small. The
biggest was a rocking-horse, that looked like a real pony; and there was
a whole family of wooden, waxen, plaster, and china dolls, besides
rag-babies; and blocks enough to build Bunker Hill Monument, and
nine-pins, and balls, and humming tops, and battledores, and
grace-sticks, and skipping-ropes, and more of such valuable property
than I could tell of in a printed page. But the children liked the
snow-storm better than them all. It suggested so many brisk enjoyments
for to-morrow, and all the remainder of the winter. The sleigh-ride; the
slides down hill into the valley; the snow-images that were to be shaped
out; the snow-fortresses that were to be built; and the snowballing to
be carried on!

So the little folks blessed the snow-storm, and were glad to see it come
thicker and thicker, and watched hopefully the long drift that was
piling itself up in the avenue, and was already higher than any of their
heads.

"Why, we shall be blocked up till spring!" cried they, with the hugest
delight. "What a pity that the house is too high to be quite covered up!
The little red house, down yonder, will be buried up to its eaves."

"You silly children, what do you want of more snow?" asked Eustace,
who, tired of some novel that he was skimming through, had strolled into
the play-room. "It has done mischief enough already, by spoiling the
only skating that I could hope for through the winter. We shall see
nothing more of the lake till April; and this was to have been my first
day upon it! Don't you pity me, Primrose?"

"Oh, to be sure!" answered Primrose, laughing. "But, for your comfort,
we will listen to another of your old stories, such as you told us under
the porch, and down in the hollow, by Shadow Brook. Perhaps I shall like
them better now, when there is nothing to do, than while there were nuts
to be gathered, and beautiful weather to enjoy."

Hereupon, Periwinkle, Clover, Sweet Fern, and as many others of the
little fraternity and cousinhood as were still at Tanglewood, gathered
about Eustace, and earnestly besought him for a story. The student
yawned, stretched himself, and then, to the vast admiration of the small
people, skipped three times back and forth over the top of a chair, in
order, as he explained to them, to set his wits in motion.

"Well, well, children," said he, after these preliminaries, "since you
insist, and Primrose has set her heart upon it, I will see what can be
done for you. And, that you may know what happy days there were before
snow-storms came into fashion, I will tell you a story of the oldest of
all old times, when the world was as new as Sweet Fern's bran-new
humming-top. There was then but one season in the year, and that was the
delightful summer; and but one age for mortals, and that was childhood."

"I never heard of that before," said Primrose.

"Of course, you never did," answered Eustace. "It shall be a story of
what nobody but myself ever dreamed of,--a Paradise of children,--and
how, by the naughtiness of just such a little imp as Primrose here, it
all came to nothing."

So Eustace Bright sat down in the chair which he had just been skipping
over, took Cowslip upon his knee, ordered silence throughout the
auditory, and began a story about a sad naughty child, whose name was
Pandora, and about her playfellow Epimetheus. You may read it, word for
word, in the pages that come next.


The Paradise of Children

Long, long ago, when this old world was in its tender infancy, there was
a child, named Epimetheus, who never had either father or mother; and,
that he might not be lonely, another child, fatherless and motherless
like himself, was sent from a far country, to live with him, and be his
playfellow and helpmate. Her name was Pandora.

The first thing that Pandora saw, when she entered the cottage where
Epimetheus dwelt, was a great box. And almost the first question which
she put to him, after crossing the threshold, was this,--

"Epimetheus, what have you in that box?"

"My dear little Pandora," answered Epimetheus, "that is a secret, and
you must be kind enough not to ask any questions about it. The box was
left here to be kept safely, and I do not myself know what it contains."

"But who gave it to you?" asked Pandora. "And where did it come from?"

"That is a secret, too," replied Epimetheus.

"How provoking!" exclaimed Pandora, pouting her lip. "I wish the great
ugly box were out of the way!"

"Oh come, don't think of it any more," cried Epimetheus. "Let us run out
of doors, and have some nice play with the other children."

It is thousands of years since Epimetheus and Pandora were alive; and
the world, nowadays, is a very different sort of thing from what it was
in their time. Then, everybody was a child. There needed no fathers and
mothers to take care of the children; because there was no danger, nor
trouble of any kind, and no clothes to be mended, and there was always
plenty to eat and drink. Whenever a child wanted his dinner, he found it
growing on a tree; and, if he looked at the tree in the morning, he
could see the expanding blossom of that night's supper; or, at eventide,
he saw the tender bud of to-morrow's breakfast. It was a very pleasant
life indeed. No labor to be done, no tasks to be studied; nothing but
sports and dances, and sweet voices of children talking, or carolling
like birds, or gushing out in merry laughter, throughout the livelong
day.

What was most wonderful of all, the children never quarrelled among
themselves; neither had they any crying fits; nor, since time first
began, had a single one of these little mortals ever gone apart into a
corner, and sulked. Oh, what a good time was that to be alive in? The
truth is, those ugly little winged monsters, called Troubles, which are
now almost as numerous as mosquitoes, had never yet been seen on the
earth. It is probable that the very greatest disquietude which a child
had ever experienced was Pandora's vexation at not being able to
discover the secret of the mysterious box.

This was at first only the faint shadow of a Trouble; but, every day, it
grew more and more substantial, until, before a great while, the cottage
of Epimetheus and Pandora was less sunshiny than those of the other
children.

"Whence can the box have come?" Pandora continually kept saying to
herself and to Epimetheus. "And what in the world can be inside of it?"

"Always talking about this box!" said Epimetheus, at last; for he had
grown extremely tired of the subject. "I wish, dear Pandora, you would
try to talk of something else. Come, let us go and gather some ripe
figs, and eat them under the trees, for our supper. And I know a vine
that has the sweetest and juiciest grapes you ever tasted."

"Always talking about grapes and figs!" cried Pandora, pettishly.

[Illustration: PANDORA]

"Well, then," said Epimetheus, who was a very good-tempered child, like
a multitude of children in those days, "let us run out and have a merry
time with our playmates."

"I am tired of merry times, and don't care if I never have any more!"
answered our pettish little Pandora. "And, besides, I never do have any.
This ugly box! I am so taken up with thinking about it all the time. I
insist upon your telling me what is inside of it."

"As I have already said, fifty times over, I do not know!" replied
Epimetheus, getting a little vexed. "How, then, can I tell you what is
inside?"

"You might open it," said Pandora, looking sideways at Epimetheus, "and
then we could see for ourselves."

"Pandora, what are you thinking of?" exclaimed Epimetheus.

And his face expressed so much horror at the idea of looking into a box,
which had been confided to him on the condition of his never opening it,
that Pandora thought it best not to suggest it any more. Still, however,
she could not help thinking and talking about the box.

"At least," said she, "you can tell me how it came here."

"It was left at the door," replied Epimetheus, "just before you came, by
a person who looked very smiling and intelligent, and who could hardly
forbear laughing as he put it down. He was dressed in an odd kind of a
cloak, and had on a cap that seemed to be made partly of feathers, so
that it looked almost as if it had wings."

"What sort of a staff had he?" asked Pandora.

"Oh, the most curious staff you ever saw!" cried Epimetheus. "It was
like two serpents twisting around a stick, and was carved so naturally
that I, at first, thought the serpents were alive."

"I know him," said Pandora, thoughtfully. "Nobody else has such a
staff. It was Quicksilver; and he brought me hither, as well as the box.
No doubt he intended it for me; and, most probably, it contains pretty
dresses for me to wear, or toys for you and me to play with, or
something very nice for us both to eat!"

"Perhaps so," answered Epimetheus, turning away. "But until Quicksilver
comes back and tells us so, we have neither of us any right to lift the
lid of the box."

"What a dull boy he is!" muttered Pandora, as Epimetheus left the
cottage. "I do wish he had a little more enterprise!"

For the first time since her arrival, Epimetheus had gone out without
asking Pandora to accompany him. He went to gather figs and grapes by
himself, or to seek whatever amusement he could find, in other society
than his little playfellow's. He was tired to death of hearing about the
box, and heartily wished that Quicksilver, or whatever was the
messenger's name, had left it at some other child's door, where Pandora
would never have set eyes on it. So perseveringly as she did babble
about this one thing! The box, the box, and nothing but the box! It
seemed as if the box were bewitched, and as if the cottage were not big
enough to hold it, without Pandora's continually stumbling over it, and
making Epimetheus stumble over it likewise, and bruising all four of
their shins.

Well, it was really hard that poor Epimetheus should have a box in his
ears from morning till night; especially as the little people of the
earth were so unaccustomed to vexations, in those happy days, that they
knew not how to deal with them. Thus, a small vexation made as much
disturbance then, as a far bigger one would in our own times.

After Epimetheus was gone, Pandora stood gazing at the box. She had
called it ugly, above a hundred times; but, in spite of all that she had
said against it, it was positively a very handsome article of furniture,
and would have been quite an ornament to any room in which it should be
placed. It was made of a beautiful kind of wood, with dark and rich
veins spreading over its surface, which was so highly polished that
little Pandora could see her face in it. As the child had no other
looking-glass, it is odd that she did not value the box, merely on this
account.

The edges and corners of the box were carved with most wonderful skill.
Around the margin there were figures of graceful men and women, and the
prettiest children ever seen, reclining or sporting amid a profusion of
flowers and foliage; and these various objects were so exquisitely
represented, and were wrought together in such harmony, that flowers,
foliage, and human beings seemed to combine into a wreath of mingled
beauty. But here and there, peeping forth from behind the carved
foliage, Pandora once or twice fancied that she saw a face not so
lovely, or something or other that was disagreeable, and which stole the
beauty out of all the rest. Nevertheless, on looking more closely, and
touching the spot with her finger, she could discover nothing of the
kind. Some face, that was really beautiful, had been made to look ugly
by her catching a sideway glimpse at it.

The most beautiful face of all was done in what is called high relief,
in the centre of the lid. There was nothing else, save the dark, smooth
richness of the polished wood, and this one face in the centre, with a
garland of flowers about its brow. Pandora had looked at this face a
great many times, and imagined that the mouth could smile if it liked,
or be grave when it chose, the same as any living mouth. The features,
indeed, all wore a very lively and rather mischievous expression, which
looked almost as if it needs must burst out of the carved lips, and
utter itself in words.

Had the mouth spoken, it would probably have been something like this:

"Do not be afraid, Pandora! What harm can there be in opening the box?
Never mind that poor, simple Epimetheus! You are wiser than he, and have
ten times as much spirit. Open the box, and see if you do not find
something very pretty!"

The box, I had almost forgotten to say, was fastened; not by a lock, nor
by any other such contrivance, but by a very intricate knot of gold
cord. There appeared to be no end to this knot, and no beginning. Never
was a knot so cunningly twisted, nor with so many ins and outs, which
roguishly defied the skilfullest fingers to disentangle them. And yet,
by the very difficulty that there was in it, Pandora was the more
tempted to examine the knot, and just see how it was made. Two or three
times, already, she had stooped over the box, and taken the knot between
her thumb and forefinger, but without positively trying to undo it.

"I really believe," said she to herself, "that I begin to see how it was
done. Nay, perhaps I could tie it up again, after undoing it. There
would be no harm in that, surely. Even Epimetheus would not blame me for
that. I need not open the box, and should not, of course, without the
foolish boy's consent, even if the knot were untied."

It might have been better for Pandora if she had had a little work to
do, or anything to employ her mind upon, so as not to be so constantly
thinking of this one subject. But children led so easy a life, before
any Troubles came into the world, that they had really a great deal too
much leisure. They could not be forever playing at hide-and-seek among
the flower-shrubs, or at blind-man's-buff with garlands over their eyes,
or at whatever other games had been found out, while Mother Earth was in
her babyhood. When life is all sport, toil is the real play. There was
absolutely nothing to do. A little sweeping and dusting about the
cottage, I suppose, and the gathering of fresh flowers (which were only
too abundant everywhere), and arranging them in vases,--and poor little
Pandora's day's work was over. And then, for the rest of the day, there
was the box!

After all, I am not quite sure that the box was not a blessing to her in
its way. It supplied her with such a variety of ideas to think of, and
to talk about, whenever she had anybody to listen! When she was in
good-humor, she could admire the bright polish of its sides, and the
rich border of beautiful faces and foliage that ran all around it. Or,
if she chanced to be ill-tempered, she could give it a push, or kick it
with her naughty little foot. And many a kick did the box--(but it was a
mischievous box, as we shall see, and deserved all it got)--many a kick
did it receive. But, certain it is, if it had not been for the box, our
active-minded little Pandora would not have known half so well how to
spend her time as she now did.

For it was really an endless employment to guess what was inside. What
could it be, indeed? Just imagine, my little hearers, how busy your wits
would be, if there were a great box in the house, which, as you might
have reason to suppose, contained something new and pretty for your
Christmas or New-Year's gifts. Do you think that you should be less
curious than Pandora? If you were left alone with the box, might you not
feel a little tempted to lift the lid? But you would not do it. Oh, fie!
No, no! Only, if you thought there were toys in it, it would be so very
hard to let slip an opportunity of taking just one peep! I know not
whether Pandora expected any toys; for none had yet begun to be made,
probably, in those days, when the world itself was one great plaything
for the children that dwelt upon it. But Pandora was convinced that
there was something very beautiful and valuable in the box; and
therefore she felt just as anxious to take a peep as any of these little
girls, here around me, would have felt. And, possibly, a little more so;
but of that I am not quite so certain.

On this particular day, however, which we have so long been talking
about, her curiosity grew so much greater than it usually was, that, at
last, she approached the box. She was more than half determined to open
it, if she could. Ah, naughty Pandora!

First, however, she tried to lift it. It was heavy; quite too heavy for
the slender strength of a child, like Pandora. She raised one end of the
box a few inches from the floor, and let it fall again, with a pretty
loud thump. A moment afterwards, she almost fancied that she heard
something stir inside of the box. She applied her ear as closely as
possible, and listened. Positively, there did seem to be a kind of
stifled murmur, within! Or was it merely the singing in Pandora's ears?
Or could it be the beating of her heart? The child could not quite
satisfy herself whether she had heard anything or no. But, at all
events, her curiosity was stronger than ever.

As she drew back her head, her eyes fell upon the knot of gold cord.

"It must have been a very ingenious person who tied this knot," said
Pandora to herself. "But I think I could untie it nevertheless. I am
resolved, at least, to find the two ends of the cord."

So she took the golden knot in her fingers, and pried into its
intricacies as sharply as she could. Almost without intending it, or
quite knowing what she was about, she was soon busily engaged in
attempting to undo it. Meanwhile, the bright sunshine came through the
open window; as did likewise the merry voices of the children, playing
at a distance, and perhaps the voice of Epimetheus among them. Pandora
stopped to listen. What a beautiful day it was! Would it not be wiser,
if she were to let the troublesome knot alone, and think no more about
the box, but run and join her little playfellows, and be happy?

All this time, however, her fingers were half unconsciously busy with
the knot; and happening to glance at the flower-wreathed face on the lid
of the enchanted box, she seemed to perceive it slyly grinning at her.

"That face looks very mischievous," thought Pandora. "I wonder whether
it smiles because I am doing wrong! I have the greatest mind in the
world to run away!"

But just then, by the merest accident, she gave the knot a kind of a
twist, which produced a wonderful result. The gold cord untwined itself,
as if by magic, and left the box without a fastening.

"This is the strangest thing I ever knew!" said Pandora. "What will
Epimetheus say? And how can I possibly tie it up again?"

She made one or two attempts to restore the knot, but soon found it
quite beyond her skill. It had disentangled itself so suddenly that she
could not in the least remember how the strings had been doubled into
one another; and when she tried to recollect the shape and appearance of
the knot, it seemed to have gone entirely out of her mind. Nothing was
to be done, therefore, but to let the box remain as it was until
Epimetheus should come in.

"But," said Pandora, "when he finds the knot untied, he will know that I
have done it. How shall I make him believe that I have not looked into
the box?"

And then the thought came into her naughty little heart, that, since she
would be suspected of having looked into the box, she might just as well
do so at once. Oh, very naughty and very foolish Pandora! You should
have thought only of doing what was right, and of leaving undone what
was wrong, and not of what your playfellow Epimetheus would have said or
believed. And so perhaps she might, if the enchanted face on the lid of
the box had not looked so bewitchingly persuasive at her, and if she had
not seemed to hear, more distinctly than before, the murmur of small
voices within. She could not tell whether it was fancy or no; but there
was quite a little tumult of whispers in her ear,--or else it was her
curiosity that whispered,--

"Let us out, dear Pandora,--pray let us out! We will be such nice pretty
playfellows for you! Only let us out!"

"What can it be?" thought Pandora. "Is there something alive in the box?
Well!--yes!--I am resolved to take just one peep! Only one peep; and
then the lid shall be shut down as safely as ever! There cannot possibly
be any harm in just one little peep!"

But it is now time for us to see what Epimetheus was doing.

This was the first time, since his little playmate had come to dwell
with him, that he had attempted to enjoy any pleasure in which she did
not partake. But nothing went right; nor was he nearly so happy as on
other days. He could not find a sweet grape or a ripe fig (if Epimetheus
had a fault, it was a little too much fondness for figs); or, if ripe at
all, they were over-ripe, and so sweet as to be cloying. There was no
mirth in his heart, such as usually made his voice gush out, of its own
accord, and swell the merriment of his companions. In short, he grew so
uneasy and discontented, that the other children could not imagine what
was the matter with Epimetheus. Neither did he himself know what ailed
him, any better than they did. For you must recollect that, at the time
we are speaking of, it was everybody's nature, and constant habit, to be
happy. The world had not yet learned to be otherwise. Not a single soul
or body, since these children were first sent to enjoy themselves on the
beautiful earth, had ever been sick or out of sorts.

At length, discovering that, somehow or other, he put a stop to all the
play, Epimetheus judged it best to go back to Pandora, who was in a
humor better suited to his own. But, with a hope of giving her pleasure,
he gathered some flowers, and made them into a wreath, which he meant to
put upon her head. The flowers were very lovely,--roses, and lilies, and
orange-blossoms, and a great many more, which left a trail of fragrance
behind, as Epimetheus carried them along; and the wreath was put
together with as much skill as could reasonably be expected of a boy.
The fingers of little girls, it has always appeared to me, are the
fittest to twine flower-wreaths; but boys could do it, in those days,
rather better than they can now.

And here I must mention that a great black cloud had been gathering in
the sky, for some time past, although it had not yet overspread the sun.
But, just as Epimetheus reached the cottage door, this cloud began to
intercept the sunshine, and thus to make a sudden and sad obscurity.

He entered softly; for he meant, if possible, to steal behind Pandora,
and fling the wreath of flowers over her head, before she should be
aware of his approach. But, as it happened, there was no need of his
treading so very lightly. He might have trod as heavily as he
pleased,--as heavily as a grown man,--as heavily, I was going to say, as
an elephant,--without much probability of Pandora's hearing his
footsteps. She was too intent upon her purpose. At the moment of his
entering the cottage, the naughty child had put her hand to the lid, and
was on the point of opening the mysterious box. Epimetheus beheld her.
If he had cried out, Pandora would probably have withdrawn her hand, and
the fatal mystery of the box might never have been known.

But Epimetheus himself, although he said very little about it, had his
own share of curiosity to know what was inside. Perceiving that Pandora
was resolved to find out the secret, he determined that his playfellow
should not be the only wise person in the cottage. And if there were
anything pretty or valuable in the box, he meant to take half of it to
himself. Thus, after all his sage speeches to Pandora about restraining
her curiosity, Epimetheus turned out to be quite as foolish, and nearly
as much in fault, as she. So, whenever we blame Pandora for what
happened, we must not forget to shake our heads at Epimetheus likewise.

As Pandora raised the lid, the cottage grew very dark and dismal; for
the black cloud had now swept quite over the sun, and seemed to have
buried it alive. There had, for a little while past, been a low growling
and muttering, which all at once broke into a heavy peal of thunder. But
Pandora, heeding nothing of all this, lifted the lid nearly upright, and
looked inside. It seemed as if a sudden swarm of winged creatures
brushed past her, taking flight out of the box, while, at the same
instant, she heard the voice of Epimetheus, with a lamentable tone, as
if he were in pain.

"Oh, I am stung!" cried he. "I am stung! Naughty Pandora! why have you
opened this wicked box?"

Pandora let fall the lid, and, starting up, looked about her, to see
what had befallen Epimetheus. The thunder-cloud had so darkened the room
that she could not very clearly discern what was in it. But she heard a
disagreeable buzzing, as if a great many huge flies, or gigantic
mosquitoes, or those insects which we call dor-bugs, and pinching-dogs,
were darting about. And, as her eyes grew more accustomed to the
imperfect light, she saw a crowd of ugly little shapes, with bats'
wings, looking abominably spiteful, and armed with terribly long stings
in their tails. It was one of these that had stung Epimetheus. Nor was
it a great while before Pandora herself began to scream, in no less pain
and affright than her playfellow, and making a vast deal more hubbub
about it. An odious little monster had settled on her forehead, and
would have stung her I know not how deeply, if Epimetheus had not run
and brushed it away.

Now, if you wish to know what these ugly things might be, which had made
their escape out of the box, I must tell you that they were the whole
family of earthly Troubles. There were evil Passions; there were a great
many species of Cares; there were more than a hundred and fifty
Sorrows; there were Diseases, in a vast number of miserable and painful
shapes; there were more kinds of Naughtiness than it would be of any use
to talk about. In short, everything that has since afflicted the souls
and bodies of mankind had been shut up in the mysterious box, and given
to Epimetheus and Pandora to be kept safely, in order that the happy
children of the world might never be molested by them. Had they been
faithful to their trust, all would have gone well. No grown person would
ever have been sad, nor any child have had cause to shed a single tear,
from that hour until this moment.

But--and you may see by this how a wrong act of any one mortal is a
calamity to the whole world--by Pandora's lifting the lid of that
miserable box, and by the fault of Epimetheus, too, in not preventing
her, these Troubles have obtained a foothold among us, and do not seem
very likely to be driven away in a hurry. For it was impossible, as you
will easily guess, that the two children should keep the ugly swarm in
their own little cottage. On the contrary, the first thing that they did
was to fling open the doors and windows, in hopes of getting rid of
them; and, sure enough, away flew the winged Troubles all abroad, and so
pestered and tormented the small people, everywhere about, that none of
them so much as smiled for many days afterwards. And, what was very
singular, all the flowers and dewy blossoms on earth, not one of which
had hitherto faded, now began to droop and shed their leaves, after a
day or two. The children, moreover, who before seemed immortal in their
childhood, now grew older, day by day, and came soon to be youths and
maidens, and men and women by and by, and aged people, before they
dreamed of such a thing.

Meanwhile, the naughty Pandora, and hardly less naughty Epimetheus,
remained in their cottage. Both of them had been grievously stung, and
were in a good deal of pain, which seemed the more intolerable to them,
because it was the very first pain that had ever been felt since the
world began. Of course, they were entirely unaccustomed to it, and could
have no idea what it meant. Besides all this, they were in exceedingly
bad humor, both with themselves and with one another. In order to
indulge it to the utmost, Epimetheus sat down sullenly in a corner with
his back towards Pandora; while Pandora flung herself upon the floor and
rested her head on the fatal and abominable box. She was crying
bitterly, and sobbing as if her heart would break.

Suddenly there was a gentle little tap on the inside of the lid.

"What can that be?" cried Pandora, lifting her head.

But either Epimetheus had not heard the tap, or was too much out of
humor to notice it. At any rate, he made no answer.

"You are very unkind," said Pandora, sobbing anew, "not to speak to me!"

Again the tap! It sounded like the tiny knuckles of a fairy's hand,
knocking lightly and playfully on the inside of the box.

"Who are you?" asked Pandora, with a little of her former curiosity.
"Who are you, inside of this naughty box?"

A sweet little voice spoke from within,--

"Only lift the lid, and you shall see."

"No, no," answered Pandora, again beginning to sob, "I have had enough
of lifting the lid! You are inside of the box, naughty creature, and
there you shall stay! There are plenty of your ugly brothers and sisters
already flying about the world. You need never think that I shall be so
foolish as to let you out!"

She looked towards Epimetheus, as she spoke, perhaps expecting that he
would commend her for her wisdom. But the sullen boy only muttered that
she was wise a little too late.

"Ah," said the sweet little voice again, "you had much better let me
out. I am not like those naughty creatures that have stings in their
tails. They are no brothers and sisters of mine, as you would see at
once, if you were only to get a glimpse of me. Come, come, my pretty
Pandora! I am sure you will let me out!"

And, indeed, there was a kind of cheerful witchery in the tone, that
made it almost impossible to refuse anything which this little voice
asked. Pandora's heart had insensibly grown lighter, at every word that
came from within the box. Epimetheus, too, though still in the corner,
had turned half round, and seemed to be in rather better spirits than
before.

"My dear Epimetheus," cried Pandora, "have you heard this little voice?"

"Yes, to be sure I have," answered he, but in no very good-humor as yet.
"And what of it?"

"Shall I lift the lid again?" asked Pandora.

"Just as you please," said Epimetheus. "You have done so much mischief
already, that perhaps you may as well do a little more. One other
Trouble, in such a swarm as you have set adrift about the world, can
make no very great difference."

"You might speak a little more kindly!" murmured Pandora, wiping her
eyes.

"Ah, naughty boy!" cried the little voice within the box, in an arch and
laughing tone. "He knows he is longing to see me. Come, my dear Pandora,
lift up the lid. I am in a great hurry to comfort you. Only let me have
some fresh air, and you shall soon see that matters are not quite so
dismal as you think them!"

"Epimetheus," exclaimed Pandora, "come what may, I am resolved to open
the box!"

"And, as the lid seems very heavy," cried Epimetheus, running across the
room, "I will help you!"

So, with one consent, the two children again lifted the lid. Out flew a
sunny and smiling little personage, and hovered about the room, throwing
a light wherever she went. Have you never made the sunshine dance into
dark corners, by reflecting it from a bit of looking-glass? Well, so
looked the winged cheerfulness of this fairy-like stranger, amid the
gloom of the cottage. She flew to Epimetheus, and laid the least touch
of her finger on the inflamed spot where the Trouble had stung him, and
immediately the anguish of it was gone. Then she kissed Pandora on the
forehead, and her hurt was cured likewise.

After performing these good offices, the bright stranger fluttered
sportively over the children's heads, and looked so sweetly at them,
that they both began to think it not so very much amiss to have opened
the box, since, otherwise, their cheery guest must have been kept a
prisoner among those naughty imps with stings in their tails.

"Pray, who are you, beautiful creature?" inquired Pandora.

"I am to be called Hope!" answered the sunshiny figure. "And because I
am such a cheery little body, I was packed into the box, to make amends
to the human race for that swarm of ugly Troubles, which was destined to
be let loose among them. Never fear! we shall do pretty well in spite of
them all."

"Your wings are colored like the rainbow!" exclaimed Pandora. "How very
beautiful!"

"Yes, they are like the rainbow," said Hope, "because, glad as my nature
is, I am partly made of tears as well as smiles."

"And will you stay with us," asked Epimetheus, "forever and ever?"

"As long as you need me," said Hope, with her pleasant smile,--"and that
will be as long as you live in the world,--I promise never to desert
you. There may come times and seasons, now and then, when you will think
that I have utterly vanished. But again, and again, and again, when
perhaps you least dream of it, you shall see the glimmer of my wings on
the ceiling of your cottage. Yes, my dear children, and I know something
very good and beautiful that is to be given you hereafter!"

"Oh tell us," they exclaimed,--"tell us what it is!"

"Do not ask me," replied Hope, putting her finger on her rosy mouth.
"But do not despair, even if it should never happen while you live on
this earth. Trust in my promise, for it is true."

"We do trust you!" cried Epimetheus and Pandora, both in one breath.

And so they did; and not only they, but so has everybody trusted Hope,
that has since been alive. And to tell you the truth, I cannot help
being glad--(though, to be sure, it was an uncommonly naughty thing for
her to do)--but I cannot help being glad that our foolish Pandora peeped
into the box. No doubt--no doubt--the Troubles are still flying about
the world, and have increased in multitude, rather than lessened, and
are a very ugly set of imps, and carry most venomous stings in their
tails. I have felt them already, and expect to feel them more, as I grow
older. But then that lovely and lightsome little figure of Hope! What in
the world could we do without her? Hope spiritualizes the earth; Hope
makes it always new; and, even in the earth's best and brightest aspect,
Hope shows it to be only the shadow of an infinite bliss hereafter!


Tanglewood Play-Room

_After the Story_

"Primrose," asked Eustace, pinching her ear, "how do you like my little
Pandora? Don't you think her the exact picture of yourself? But you
would not have hesitated half so long about opening the box."

"Then I should have been well punished for my naughtiness," retorted
Primrose, smartly; "for the first thing to pop out, after the lid was
lifted, would have been Mr. Eustace Bright, in the shape of a Trouble."

"Cousin Eustace," said Sweet Fern, "did the box hold all the trouble
that has ever come into the world?"

"Every mite of it!" answered Eustace. "This very snow-storm, which has
spoiled my skating, was packed up there."

"And how big was the box?" asked Sweet Fern.

"Why, perhaps three feet long," said Eustace, "two feet wide, and two
feet and a half high."

"Ah," said the child, "you are making fun of me, Cousin Eustace! I know
there is not trouble enough in the world to fill such a great box as
that. As for the snow-storm, it is no trouble at all, but a pleasure; so
it could not have been in the box."

"Hear the child!" cried Primrose, with an air of superiority. "How
little he knows about the troubles of this world! Poor fellow! He will
be wiser when he has seen as much of life as I have."

So saying, she began to skip the rope.

Meantime, the day was drawing towards its close. Out of doors the scene
certainly looked dreary. There was a gray drift, far and wide, through
the gathering twilight; the earth was as pathless as the air; and the
bank of snow over the steps of the porch proved that nobody had entered
or gone out for a good many hours past. Had there been only one child at
the window of Tanglewood, gazing at this wintry prospect, it would
perhaps have made him sad. But half a dozen children together, though
they cannot quite turn the world into a paradise, may defy old Winter
and all his storms to put them out of spirits. Eustace Bright, moreover,
on the spur of the moment, invented several new kinds of play, which
kept them all in a roar of merriment till bedtime, and served for the
next stormy day besides.



THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES


Tanglewood Fireside

_Introductory to "The Three Golden Apples"_

The snow-storm lasted another day; but what became of it afterwards, I
cannot possibly imagine. At any rate, it entirely cleared away during
the night; and when the sun arose the next morning, it shone brightly
down on as bleak a tract of hill-country, here in Berkshire, as could be
seen anywhere in the world. The frostwork had so covered the
window-panes that it was hardly possible to get a glimpse at the scenery
outside. But, while waiting for breakfast, the small populace of
Tanglewood had scratched peep-holes with their finger-nails, and saw
with vast delight that--unless it were one or two bare patches on a
precipitous hill-side, or the gray effect of the snow, intermingled with
the black pine forest--all nature was as white as a sheet. How
exceedingly pleasant! And, to make it all the better, it was cold enough
to nip one's nose short off! If people have but life enough in them to
bear it, there is nothing that so raises the spirits, and makes the
blood ripple and dance so nimbly, like a brook down the slope of a hill,
as a bright, hard frost.

No sooner was breakfast over, than the whole party, well muffled in furs
and woollens, floundered forth into the midst of the snow. Well, what a
day of frosty sport was this! They slid down hill into the valley, a
hundred times, nobody knows how far; and, to make it all the merrier,
upsetting their sledges, and tumbling head over heels, quite as often
as they came safely to the bottom. And, once, Eustace Bright took
Periwinkle, Sweet Fern, and Squash-Blossom, on the sledge with him, by
way of insuring a safe passage; and down they went, full speed. But,
behold, half-way down, the sledge hit against a hidden stump, and flung
all four of its passengers into a heap; and, on gathering themselves up,
there was no little Squash-Blossom to be found! Why, what could have
become of the child? And while they were wondering and staring about, up
started Squash-Blossom out of a snow-bank, with the reddest face you
ever saw, and looking as if a large scarlet flower had suddenly sprouted
up in midwinter. Then there was a great laugh.

When they had grown tired of sliding down hill, Eustace set the children
to digging a cave in the biggest snow-drift that they could find.
Unluckily, just as it was completed, and the party had squeezed
themselves into the hollow, down came the roof upon their heads, and
buried every soul of them alive! The next moment, up popped all their
little heads out of the ruins, and the tall student's head in the midst
of them, looking hoary and venerable with the snow-dust that had got
amongst his brown curls. And then, to punish Cousin Eustace for advising
them to dig such a tumble-down cavern, the children attacked him in a
body, and so bepelted him with snowballs that he was fain to take to his
heels.

So he ran away, and went into the woods, and thence to the margin of
Shadow Brook, where he could hear the streamlet grumbling along, under
great overhanging banks of snow and ice, which would scarcely let it see
the light of day. There were adamantine icicles glittering around all
its little cascades. Thence he strolled to the shore of the lake, and
beheld a white, untrodden plain before him, stretching from his own feet
to the foot of Monument Mountain. And, it being now almost sunset,
Eustace thought that he had never beheld anything so fresh and
beautiful as the scene. He was glad that the children were not with him;
for their lively spirits and tumble-about activity would quite have
chased away his higher and graver mood, so that he would merely have
been merry (as he had already been, the whole day long), and would not
have known the loveliness of the winter sunset among the hills.

When the sun was fairly down, our friend Eustace went home to eat his
supper. After the meal was over, he betook himself to the study, with a
purpose, I rather imagine, to write an ode, or two or three sonnets, or
verses of some kind or other, in praise of the purple and golden clouds
which he had seen around the setting sun. But, before he had hammered
out the very first rhyme, the door opened, and Primrose and Periwinkle
made their appearance.

"Go away, children! I can't be troubled with you now!" cried the
student, looking over his shoulder, with the pen between his fingers.
"What in the world do you want here? I thought you were all in bed!"

"Hear him, Periwinkle, trying to talk like a grown man!" said Primrose.
"And he seems to forget that I am now thirteen years old, and may sit up
almost as late as I please. But, Cousin Eustace, you must put off your
airs, and come with us to the drawing-room. The children have talked so
much about your stories, that my father wishes to hear one of them, in
order to judge whether they are likely to do any mischief."

"Poh, poh, Primrose!" exclaimed the student, rather vexed. "I don't
believe I can tell one of my stories in the presence of grown people.
Besides, your father is a classical scholar; not that I am much afraid
of his scholarship, neither, for I doubt not it is as rusty as an old
case-knife by this time. But then he will be sure to quarrel with the
admirable nonsense that I put into these stories, out of my own head,
and which makes the great charm of the matter for children, like
yourself. No man of fifty, who has read the classical myths in his
youth, can possibly understand my merit as a reinventor and improver of
them."

"All this may be very true," said Primrose, "but come you must! My
father will not open his book, nor will mamma open the piano, till you
have given us some of your nonsense, as you very correctly call it. So
be a good boy, and come along."

Whatever he might pretend, the student was rather glad than otherwise,
on second thoughts, to catch at the opportunity of proving to Mr.
Pringle what an excellent faculty he had in modernizing the myths of
ancient times. Until twenty years of age, a young man may, indeed, be
rather bashful about showing his poetry and his prose; but, for all
that, he is pretty apt to think that these very productions would place
him at the tip-top of literature, if once they could be known.
Accordingly, without much more resistance, Eustace suffered Primrose and
Periwinkle to drag him into the drawing-room.

It was a large, handsome apartment, with a semicircular window at one
end, in the recess of which stood a marble copy of Greenough's Angel and
Child. On one side of the fireplace there were many shelves of books,
gravely but richly bound. The white light of the astral-lamp, and the
red glow of the bright coal-fire, made the room brilliant and cheerful;
and before the fire, in a deep arm-chair, sat Mr. Pringle, looking just
fit to be seated in such a chair, and in such a room. He was a tall and
quite a handsome gentleman, with a bald brow; and was always so nicely
dressed, that even Eustace Bright never liked to enter his presence
without at least pausing at the threshold to settle his shirt-collar.
But now, as Primrose had hold of one of his hands, and Periwinkle of the
other, he was forced to make his appearance with a rough-and-tumble sort
of look, as if he had been rolling all day in a snow-bank. And so he
had.

Mr. Pringle turned towards the student benignly enough, but in a way
that made him feel how uncombed and unbrushed he was, and how uncombed
and unbrushed, likewise, were his mind and thoughts.

"Eustace," said Mr. Pringle, with a smile, "I find that you are
producing a great sensation among the little public of Tanglewood, by
the exercise of your gifts of narrative. Primrose here, as the little
folks choose to call her, and the rest of the children, have been so
loud in praise of your stories, that Mrs. Pringle and myself are really
curious to hear a specimen. It would be so much the more gratifying to
myself, as the stories appear to be an attempt to render the fables of
classical antiquity into the idiom of modern fancy and feeling. At
least, so I judge from a few of the incidents which have come to me at
second hand."

"You are not exactly the auditor that I should have chosen, sir,"
observed the student, "for fantasies of this nature."

"Possibly not," replied Mr. Pringle. "I suspect, however, that a young
author's most useful critic is precisely the one whom he would be least
apt to choose. Pray oblige me, therefore."

"Sympathy, methinks, should have some little share in the critic's
qualifications," murmured Eustace Bright. "However, sir, if you will
find patience, I will find stories. But be kind enough to remember that
I am addressing myself to the imagination and sympathies of the
children, not to your own."

Accordingly, the student snatched hold of the first theme which
presented itself. It was suggested by a plate of apples that he happened
to spy on the mantelpiece.


The Three Golden Apples

Did you ever hear of the golden apples, that grew in the garden of the
Hesperides? Ah, those were such apples as would bring a great price, by
the bushel, if any of them could be found growing in the orchards of
nowadays! But there is not, I suppose, a graft of that wonderful fruit
on a single tree in the wide world. Not so much as a seed of those
apples exists any longer.

And, even in the old, old, half-forgotten times, before the garden of
the Hesperides was overrun with weeds, a great many people doubted
whether there could be real trees that bore apples of solid gold upon
their branches. All had heard of them, but nobody remembered to have
seen any. Children, nevertheless, used to listen, open-mouthed, to
stories of the golden apple-tree, and resolved to discover it, when they
should be big enough. Adventurous young men, who desired to do a braver
thing than any of their fellows, set out in quest of this fruit. Many of
them returned no more; none of them brought back the apples. No wonder
that they found it impossible to gather them! It is said that there was
a dragon beneath the tree, with a hundred terrible heads, fifty of which
were always on the watch, while the other fifty slept.

In my opinion it was hardly worth running so much risk for the sake of a
solid golden apple. Had the apples been sweet, mellow, and juicy, indeed
that would be another matter. There might then have been some sense in
trying to get at them, in spite of the hundred-headed dragon.

But, as I have already told you, it was quite a common thing with young
persons, when tired of too much peace and rest, to go in search of the
garden of the Hesperides. And once the adventure was undertaken by a
hero who had enjoyed very little peace or rest since he came into the
world. At the time of which I am going to speak, he was wandering
through the pleasant land of Italy, with a mighty club in his hand, and
a bow and quiver slung across his shoulders. He was wrapt in the skin of
the biggest and fiercest lion that ever had been seen, and which he
himself had killed; and though, on the whole, he was kind, and generous,
and noble, there was a good deal of the lion's fierceness in his heart.
As he went on his way, he continually inquired whether that were the
right road to the famous garden. But none of the country people knew
anything about the matter, and many looked as if they would have laughed
at the question, if the stranger had not carried so very big a club.

So he journeyed on and on, still making the same inquiry, until, at
last, he came to the brink of a river where some beautiful young women
sat twining wreaths of flowers.

"Can you tell me, pretty maidens," asked the stranger, "whether this is
the right way to the garden of the Hesperides?"

The young women had been having a fine time together, weaving the
flowers into wreaths, and crowning one another's heads. And there seemed
to be a kind of magic in the touch of their fingers, that made the
flowers more fresh and dewy, and of brighter hues, and sweeter
fragrance, while they played with them, than even when they had been
growing on their native stems. But, on hearing the stranger's question,
they dropped all their flowers on the grass, and gazed at him with
astonishment.

"The garden of the Hesperides!" cried one. "We thought mortals had been
weary of seeking it, after so many disappointments. And pray,
adventurous traveller, what do you want there?"

[Illustration: ATLAS]

"A certain king, who is my cousin," replied he, "has ordered me to get
him three of the golden apples."

"Most of the young men who go in quest of these apples," observed
another of the damsels, "desire to obtain them for themselves, or to
present them to some fair maiden whom they love. Do you, then, love this
king, your cousin, so very much?"

"Perhaps not," replied the stranger, sighing. "He has often been severe
and cruel to me. But it is my destiny to obey him."

"And do you know," asked the damsel who had first spoken, "that a
terrible dragon, with a hundred heads, keeps watch under the golden
apple-tree?"

"I know it well," answered the stranger, calmly. "But, from my cradle
upwards, it has been my business, and almost my pastime, to deal with
serpents and dragons."

The young women looked at his massive club, and at the shaggy lion's
skin which he wore, and likewise at his heroic limbs and figure; and
they whispered to each other that the stranger appeared to be one who
might reasonably expect to perform deeds far beyond the might of other
men. But, then, the dragon with a hundred heads! What mortal, even if he
possessed a hundred lives, could hope to escape the fangs of such a
monster? So kind-hearted were the maidens, that they could not bear to
see this brave and handsome traveller attempt what was so very
dangerous, and devote himself, most probably, to become a meal for the
dragon's hundred ravenous mouths.

"Go back," cried they all,--"go back to your own home! Your mother,
beholding you safe and sound, will shed tears of joy; and what can she
do more, should you win ever so great a victory? No matter for the
golden apples! No matter for the king, your cruel cousin! We do not wish
the dragon with the hundred heads to eat you up!"

The stranger seemed to grow impatient at these remonstrances. He
carelessly lifted his mighty club, and let it fall upon a rock that lay
half buried in the earth, near by. With the force of that idle blow, the
great rock was shattered all to pieces. It cost the stranger no more
effort to achieve this feat of a giant's strength than for one of the
young maidens to touch her sister's rosy cheek with a flower.

"Do you not believe," said he, looking at the damsels with a smile,
"that such a blow would have crushed one of the dragon's hundred heads?"

Then he sat down on the grass, and told them the story of his life, or
as much of it as he could remember, from the day when he was first
cradled in a warrior's brazen shield. While he lay there, two immense
serpents came gliding over the floor, and opened their hideous jaws to
devour him; and he, a baby of a few months old, had griped one of the
fierce snakes in each of his little fists, and strangled them to death.
When he was but a stripling, he had killed a huge lion, almost as big as
the one whose vast and shaggy hide he now wore upon his shoulders. The
next thing that he had done was to fight a battle with an ugly sort of
monster, called a hydra, which had no less than nine heads, and
exceedingly sharp teeth in every one.

"But the dragon of the Hesperides, you know," observed one of the
damsels, "has a hundred heads!"

"Nevertheless," replied the stranger, "I would rather fight two such
dragons than a single hydra. For, as fast as I cut off a head, two
others grew in its place; and, besides, there was one of the heads that
could not possibly be killed, but kept biting as fiercely as ever, long
after it was cut off. So I was forced to bury it under a stone, where it
is doubtless alive to this very day. But the hydra's body, and its eight
other heads, will never do any further mischief."

The damsels, judging that the story was likely to last a good while, had
been preparing a repast of bread and grapes, that the stranger might
refresh himself in the intervals of his talk. They took pleasure in
helping him to this simple food; and, now and then, one of them would
put a sweet grape between her rosy lips, lest it should make him bashful
to eat alone.

The traveller proceeded to tell how he had chased a very swift stag, for
a twelvemonth together, without ever stopping to take breath, and had at
last caught it by the antlers, and carried it home alive. And he had
fought with a very odd race of people, half horses and half men, and had
put them all to death, from a sense of duty, in order that their ugly
figures might never be seen any more. Besides all this, he took to
himself great credit for having cleaned out a stable.

"Do you call that a wonderful exploit?" asked one of the young maidens,
with a smile. "Any clown in the country has done as much!"

"Had it been an ordinary stable," replied the stranger, "I should not
have mentioned it. But this was so gigantic a task that it would have
taken me all my life to perform it, if I had not luckily thought of
turning the channel of a river through the stable-door. That did the
business in a very short time!"

Seeing how earnestly his fair auditors listened, he next told them how
he had shot some monstrous birds, and had caught a wild bull alive and
let him go again, and had tamed a number of very wild horses, and had
conquered Hippolyta, the warlike queen of the Amazons. He mentioned,
likewise, that he had taken off Hippolyta's enchanted girdle, and had
given it to the daughter of his cousin, the king.

"Was it the girdle of Venus," inquired the prettiest of the damsels,
"which makes women beautiful?"

"No," answered the stranger. "It had formerly been the sword-belt of
Mars; and it can only make the wearer valiant and courageous."

"An old sword-belt!" cried the damsel, tossing her head. "Then I should
not care about having it!"

"You are right," said the stranger.

Going on with his wonderful narrative, he informed the maidens that as
strange an adventure as ever happened was when he fought with Geryon,
the six-legged man. This was a very odd and frightful sort of figure, as
you may well believe. Any person, looking at his tracks in the sand or
snow, would suppose that three sociable companions had been walking
along together. On hearing his footsteps at a little distance, it was no
more than reasonable to judge that several people must be coming. But it
was only the strange man Geryon clattering onward, with his six legs!

Six legs, and one gigantic body! Certainly, he must have been a very
queer monster to look at; and, my stars, what a waste of shoe-leather!

When the stranger had finished the story of his adventures, he looked
around at the attentive faces of the maidens.

"Perhaps you may have heard of me before," said he, modestly. "My name
is Hercules!"

"We had already guessed it," replied the maidens; "for your wonderful
deeds are known all over the world. We do not think it strange, any
longer, that you should set out in quest of the golden apples of the
Hesperides. Come, sisters, let us crown the hero with flowers!"

Then they flung beautiful wreaths over his stately head and mighty
shoulders, so that the lion's skin was almost entirely covered with
roses. They took possession of his ponderous club, and so entwined it
about with the brightest, softest, and most fragrant blossoms, that not
a finger's breadth of its oaken substance could be seen. It looked all
like a huge bunch of flowers. Lastly, they joined hands, and danced
around him, chanting words which became poetry of their own accord, and
grew into a choral song, in honor of the illustrious Hercules.

And Hercules was rejoiced, as any other hero would have been, to know
that these fair young girls had heard of the valiant deeds which it had
cost him so much toil and danger to achieve. But, still, he was not
satisfied. He could not think that what he had already done was worthy
of so much honor, while there remained any bold or difficult adventure
to be undertaken.

"Dear maidens," said he, when they paused to take breath, "now that you
know my name, will you not tell me how I am to reach the garden of the
Hesperides?"

"Ah! must you go so soon?" they exclaimed. "You--that have performed so
many wonders, and spent such a toilsome life--cannot you content
yourself to repose a little while on the margin of this peaceful river?"

Hercules shook his head.

"I must depart now," said he.

"We will then give you the best directions we can," replied the damsels.
"You must go to the sea-shore, and find out the Old One, and compel him
to inform you where the golden apples are to be found."

"The Old One!" repeated Hercules, laughing at this odd name. "And, pray,
who may the Old One be?"

"Why, the Old Man of the Sea, to be sure!" answered one of the damsels.
"He has fifty daughters, whom some people call very beautiful; but we do
not think it proper to be acquainted with them, because they have
sea-green hair, and taper away like fishes. You must talk with this Old
Man of the Sea. He is a sea-faring person, and knows all about the
garden of the Hesperides; for it is situated in an island which he is
often in the habit of visiting."

Hercules then asked whereabouts the Old One was most likely to be met
with. When the damsels had informed him, he thanked them for all their
kindness,--for the bread and grapes with which they had fed him, the
lovely flowers with which they had crowned him, and the songs and dances
wherewith they had done him honor,--and he thanked them, most of all,
for telling him the right way,--and immediately set forth upon his
journey.

But, before he was out of hearing, one of the maidens called after him.

"Keep fast hold of the Old One, when you catch him!" cried she, smiling,
and lifting her finger to make the caution more impressive. "Do not be
astonished at anything that may happen. Only hold him fast, and he will
tell you what you wish to know."

Hercules again thanked her, and pursued his way, while the maidens
resumed their pleasant labor of making flower-wreaths. They talked about
the hero, long after he was gone.

"We will crown him with the loveliest of our garlands," said they, "when
he returns hither with the three golden apples, after slaying the dragon
with a hundred heads."

Meanwhile, Hercules travelled constantly onward, over hill and dale, and
through the solitary woods. Sometimes he swung his club aloft, and
splintered a mighty oak with a downright blow. His mind was so full of
the giants and monsters with whom it was the business of his life to
fight, that perhaps he mistook the great tree for a giant or a monster.
And so eager was Hercules to achieve what he had undertaken, that he
almost regretted to have spent so much time with the damsels, wasting
idle breath upon the story of his adventures. But thus it always is with
persons who are destined to perform great things. What they have already
done seems less than nothing. What they have taken in hand to do seems
worth toil, danger, and life itself.

Persons who happened to be passing through the forest must have been
affrighted to see him smite the trees with his great club. With but a
single blow, the trunk was riven as by the stroke of lightning, and the
broad boughs came rustling and crashing down.

Hastening forward, without ever pausing or looking behind, he by and by
heard the sea roaring at a distance. At this sound, he increased his
speed, and soon came to a beach, where the great surf-waves tumbled
themselves upon the hard sand, in a long line of snowy foam. At one end
of the beach, however, there was a pleasant spot, where some green
shrubbery clambered up a cliff, making its rocky face look soft and
beautiful. A carpet of verdant grass, largely intermixed with
sweet-smelling clover, covered the narrow space between the bottom of
the cliff and the sea. And what should Hercules espy there, but an old
man, fast asleep!

But was it really and truly an old man? Certainly, at first sight, it
looked very like one; but, on closer inspection, it rather seemed to be
some kind of a creature that lived in the sea. For, on his legs and arms
there were scales, such as fishes have; he was web-footed and
web-fingered, after the fashion of a duck; and his long beard, being of
a greenish tinge, had more the appearance of a tuft of sea-weed than of
an ordinary beard. Have you never seen a stick of timber, that has been
long tossed about by the waves, and has got all overgrown with
barnacles, and, at last drifting ashore, seems to have been thrown up
from the very deepest bottom of the sea? Well, the old man would have
put you in mind of just such a wave-tost spar! But Hercules, the instant
he set eyes on this strange figure, was convinced that it could be no
other than the Old One, who was to direct him on his way.

Yes, it was the selfsame Old Man of the Sea whom the hospitable maidens
had talked to him about. Thanking his stars for the lucky accident of
finding the old fellow asleep, Hercules stole on tiptoe towards him, and
caught him by the arm and leg.

"Tell me," cried he, before the Old One was well awake, "which is the
way to the garden of the Hesperides?"

As you may easily imagine, the Old Man of the Sea awoke in a fright.
But his astonishment could hardly have been greater than was that of
Hercules, the next moment. For, all of a sudden, the Old One seemed to
disappear out of his grasp, and he found himself holding a stag by the
fore and hind leg! But still he kept fast hold. Then the stag
disappeared, and in its stead there was a sea-bird, fluttering and
screaming, while Hercules clutched it by the wing and claw! But the bird
could not get away. Immediately afterwards, there was an ugly
three-headed dog, which growled and barked at Hercules, and snapped
fiercely at the hands by which he held him! But Hercules would not let
him go. In another minute, instead of the three-headed dog, what should
appear but Geryon, the six-legged man-monster, kicking at Hercules with
five of his legs, in order to get the remaining one at liberty! But
Hercules held on. By and by, no Geryon was there, but a huge snake, like
one of those which Hercules had strangled in his babyhood, only a
hundred times as big; and it twisted and twined about the hero's neck
and body, and threw its tail high into the air, and opened its deadly
jaws as if to devour him outright; so that it was really a very terrible
spectacle! But Hercules was no whit disheartened, and squeezed the great
snake so tightly that he soon began to hiss with pain.

You must understand that the Old Man of the Sea, though he generally
looked so much like the wave-beaten figure-head of a vessel, had the
power of assuming any shape he pleased. When he found himself so roughly
seized by Hercules, he had been in hopes of putting him into such
surprise and terror, by these magical transformations, that the hero
would be glad to let him go. If Hercules had relaxed his grasp, the Old
One would certainly have plunged down to the very bottom of the sea,
whence he would not soon have given himself the trouble of coming up, in
order to answer any impertinent questions. Ninety-nine people out of a
hundred, I suppose, would have been frightened out of their wits by the
very first of his ugly shapes, and would have taken to their heels at
once. For, one of the hardest things in this world is, to see the
difference between real dangers and imaginary ones.

But, as Hercules held on so stubbornly, and only squeezed the Old One so
much the tighter at every change of shape, and really put him to no
small torture, he finally thought it best to reappear in his own figure.
So there he was again, a fishy, scaly, web-footed sort of personage,
with something like a tuft of sea-weed at his chin.

"Pray, what do you want with me?" cried the Old One, as soon as he could
take breath; for it is quite a tiresome affair to go through so many
false shapes. "Why do you squeeze me so hard? Let me go, this moment, or
I shall begin to consider you an extremely uncivil person!"

"My name is Hercules!" roared the mighty stranger. "And you will never
get out of my clutch, until you tell me the nearest way to the garden of
the Hesperides!"

When the old fellow heard who it was that had caught him, he saw, with
half an eye, that it would be necessary to tell him everything that he
wanted to know. The Old One was an inhabitant of the sea, you must
recollect, and roamed about everywhere, like other sea-faring people. Of
course, he had often heard of the fame of Hercules, and of the wonderful
things that he was constantly performing, in various parts of the earth,
and how determined he always was to accomplish whatever he undertook. He
therefore made no more attempts to escape, but told the hero how to find
the garden of the Hesperides, and likewise warned him of many
difficulties which must be overcome, before he could arrive thither.

"You must go on, thus and thus," said the Old Man of the Sea, after
taking the points of the compass, "till you come in sight of a very tall
giant, who holds the sky on his shoulders. And the giant, if he happens
to be in the humor, will tell you exactly where the garden of the
Hesperides lies."

"And if the giant happens not to be in the humor," remarked Hercules,
balancing his club on the tip of his finger, "perhaps I shall find means
to persuade him!"

Thanking the Old Man of the Sea, and begging his pardon for having
squeezed him so roughly, the hero resumed his journey. He met with a
great many strange adventures, which would be well worth your hearing,
if I had leisure to narrate them as minutely as they deserve.

It was in this journey, if I mistake not, that he encountered a
prodigious giant, who was so wonderfully contrived by nature, that,
every time he touched the earth, he became ten times as strong as ever
he had been before. His name was Antæus. You may see, plainly enough,
that it was a very difficult business to fight with such a fellow; for,
as often as he got a knock-down blow, up he started again, stronger,
fiercer, and abler to use his weapons, than if his enemy had let him
alone. Thus, the harder Hercules pounded the giant with his club, the
further he seemed from winning the victory. I have sometimes argued with
such people, but never fought with one. The only way in which Hercules
found it possible to finish the battle, was by lifting Antæus off his
feet into the air, and squeezing, and squeezing, and squeezing him,
until, finally, the strength was quite squeezed out of his enormous
body.

When this affair was finished, Hercules continued his travels, and went
to the land of Egypt, where he was taken prisoner, and would have been
put to death, if he had not slain the king of the country, and made his
escape. Passing through the deserts of Africa, and going as fast as he
could, he arrived at last on the shore of the great ocean. And here,
unless he could walk on the crests of the billows, it seemed as if his
journey must needs be at an end.

Nothing was before him, save the foaming, dashing, measureless ocean.
But, suddenly, as he looked towards the horizon, he saw something, a
great way off, which he had not seen the moment before. It gleamed very
brightly, almost as you may have beheld the round, golden disk of the
sun, when it rises or sets over the edge of the world. It evidently drew
nearer; for, at every instant, this wonderful object became larger and
more lustrous. At length, it had come so nigh that Hercules discovered
it to be an immense cup or bowl, made either of gold or burnished brass.
How it had got afloat upon the sea is more than I can tell you. There it
was, at all events, rolling on the tumultuous billows, which tossed it
up and down, and heaved their foamy tops against its sides, but without
ever throwing their spray over the brim.

"I have seen many giants, in my time," thought Hercules, "but never one
that would need to drink his wine out of a cup like this!"

And, true enough, what a cup it must have been! It was as large--as
large--but, in short, I am afraid to say how immeasurably large it was.
To speak within bounds, it was ten times larger than a great mill-wheel;
and, all of metal as it was, it floated over the heaving surges more
lightly than an acorn-cup adown the brook. The waves tumbled it onward,
until it grazed against the shore, within a short distance of the spot
where Hercules was standing.

As soon as this happened, he knew what was to be done; for he had not
gone through so many remarkable adventures without learning pretty well
how to conduct himself, whenever anything came to pass a little out of
the common rule. It was just as clear as daylight that this marvellous
cup had been set adrift by some unseen power, and guided hitherward, in
order to carry Hercules across the sea, on his way to the garden of the
Hesperides. Accordingly, without a moment's delay, he clambered over
the brim, and slid down on the inside, where, spreading out his lion's
skin, he proceeded to take a little repose. He had scarcely rested,
until now, since he bade farewell to the damsels on the margin of the
river. The waves dashed, with a pleasant and ringing sound, against the
circumference of the hollow cup; it rocked lightly to and fro, and the
motion was so soothing that it speedily rocked Hercules into an
agreeable slumber.

His nap had probably lasted a good while, when the cup chanced to graze
against a rock, and, in consequence, immediately resounded and
reverberated through its golden or brazen substance, a hundred times as
loudly as ever you heard a church-bell. The noise awoke Hercules, who
instantly started up and gazed around him, wondering whereabouts he was.
He was not long in discovering that the cup had floated across a great
part of the sea, and was approaching the shore of what seemed to be an
island. And, on that island, what do you think he saw?

No; you will never guess it, not if you were to try fifty thousand
times! It positively appears to me that this was the most marvellous
spectacle that had ever been seen by Hercules, in the whole course of
his wonderful travels and adventures. It was a greater marvel than the
hydra with nine heads, which kept growing twice as fast as they were cut
off; greater than the six-legged man-monster; greater than Antæus;
greater than anything that was ever beheld by anybody, before or since
the days of Hercules, or than anything that remains to be beheld, by
travellers in all time to come. It was a giant!

But such an intolerably big giant! A giant as tall as a mountain; so
vast a giant, that the clouds rested about his midst, like a girdle, and
hung like a hoary beard from his chin, and flitted before his huge eyes,
so that he could neither see Hercules nor the golden cup in which he was
voyaging. And, most wonderful of all, the giant held up his great hands
and appeared to support the sky, which, so far as Hercules could discern
through the clouds, was resting upon his head! This does really seem
almost too much to believe.

Meanwhile, the bright cup continued to float onward, and finally touched
the strand. Just then a breeze wafted away the clouds from before the
giant's visage, and Hercules beheld it, with all its enormous features;
eyes each of them as big as yonder lake, a nose a mile long, and a mouth
of the same width. It was a countenance terrible from its enormity of
size, but disconsolate and weary, even as you may see the faces of many
people, nowadays, who are compelled to sustain burdens above their
strength. What the sky was to the giant, such are the cares of earth to
those who let themselves be weighed down by them. And whenever men
undertake what is beyond the just measure of their abilities, they
encounter precisely such a doom as had befallen this poor giant.

Poor fellow! He had evidently stood there a long while. An ancient
forest had been growing and decaying around his feet; and oak-trees, of
six or seven centuries old, had sprung from the acorn, and forced
themselves between his toes.

The giant now looked down from the far height of his great eyes, and,
perceiving Hercules, roared out, in a voice that resembled thunder,
proceeding out of the cloud that had just flitted away from his face.

"Who are you, down at my feet there? And whence do you come, in that
little cup?"

"I am Hercules!" thundered back the hero, in a voice pretty nearly or
quite as loud as the giant's own. "And I am seeking for the garden of
the Hesperides!"

"Ho! ho! ho!" roared the giant, in a fit of immense laughter. "That is a
wise adventure, truly!"

"And why not?" cried Hercules, getting a little angry at the giant's
mirth. "Do you think I am afraid of the dragon with a hundred heads!"

Just at this time, while they were talking together, some black clouds
gathered about the giant's middle, and burst into a tremendous storm of
thunder and lightning, causing such a pother that Hercules found it
impossible to distinguish a word. Only the giant's immeasurable legs
were to be seen, standing up into the obscurity of the tempest; and, now
and then, a momentary glimpse of his whole figure, mantled in a volume
of mist. He seemed to be speaking, most of the time; but his big, deep,
rough voice chimed in with the reverberations of the thunder-claps, and
rolled away over the hills, like them. Thus, by talking out of season,
the foolish giant expended an incalculable quantity of breath, to no
purpose; for the thunder spoke quite as intelligibly as he.

At last, the storm swept over, as suddenly as it had come. And there
again was the clear sky, and the weary giant holding it up, and the
pleasant sunshine beaming over his vast height, and illuminating it
against the background of the sullen thunderclouds. So far above the
shower had been his head, that not a hair of it was moistened by the
rain-drops!

When the giant could see Hercules still standing on the sea-shore, he
roared out to him anew.

"I am Atlas, the mightiest giant in the world! And I hold the sky upon
my head!"

"So I see," answered Hercules. "But, can you show me the way to the
garden of the Hesperides?"

"What do you want there?" asked the giant.

"I want three of the golden apples," shouted Hercules, "for my cousin,
the king."

"There is nobody but myself," quoth the giant, "that can go to the
garden of the Hesperides, and gather the golden apples. If it were not
for this little business of holding up the sky, I would make half a
dozen steps across the sea, and get them for you."

"You are very kind," replied Hercules. "And cannot you rest the sky upon
a mountain?"

"None of them are quite high enough," said Atlas, shaking his head.
"But, if you were to take your stand on the summit of that nearest one,
your head would be pretty nearly on a level with mine. You seem to be a
fellow of some strength. What if you should take my burden on your
shoulders, while I do your errand for you?"

Hercules, as you must be careful to remember, was a remarkably strong
man; and though it certainly requires a great deal of muscular power to
uphold the sky, yet, if any mortal could be supposed capable of such an
exploit, he was the one. Nevertheless, it seemed so difficult an
undertaking, that, for the first time in his life, he hesitated.

"Is the sky very heavy?" he inquired.

"Why, not particularly so, at first," answered the giant, shrugging his
shoulders. "But it gets to be a little burdensome, after a thousand
years!"

"And how long a time," asked the hero, "will it take you to get the
golden apples?"

"Oh, that will be done in a few moments," cried Atlas. "I shall take ten
or fifteen miles at a stride, and be at the garden and back again before
your shoulders begin to ache."

"Well, then," answered Hercules, "I will climb the mountain behind you
there, and relieve you of your burden."

The truth is, Hercules had a kind heart of his own, and considered that
he should be doing the giant a favor, by allowing him this opportunity
for a ramble. And, besides, he thought that it would be still more for
his own glory, if he could boast of upholding the sky, than merely to do
so ordinary a thing as to conquer a dragon with a hundred heads.
Accordingly, without more words, the sky was shifted from the shoulders
of Atlas, and placed upon those of Hercules.

When this was safely accomplished, the first thing that the giant did
was to stretch himself; and you may imagine what a prodigious spectacle
he was then. Next, he slowly lifted one of his feet out of the forest
that had grown up around it; then, the other. Then, all at once, he
began to caper, and leap, and dance, for joy at his freedom; flinging
himself nobody knows how high into the air, and floundering down again
with a shock that made the earth tremble. Then he laughed--Ho! ho!
ho!--with a thunderous roar that was echoed from the mountains, far and
near, as if they and the giant had been so many rejoicing brothers. When
his joy had a little subsided, he stepped into the sea; ten miles at the
first stride, which brought him midleg deep; and ten miles at the
second, when the water came just above his knees; and ten miles more at
the third, by which he was immersed nearly to his waist. This was the
greatest depth of the sea.

Hercules watched the giant, as he still went onward; for it was really a
wonderful sight, this immense human form, more than thirty miles off,
half hidden in the ocean, but with his upper half as tall, and misty,
and blue, as a distant mountain. At last the gigantic shape faded
entirely out of view. And now Hercules began to consider what he should
do, in case Atlas should be drowned in the sea, or if he were to be
stung to death by the dragon with the hundred heads, which guarded the
golden apples of the Hesperides. If any such misfortune were to happen,
how could he ever get rid of the sky? And, by the by, its weight began
already to be a little irksome to his head and shoulders.

"I really pity the poor giant," thought Hercules. "If it wearies me so
much in ten minutes, how must it have wearied him in a thousand years!"

O my sweet little people, you have no idea what a weight there was in
that same blue sky, which looks so soft and aerial above our heads! And
there, too, was the bluster of the wind, and the chill and watery
clouds, and the blazing sun, all taking their turns to make Hercules
uncomfortable! He began to be afraid that the giant would never come
back. He gazed wistfully at the world beneath him, and acknowledged to
himself that it was a far happier kind of life to be a shepherd at the
foot of a mountain, than to stand on its dizzy summit, and bear up the
firmament with his might and main. For, of course, as you will easily
understand, Hercules had an immense responsibility on his mind, as well
as a weight on his head and shoulders. Why, if he did not stand
perfectly still, and keep the sky immovable, the sun would perhaps be
put ajar! Or, after nightfall, a great many of the stars might be
loosened from their places, and shower down, like fiery rain, upon the
people's heads! And how ashamed would the hero be, if, owing to his
unsteadiness beneath its weight, the sky should crack, and show a great
fissure quite across it!

I know not how long it was before, to his unspeakable joy, he beheld the
huge shape of the giant, like a cloud, on the far-off edge of the sea.
At his nearer approach, Atlas held up his hand, in which Hercules could
perceive three magnificent golden apples, as big as pumpkins, all
hanging from one branch.

"I am glad to see you again," shouted Hercules, when the giant was
within hearing. "So you have got the golden apples?"

"Certainly, certainly," answered Atlas; "and very fair apples they are.
I took the finest that grew on the tree, I assure you. Ah! it is a
beautiful spot, that garden of the Hesperides. Yes; and the dragon with
a hundred heads is a sight worth any man's seeing. After all, you had
better have gone for the apples yourself."

"No matter," replied Hercules. "You have had a pleasant ramble, and have
done the business as well as I could. I heartily thank you for your
trouble. And now, as I have a long way to go, and am rather in
haste,--and as the king, my cousin, is anxious to receive the golden
apples,--will you be kind enough to take the sky off my shoulders
again?"

"Why, as to that," said the giant, chucking the golden apples into the
air twenty miles high, or thereabouts and catching them as they came
down,--"as to that, my good friend, I consider you a little
unreasonable. Cannot I carry the golden apples to the king, your cousin,
much quicker than you could? As his majesty is in such a hurry to get
them, I promise you to take my longest strides. And, besides, I have no
fancy for burdening myself with the sky, just now."

Here Hercules grew impatient, and gave a great shrug of his shoulders.
It being now twilight, you might have seen two or three stars tumble out
of their places. Everybody on earth looked upward in affright, thinking
that the sky might be going to fall next.

"Oh, that will never do!" cried Giant Atlas, with a great roar of
laughter. "I have not let fall so many stars within the last five
centuries. By the time you have stood there as long as I did, you will
begin to learn patience!"

"What!" shouted Hercules, very wrathfully, "do you intend to make me
bear this burden forever?"

"We will see about that, one of these days," answered the giant. "At all
events, you ought not to complain, if you have to bear it the next
hundred years, or perhaps the next thousand. I bore it a good while
longer, in spite of the back-ache. Well, then, after a thousand years,
if I happen to feel in the mood, we may possibly shift about again. You
are certainly a very strong man, and can never have a better opportunity
to prove it. Posterity will talk of you, I warrant it!"

"Pish! a fig for its talk!" cried Hercules, with another hitch of his
shoulders. "Just take the sky upon your head one instant, will you? I
want to make a cushion of my lion's skin, for the weight to rest upon.
It really chafes me, and will cause unnecessary inconvenience in so
many centuries as I am to stand here."

"That's no more than fair, and I'll do it!" quoth the giant; for he had
no unkind feeling towards Hercules, and was merely acting with a too
selfish consideration of his own ease. "For just five minutes, then,
I'll take back the sky. Only for five minutes, recollect! I have no idea
of spending another thousand years as I spent the last. Variety is the
spice of life, say I."

Ah, the thick-witted old rogue of a giant! He threw down the golden
apples, and received back the sky, from the head and shoulders of
Hercules, upon his own, where it rightly belonged. And Hercules picked
up the three golden apples, that were as big or bigger than pumpkins,
and straightway set out on his journey homeward, without paying the
slightest heed to the thundering tones of the giant, who bellowed after
him to come back. Another forest sprang up around his feet, and grew
ancient there; and again might be seen oak-trees, of six or seven
centuries old, that had waxed thus aged betwixt his enormous toes.

And there stands the giant to this day; or, at any rate, there stands a
mountain as tall as he, and which bears his name; and when the thunder
rumbles about its summit, we may imagine it to be the voice of Giant
Atlas, bellowing after Hercules!


Tanglewood Fireside

_After the Story_


"Cousin Eustace," demanded Sweet Fern, who had been sitting at the
story-teller's feet, with his mouth wide open, "exactly how tall was
this giant?"

"O Sweet Fern, Sweet Fern!" cried the student, "do you think I was
there, to measure him with a yard-stick? Well, if you must know to a
hair's-breadth, I suppose he might be from three to fifteen miles
straight upward, and that he might have seated himself on Taconic, and
had Monument Mountain for a footstool."

"Dear me!" ejaculated the good little boy, with a contented sort of a
grunt, "that was a giant, sure enough! And how long was his little
finger?"

"As long as from Tanglewood to the lake," said Eustace.

"Sure enough, that was a giant!" repeated Sweet Fern, in an ecstasy at
the precision of these measurements. "And how broad, I wonder, were the
shoulders of Hercules?"

"That is what I have never been able to find out," answered the student.
"But I think they must have been a great deal broader than mine, or than
your father's, or than almost any shoulders which one sees nowadays."

"I wish," whispered Sweet Fern, with his mouth close to the student's
ear, "that you would tell me how big were some of the oak-trees that
grew between the giant's toes."

"They were bigger," said Eustace, "than the great chestnut-tree which
stands beyond Captain Smith's house."

"Eustace," remarked Mr. Pringle, after some deliberation, "I find it
impossible to express such an opinion of this story as will be likely to
gratify, in the smallest degree, your pride of authorship. Pray let me
advise you never more to meddle with a classical myth. Your imagination
is altogether Gothic, and will inevitably Gothicize everything that you
touch. The effect is like bedaubing a marble statue with paint. This
giant, now! How can you have ventured to thrust his huge,
disproportioned mass among the seemly outlines of Grecian fable, the
tendency of which is to reduce even the extravagant within limits, by
its pervading elegance?"

"I described the giant as he appeared to me," replied the student,
rather piqued. "And, sir, if you would only bring your mind into such a
relation with these fables as is necessary in order to remodel them, you
would see at once that an old Greek had no more exclusive right to them
than a modern Yankee has. They are the common property of the world, and
of all time. The ancient poets remodelled them at pleasure, and held
them plastic in their hands; and why should they not be plastic in my
hands as well?"

Mr. Pringle could not forbear a smile.

"And besides," continued Eustace, "the moment you put any warmth of
heart, any passion or affection, any human or divine morality, into a
classic mould, you make it quite another thing from what it was before.
My own opinion is, that the Greeks, by taking possession of these
legends (which were the immemorial birthright of mankind), and putting
them into shapes of indestructible beauty, indeed, but cold and
heartless, have done all subsequent ages an incalculable injury."

"Which you, doubtless, were born to remedy," said Mr. Pringle, laughing
outright. "Well, well, go on; but take my advice, and never put any of
your travesties on paper. And, as your next effort, what if you should
try your hand on some one of the legends of Apollo?"

"Ah, sir, you propose it as an impossibility," observed the student,
after a moment's meditation; "and, to be sure, at first thought, the
idea of a Gothic Apollo strikes one rather ludicrously. But I will turn
over your suggestion in my mind, and do not quite despair of success."

During the above discussion, the children (who understood not a word of
it) had grown very sleepy, and were now sent off to bed. Their drowsy
babble was heard, ascending the staircase, while a northwest-wind roared
loudly among the tree-tops of Tanglewood, and played an anthem around
the house. Eustace Bright went back to the study, and again endeavored
to hammer out some verses, but fell asleep between two of the rhymes.



THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER


The Hill-Side

_Introductory to "The Miraculous Pitcher"_

And when, and where, do you think we find the children next? No longer
in the winter-time, but in the merry month of May. No longer in
Tanglewood play-room, or at Tanglewood fireside, but more than half-way
up a monstrous hill, or a mountain, as perhaps it would be better
pleased to have us call it. They had set out from home with the mighty
purpose of climbing this high hill, even to the very tip-top of its bald
head. To be sure, it was not quite so high as Chimborazo, or Mont Blanc,
and was even a good deal lower than old Graylock. But, at any rate, it
was higher than a thousand ant-hillocks, or a million of mole-hills;
and, when measured by the short strides of little children, might be
reckoned a very respectable mountain.

And was Cousin Eustace with the party? Of that you may be certain; else
how could the book go on a step further? He was now in the middle of the
spring vacation, and looked pretty much as we saw him four or five
months ago, except that, if you gazed quite closely at his upper lip,
you could discern the funniest little bit of a mustache upon it. Setting
aside this mark of mature manhood, you might have considered Cousin
Eustace just as much a boy as when you first became acquainted with him.
He was as merry, as playful, as good-humored, as light of foot and of
spirits, and equally a favorite with the little folks, as he had always
been. This expedition up the mountain was entirely of his contrivance.
All the way up the steep ascent, he had encouraged the elder children
with his cheerful voice; and when Dandelion, Cowslip, and Squash-Blossom
grew weary, he had lugged them along, alternately, on his back. In this
manner, they had passed through the orchards and pastures on the lower
part of the hill, and had reached the wood, which extends thence towards
its bare summit.

The month of May, thus far, had been more amiable than it often is, and
this was as sweet and genial a day as the heart of man or child could
wish. In their progress up the hill, the small people had found enough
of violets, blue and white, and some that were as golden as if they had
the touch of Midas on them. That sociablest of flowers, the little
Houstonia, was very abundant. It is a flower that never lives alone, but
which loves its own kind, and is always fond of dwelling with a great
many friends and relatives around it. Sometimes you see a family of
them, covering a space no bigger than the palm of your hand; and
sometimes a large community, whitening a whole tract of pasture, and all
keeping one another in cheerful heart and life.

Within the verge of the wood there were columbines, looking more pale
than red, because they were so modest, and had thought proper to seclude
themselves too anxiously from the sun. There were wild geraniums, too,
and a thousand white blossoms of the strawberry. The trailing arbutus
was not yet quite out of bloom; but it hid its precious flowers under
the last year's withered forest-leaves, as carefully as a mother-bird
hides its little young ones. It knew, I suppose, how beautiful and
sweet-scented they were. So cunning was their concealment, that the
children sometimes smelt the delicate richness of their perfume before
they knew whence it proceeded.

Amid so much new life, it was strange and truly pitiful to behold, here
and there, in the fields and pastures, the hoary periwigs of dandelions
that had already gone to seed. They had done with summer before the
summer came. Within those small globes of winged seeds it was autumn
now!

Well, but we must not waste our valuable pages with any more talk about
the spring-time and wild flowers. There is something, we hope, more
interesting to be talked about. If you look at the group of children,
you may see them all gathered around Eustace Bright, who, sitting on the
stump of a tree, seems to be just beginning a story. The fact is, the
younger part of the troop have found out that it takes rather too many
of their short strides to measure the long ascent of the hill. Cousin
Eustace, therefore, has decided to leave Sweet Fern, Cowslip,
Squash-Blossom, and Dandelion, at this point, midway up, until the
return of the rest of the party from the summit. And because they
complain a little, and do not quite like to stay behind, he gives them
some apples out of his pocket, and proposes to tell them a very pretty
story. Hereupon they brighten up, and change their grieved looks into
the broadest kind of smiles.

As for the story, I was there to hear it, hidden behind a bush, and
shall tell it over to you in the pages that come next.


The Miraculous Pitcher

One evening, in times long ago, old Philemon and his old wife Baucis sat
at their cottage-door, enjoying the calm and beautiful sunset. They had
already eaten their frugal supper, and intended now to spend a quiet
hour or two before bedtime. So they talked together about their garden,
and their cow, and their bees, and their grapevine, which clambered over
the cottage-wall, and on which the grapes were beginning to turn purple.
But the rude shouts of children, and the fierce barking of dogs, in the
village near at hand, grew louder and louder, until, at last, it was
hardly possible for Baucis and Philemon to hear each other speak.

"Ah, wife," cried Philemon, "I fear some poor traveller is seeking
hospitality among our neighbors yonder, and, instead of giving him food
and lodging, they have set their dogs at him, as their custom is!"

"Well-a-day!" answered old Baucis, "I do wish our neighbors felt a
little more kindness for their fellow-creatures. And only think of
bringing up their children in this naughty way, and patting them on the
head when they fling stones at strangers!"

"Those children will never come to any good," said Philemon, shaking his
white head. "To tell you the truth, wife, I should not wonder if some
terrible thing were to happen to all the people in the village, unless
they mend their manners. But, as for you and me, so long as Providence
affords us a crust of bread, let us be ready to give half to any poor,
homeless stranger, that may come along and need it."

"That's right, husband!" said Baucis. "So we will!"

These old folks, you must know, were quite poor, and had to work pretty
hard for a living. Old Philemon toiled diligently in his garden, while
Baucis was always busy with her distaff, or making a little butter and
cheese with their cow's milk, or doing one thing and another about the
cottage. Their food was seldom anything but bread, milk, and vegetables,
with sometimes a portion of honey from their beehive, and now and then a
bunch of grapes, that had ripened against the cottage wall. But they
were two of the kindest old people in the world, and would cheerfully
have gone without their dinners, any day, rather than refuse a slice of
their brown loaf, a cup of new milk, and a spoonful of honey, to the
weary traveller who might pause before their door. They felt as if such
guests had a sort of holiness, and that they ought, therefore, to treat
them better and more bountifully than their own selves.

Their cottage stood on a rising ground, at some short distance from a
village, which lay in a hollow valley, that was about half a mile in
breadth. This valley, in past ages, when the world was new, had probably
been the bed of a lake. There, fishes had glided to and fro in the
depths, and water-weeds had grown along the margin, and trees and hills
had seen their reflected images in the broad and peaceful mirror. But,
as the waters subsided, men had cultivated the soil, and built houses on
it, so that it was now a fertile spot, and bore no traces of the ancient
lake, except a very small brook, which meandered through the midst of
the village, and supplied the inhabitants with water. The valley had
been dry land so long, that oaks had sprung up, and grown great and
high, and perished with old age, and been succeeded by others, as tall
and stately as the first. Never was there a prettier or more fruitful
valley. The very sight of the plenty around them should have made the
inhabitants kind and gentle, and ready to show their gratitude to
Providence by doing good to their fellow-creatures.

But, we are sorry to say, the people of this lovely village were not
worthy to dwell in a spot on which Heaven had smiled so beneficently.
They were a very selfish and hard-hearted people, and had no pity for
the poor, nor sympathy with the homeless. They would only have laughed,
had anybody told them that human beings owe a debt of love to one
another, because there is no other method of paying the debt of love and
care which all of us owe to Providence. You will hardly believe what I
am going to tell you. These naughty people taught their children to be
no better than themselves, and used to clap their hands, by way of
encouragement, when they saw the little boys and girls run after some
poor stranger, shouting at his heels, and pelting him with stones. They
kept large and fierce dogs, and whenever a traveller ventured to show
himself in the village street, this pack of disagreeable curs scampered
to meet him, barking, snarling, and showing their teeth. Then they would
seize him by his leg, or by his clothes, just as it happened; and if he
were ragged when he came, he was generally a pitiable object before he
had time to run away. This was a very terrible thing to poor travellers,
as you may suppose, especially when they chanced to be sick, or feeble,
or lame, or old. Such persons (if they once knew how badly these unkind
people, and their unkind children and curs, were in the habit of
behaving) would go miles and miles out of their way, rather than try to
pass through the village again.

What made the matter seem worse, if possible, was that when rich persons
came in their chariots, or riding on beautiful horses, with their
servants in rich liveries attending on them, nobody could be more civil
and obsequious than the inhabitants of the village. They would take off
their hats, and make the humblest bows you ever saw. If the children
were rude, they were pretty certain to get their ears boxed; and as for
the dogs, if a single cur in the pack presumed to yelp, his master
instantly beat him with a club, and tied him up without any supper. This
would have been all very well, only it proved that the villagers cared
much about the money that a stranger had in his pocket, and nothing
whatever for the human soul, which lives equally in the beggar and the
prince.

So now you can understand why old Philemon spoke so sorrowfully, when he
heard the shouts of the children and the barking of the dogs, at the
farther extremity of the village street. There was a confused din, which
lasted a good while, and seemed to pass quite through the breadth of the
valley.

"I never heard the dogs so loud!" observed the good old man.

"Nor the children so rude!" answered his good old wife.

They sat shaking their heads, one to another, while the noise came
nearer and nearer; until, at the foot of the little eminence on which
their cottage stood, they saw two travellers approaching on foot. Close
behind them came the fierce dogs, snarling at their very heels. A little
farther off, ran a crowd of children, who sent up shrill cries, and
flung stones at the two strangers, with all their might. Once or twice,
the younger of the two men (he was a slender and very active figure)
turned about and drove back the dogs with a staff which he carried in
his hand. His companion, who was a very tall person, walked calmly
along, as if disdaining to notice either the naughty children, or the
pack of curs, whose manners the children seemed to imitate.

Both of the travellers were very humbly clad, and looked as if they
might not have money enough in their pockets to pay for a night's
lodging. And this, I am afraid, was the reason why the villagers had
allowed their children and dogs to treat them so rudely.

"Come, wife," said Philemon to Baucis, "let us go and meet these poor
people. No doubt, they feel almost too heavy-hearted to climb the hill."

"Go you and meet them," answered Baucis, "while I make haste within
doors, and see whether we can get them anything for supper. A
comfortable bowl of bread and milk would do wonders towards raising
their spirits."

Accordingly, she hastened into the cottage. Philemon, on his part, went
forward, and extended his hand with so hospitable an aspect that there
was no need of saying what nevertheless he did say, in the heartiest
tone imaginable,--

"Welcome, strangers! welcome!"

"Thank you!" replied the younger of the two, in a lively kind of way,
notwithstanding his weariness and trouble. "This is quite another
greeting than we have met with yonder in the village. Pray, why do you
live in such a bad neighborhood?"

"Ah!" observed old Philemon, with a quiet and benign smile, "Providence
put me here, I hope, among other reasons, in order that I may make you
what amends I can for the inhospitality of my neighbors."

"Well said, old father!" cried the traveller, laughing; "and, if the
truth must be told, my companion and myself need some amends. Those
children (the little rascals!) have bespattered us finely with their
mud-balls; and one of the curs has torn my cloak, which was ragged
enough already. But I took him across the muzzle with my staff; and I
think you may have heard him yelp, even thus far off."

Philemon was glad to see him in such good spirits; nor, indeed, would
you have fancied, by the traveller's look and manner, that he was weary
with a long day's journey, besides being disheartened by rough treatment
at the end of it. He was dressed in rather an odd way, with a sort of
cap on his head, the brim of which stuck out over both ears. Though it
was a summer evening, he wore a cloak, which he kept wrapt closely
about him, perhaps because his under garments were shabby. Philemon
perceived, too, that he had on a singular pair of shoes; but, as it was
now growing dusk, and as the old man's eyesight was none the sharpest,
he could not precisely tell in what the strangeness consisted. One
thing, certainly, seemed queer. The traveller was so wonderfully light
and active, that it appeared as if his feet sometimes rose from the
ground of their own accord, or could only be kept down by an effort.

"I used to be light-footed, in my youth," said Philemon to the
traveller. "But I always found my feet grow heavier towards nightfall."

"There is nothing like a good staff to help one along," answered the
stranger; "and I happen to have an excellent one, as you see."

This staff, in fact, was the oddest-looking staff that Philemon had ever
beheld. It was made of olivewood, and had something like a little pair
of wings near the top. Two snakes, carved in the wood, were represented
as twining themselves about the staff, and were so very skilfully
executed that old Philemon (whose eyes, you know, were getting rather
dim) almost thought them alive, and that he could see them wriggling and
twisting.

"A curious piece of work, sure enough!" said he. "A staff with wings! It
would be an excellent kind of stick for a little boy to ride astride
of!"

By this time, Philemon and his two guests had reached the cottage door.

"Friends," said the old man, "sit down and rest yourselves here on this
bench. My good wife Baucis has gone to see what you can have for supper.
We are poor folks; but you shall be welcome to whatever we have in the
cupboard."

The younger stranger threw himself carelessly on the bench, letting his
staff fall, as he did so. And here happened something rather
marvellous, though trifling enough, too. The staff seemed to get up from
the ground of its own accord, and, spreading its little pair of wings,
it half hopped, half flew, and leaned itself against the wall of the
cottage. There it stood quite still, except that the snakes continued to
wriggle. But, in my private opinion, old Philemon's eyesight had been
playing him tricks again.

Before he could ask any questions, the elder stranger drew his attention
from the wonderful staff, by speaking to him.

"Was there not," asked the stranger, in a remarkably deep tone of voice,
"a lake, in very ancient times, covering the spot where now stands
yonder village?"

"Not in my day, friend," answered Philemon; "and yet I am an old man, as
you see. There were always the fields and meadows, just as they are now,
and the old trees, and the little stream murmuring through the midst of
the valley. My father, nor his father before him, ever saw it otherwise,
so far as I know; and doubtless it will still be the same, when old
Philemon shall be gone and forgotten!"

"That is more than can be safely foretold," observed the stranger; and
there was something very stern in his deep voice. He shook his head,
too, so that his dark and heavy curls were shaken with the movement.
"Since the inhabitants of yonder village have forgotten the affections
and sympathies of their nature, it were better that the lake should be
rippling over their dwellings again!"

The traveller looked so stern, that Philemon was really almost
frightened; the more so, that, at his frown, the twilight seemed
suddenly to grow darker, and that, when he shook his head, there was a
roll as of thunder in the air.

But, in a moment afterwards, the stranger's face became so kindly and
mild that the old man quite forgot his terror. Nevertheless, he could
not help feeling that this elder traveller must be no ordinary
personage, although he happened now to be attired so humbly and to be
journeying on foot. Not that Philemon fancied him a prince in disguise,
or any character of that sort; but rather some exceedingly wise man, who
went about the world in this poor garb, despising wealth and all worldly
objects, and seeking everywhere to add a mite to his wisdom. This idea
appeared the more probable, because, when Philemon raised his eyes to
the stranger's face, he seemed to see more thought there, in one look,
than he could have studied out in a lifetime.

While Baucis was getting the supper, the travellers both began to talk
very sociably with Philemon. The younger, indeed, was extremely
loquacious, and made such shrewd and witty remarks, that the good old
man continually burst out a-laughing, and pronounced him the merriest
fellow whom he had seen for many a day.

"Pray, my young friend," said he, as they grew familiar together, "what
may I call your name?"

"Why, I am very nimble, as you see," answered the traveller. "So, if you
call me Quicksilver, the name will fit tolerably well."

"Quicksilver? Quicksilver?" repeated Philemon, looking in the
traveller's face, to see if he were making fun of him. "It is a very odd
name! And your companion there? Has he as strange a one?"

"You must ask the thunder to tell it you!" replied Quicksilver, putting
on a mysterious look. "No other voice is loud enough."

This remark, whether it were serious or in jest, might have caused
Philemon to conceive a very great awe of the elder stranger, if, on
venturing to gaze at him, he had not beheld so much beneficence in his
visage. But, undoubtedly, here was the grandest figure that ever sat so
humbly beside a cottage door. When the stranger conversed, it was with
gravity, and in such a way that Philemon felt irresistibly moved to tell
him everything which he had most at heart. This is always the feeling
that people have, when they meet with any one wise enough to comprehend
all their good and evil, and to despise not a tittle of it.

But Philemon, simple and kind-hearted old man that he was, had not many
secrets to disclose. He talked, however, quite garrulously, about the
events of his past life, in the whole course of which he had never been
a score of miles from this very spot. His wife Baucis and himself had
dwelt in the cottage from their youth upward, earning their bread by
honest labor, always poor, but still contented. He told what excellent
butter and cheese Baucis made, and how nice were the vegetables which he
raised in his garden. He said, too, that, because they loved one another
so very much, it was the wish of both that death might not separate
them, but that they should die, as they had lived, together.

As the stranger listened, a smile beamed over his countenance, and made
its expression as sweet as it was grand.

"You are a good old man," said he to Philemon, "and you have a good old
wife to be your helpmeet. It is fit that your wish be granted."

And it seemed to Philemon, just then, as if the sunset clouds threw up a
bright flash from the west, and kindled a sudden light in the sky.

Baucis had now got supper ready, and, coming to the door, began to make
apologies for the poor fare which she was forced to set before her
guests.

"Had we known you were coming," said she, "my good man and myself would
have gone without a morsel, rather than you should lack a better supper.
But I took the most part of to-day's milk to make cheese; and our last
loaf is already half eaten. Ah me! I never feel the sorrow of being
poor, save when a poor traveller knocks at our door."

"All will be very well; do not trouble yourself, my good dame," replied
the elder stranger, kindly. "An honest, hearty welcome to a guest works
miracles with the fare, and is capable of turning the coarsest food to
nectar and ambrosia."

"A welcome you shall have," cried Baucis, "and likewise a little honey
that we happen to have left, and a bunch of purple grapes besides."

"Why, Mother Baucis, it is a feast!" exclaimed Quicksilver, laughing,
"an absolute feast! and you shall see how bravely I will play my part at
it! I think I never felt hungrier in my life."

"Mercy on us!" whispered Baucis to her husband. "If the young man has
such a terrible appetite, I am afraid there will not be half enough
supper!"

They all went into the cottage.

And now, my little auditors, shall I tell you something that will make
you open your eyes very wide? It is really one of the oddest
circumstances in the whole story. Quicksilver's staff, you recollect,
had set itself up against the wall of the cottage. Well; when its master
entered the door, leaving this wonderful staff behind, what should it do
but immediately spread its little wings, and go hopping and fluttering
up the door steps! Tap, tap, went the staff, on the kitchen floor; nor
did it rest until it had stood itself on end, with the greatest gravity
and decorum, beside Quicksilver's chair. Old Philemon, however, as well
as his wife, was so taken up in attending to their guests, that no
notice was given to what the staff had been about.

As Baucis had said, there was but a scanty supper for two hungry
travellers. In the middle of the table was the remnant of a brown loaf,
with a piece of cheese on one side of it, and a dish of honeycomb on the
other. There was a pretty good bunch of grapes for each of the guests.
A moderately sized earthen pitcher, nearly full of milk, stood at a
corner of the board; and when Baucis had filled two bowls, and set them
before the strangers, only a little milk remained in the bottom of the
pitcher. Alas! it is a very sad business, when a bountiful heart finds
itself pinched and squeezed among narrow circumstances. Poor Baucis kept
wishing that she might starve for a week to come, if it were possible,
by so doing, to provide these hungry folks a more plentiful supper.

And, since the supper was so exceedingly small, she could not help
wishing that their appetites had not been quite so large. Why, at their
very first sitting down, the travellers both drank off all the milk in
their two bowls, at a draught.

"A little more milk, kind Mother Baucis, if you please," said
Quicksilver. "The day has been hot, and I am very much athirst."

"Now, my dear people," answered Baucis, in great confusion, "I am so
sorry and ashamed! But the truth is, there is hardly a drop more milk in
the pitcher. O husband! husband! why didn't we go without our supper?"

"Why, it appears to me," cried Quicksilver, starting up from table and
taking the pitcher by the handle, "it really appears to me that matters
are not quite so bad as you represent them. Here is certainly more milk
in the pitcher."

So saying, and to the vast astonishment of Baucis, he proceeded to fill,
not only his own bowl, but his companion's likewise, from the pitcher,
that was supposed to be almost empty. The good woman could scarcely
believe her eyes. She had certainly poured out nearly all the milk, and
had peeped in afterwards, and seen the bottom of the pitcher, as she set
it down upon the table.

"But I am old," thought Baucis to herself, "and apt to be forgetful. I
suppose I must have made a mistake. At all events, the pitcher cannot
help being empty now, after filling the bowls twice over."

"What excellent milk!" observed Quicksilver, after quaffing the contents
of the second bowl. "Excuse me, my kind hostess, but I must really ask
you for a little more."

Now Baucis had seen, as plainly as she could see anything, that
Quicksilver had turned the pitcher upside down, and consequently had
poured out every drop of milk, in filling the last bowl. Of course,
there could not possibly be any left. However, in order to let him know
precisely how the case was, she lifted the pitcher, and made a gesture
as if pouring milk into Quicksilver's bowl, but without the remotest
idea that any milk would stream forth. What was her surprise, therefore,
when such an abundant cascade fell bubbling into the bowl, that it was
immediately filled to the brim, and overflowed upon the table! The two
snakes that were twisted about Quicksilver's staff (but neither Baucis
nor Philemon happened to observe this circumstance) stretched out their
heads, and began to lap up the spilt milk.

And then what a delicious fragrance the milk had! It seemed as if
Philemon's only cow must have pastured, that day, on the richest herbage
that could be found anywhere in the world. I only wish that each of you,
my beloved little souls, could have a bowl of such nice milk, at
supper-time!

"And now a slice of your brown loaf, Mother Baucis," said Quicksilver,
"and a little of that honey!"

Baucis cut him a slice, accordingly; and though the loaf, when she and
her husband ate of it, had been rather too dry and crusty to be
palatable, it was now as light and moist as if but a few hours out of
the oven. Tasting a crumb, which had fallen on the table, she found it
more delicious than bread ever was before, and could hardly believe that
it was a loaf of her own kneading and baking. Yet, what other loaf could
it possibly be?

But, oh the honey! I may just as well let it alone, without trying to
describe how exquisitely it smelt and looked. Its color was that of the
purest and most transparent gold; and it had the odor of a thousand
flowers; but of such flowers as never grew in an earthly garden, and to
seek which the bees must have flown high above the clouds. The wonder
is, that, after alighting on a flower-bed of so delicious fragrance and
immortal bloom, they should have been content to fly down again to their
hive in Philemon's garden. Never was such honey tasted, seen, or smelt.
The perfume floated around the kitchen, and made it so delightful, that,
had you closed your eyes, you would instantly have forgotten the low
ceiling and smoky walls, and have fancied yourself in an arbor, with
celestial honeysuckles creeping over it.

Although good Mother Baucis was a simple old dame, she could not but
think that there was something rather out of the common way, in all that
had been going on. So, after helping the guests to bread and honey, and
laying a bunch of grapes by each of their plates, she sat down by
Philemon, and told him what she had seen, in a whisper.

"Did you ever hear the like?" asked she.

"No, I never did," answered Philemon, with a smile. "And I rather think,
my dear old wife, you have been walking about in a sort of a dream. If I
had poured out the milk, I should have seen through the business at
once. There happened to be a little more in the pitcher than you
thought,--that is all."

"Ah, husband," said Baucis, "say what you will these are very uncommon
people."

"Well, well," replied Philemon, still smiling, "perhaps they are. They
certainly do look as if they had seen better days; and I am heartily
glad to see them making so comfortable a supper."

Each of the guests had now taken his bunch of grapes upon his plate.
Baucis (who rubbed her eyes, in order to see the more clearly) was of
opinion that the clusters had grown larger and richer, and that each
separate grape seemed to be on the point of bursting with ripe juice. It
was entirely a mystery to her how such grapes could ever have been
produced from the old stunted vine that climbed against the cottage
wall.

"Very admirable grapes these!" observed Quicksilver, as he swallowed one
after another, without apparently diminishing his cluster. "Pray, my
good host, whence did you gather them?"

"From my own vine," answered Philemon. "You may see one of its branches
twisting across the window, yonder. But wife and I never thought the
grapes very fine ones."

"I never tasted better," said the guest. "Another cup of this delicious
milk, if you please, and I shall then have supped better than a prince."

This time, old Philemon bestirred himself, and took up the pitcher; for
he was curious to discover whether there was any reality in the marvels
which Baucis had whispered to him. He knew that his good old wife was
incapable of falsehood, and that she was seldom mistaken in what she
supposed to be true; but this was so very singular a case, that he
wanted to see into it with his own eyes. On taking up the pitcher,
therefore, he slyly peeped into it, and was fully satisfied that it
contained not so much as a single drop. All at once, however, he beheld
a little white fountain, which gushed up from the bottom of the pitcher,
and speedily filled it to the brim with foaming and deliciously fragrant
milk. It was lucky that Philemon, in his surprise, did not drop the
miraculous pitcher from his hand.

"Who are ye, wonder-working strangers!" cried he, even more bewildered
than his wife had been.

"Your guests, my good Philemon, and your friends," replied the elder
traveller, in his mild, deep voice, that had something at once sweet and
awe-inspiring in it. "Give me likewise a cup of the milk; and may your
pitcher never be empty for kind Baucis and yourself, any more than for
the needy wayfarer!"

The supper being now over, the strangers requested to be shown to their
place of repose. The old people would gladly have talked with them a
little longer, and have expressed the wonder which they felt, and their
delight at finding the poor and meagre supper prove so much better and
more abundant than they hoped. But the elder traveller had inspired them
with such reverence, that they dared not ask him any questions. And when
Philemon drew Quicksilver aside, and inquired how under the sun a
fountain of milk could have got into an old earthen pitcher, this latter
personage pointed to his staff.

"There is the whole mystery of the affair," quoth Quicksilver; "and if
you can make it out, I'll thank you to let me know. I can't tell what to
make of my staff. It is always playing such odd tricks as this;
sometimes getting me a supper, and, quite as often, stealing it away. If
I had any faith in such nonsense, I should say the stick was bewitched!"

He said no more, but looked so slyly in their faces, that they rather
fancied he was laughing at them. The magic staff went hopping at his
heels, as Quicksilver quitted the room. When left alone, the good old
couple spent some little time in conversation about the events of the
evening, and then lay down on the floor, and fell fast asleep. They had
given up their sleeping-room to the guests, and had no other bed for
themselves, save these planks, which I wish had been as soft as their
own hearts.

The old man and his wife were stirring, betimes, in the morning, and the
strangers likewise arose with the sun, and made their preparations to
depart. Philemon hospitably entreated them to remain a little longer,
until Baucis could milk the cow, and bake a cake upon the hearth, and,
perhaps, find them a few fresh eggs, for breakfast. The guests, however,
seemed to think it better to accomplish a good part of their journey
before the heat of the day should come on. They, therefore, persisted in
setting out immediately, but asked Philemon and Baucis to walk forth
with them a short distance, and show them the road which they were to
take.

So they all four issued from the cottage, chatting together like old
friends. It was very remarkable, indeed, how familiar the old couple
insensibly grew with the elder traveller, and how their good and simple
spirits melted into his, even as two drops of water would melt into the
illimitable ocean. And as for Quicksilver, with his keen, quick,
laughing wits, he appeared to discover every little thought that but
peeped into their minds, before they suspected it themselves. They
sometimes wished, it is true, that he had not been quite so
quick-witted, and also that he would fling away his staff, which looked
so mysteriously mischievous, with the snakes always writhing about it.
But then, again, Quicksilver showed himself so very good-humored, that
they would have been rejoiced to keep him in their cottage, staff,
snakes, and all, every day, and the whole day long.

"Ah me! Well-a-day!" exclaimed Philemon, when they had walked a little
way from their door. "If our neighbors only knew what a blessed thing it
is to show hospitality to strangers, they would tie up all their dogs,
and never allow their children to fling another stone."

"It is a sin and shame for them to behave so,--that it is!" cried good
old Baucis, vehemently. "And I mean to go this very day, and tell some
of them what naughty people they are!"

"I fear," remarked Quicksilver, slyly smiling, "that you will find none
of them at home."

The elder traveller's brow, just then, assumed such a grave, stern, and
awful grandeur, yet serene withal, that neither Baucis nor Philemon
dared to speak a word. They gazed reverently into his face, as if they
had been gazing at the sky.

"When men do not feel towards the humblest stranger as if he were a
brother," said the traveller, in tones so deep that they sounded like
those of an organ, "they are unworthy to exist on earth, which was
created as the abode of a great human brotherhood!"

"And, by the by, my dear old people," cried Quicksilver, with the
liveliest look of fun and mischief in his eyes, "where is this same
village that you talk about? On which side of us does it lie? Methinks I
do not see it hereabouts."

Philemon and his wife turned towards the valley, where, at sunset, only
the day before, they had seen the meadows, the houses, the gardens, the
clumps of trees, the wide, green-margined street, with children playing
in it, and all the tokens of business, enjoyment, and prosperity. But
what was their astonishment! There was no longer any appearance of a
village! Even the fertile vale, in the hollow of which it lay, had
ceased to have existence. In its stead, they beheld the broad, blue
surface of a lake, which filled the great basin of the valley from brim
to brim, and reflected the surrounding hills in its bosom with as
tranquil an image as if it had been there ever since the creation of the
world. For an instant, the lake remained perfectly smooth. Then, a
little breeze sprang up, and caused the water to dance, glitter, and
sparkle in the early sunbeams, and to dash, with a pleasant rippling
murmur, against the hither shore.

The lake seemed so strangely familiar, that the old couple were greatly
perplexed, and felt as if they could only have been dreaming about a
village having lain there. But, the next moment, they remembered the
vanished dwellings, and the faces and characters of the inhabitants, far
too distinctly for a dream. The village had been there yesterday, and
now was gone!

"Alas!" cried these kind-hearted old people, "what has become of our
poor neighbors?"

"They exist no longer as men and women," said the elder traveller, in
his grand and deep voice, while a roll of thunder seemed to echo it at a
distance. "There was neither use nor beauty in such a life as theirs;
for they never softened or sweetened the hard lot of mortality by the
exercise of kindly affections between man and man. They retained no
image of the better life in their bosoms; therefore, the lake, that was
of old, has spread itself forth again, to reflect the sky!"

"And as for those foolish people," said Quicksilver, with his
mischievous smile, "they are all transformed to fishes. There needed but
little change, for they were already a scaly set of rascals, and the
coldest-blooded beings in existence. So, kind Mother Baucis, whenever
you or your husband have an appetite for a dish of broiled trout, he can
throw in a line, and pull out half a dozen of your old neighbors!"

"All," cried Baucis, shuddering, "I would not, for the world, put one of
them on the gridiron!"

"No," added Philemon, making a wry face, "we could never relish them!"

"As for you, good Philemon," continued the elder traveller,--"and you,
kind Baucis,--you, with your scanty means, have mingled so much
heartfelt hospitality with your entertainment of the homeless stranger,
that the milk became an inexhaustible fount of nectar, and the brown
loaf and the honey were ambrosia. Thus, the divinities have feasted, at
your board, off the same viands that supply their banquets on Olympus.
You have done well, my dear old friends. Wherefore, request whatever
favor you have most at heart, and it is granted."

Philemon and Baucis looked at one another, and then,--I know not which
of the two it was who spoke, but that one uttered the desire of both
their hearts.

"Let us live together, while we live, and leave the world at the same
instant, when we die! For we have always loved one another!"

"Be it so!" replied the stranger, with majestic kindness. "Now, look
towards your cottage!"

They did so. But what was their surprise on beholding a tall edifice of
white marble, with a wide-open portal, occupying the spot where their
humble residence had so lately stood!

"There is your home," said the stranger, beneficently smiling on them
both. "Exercise your hospitality in yonder palace as freely as in the
poor hovel to which you welcomed us last evening."

The old folks fell on their knees to thank him; but, behold! neither he
nor Quicksilver was there.

So Philemon and Baucis took up their residence in the marble palace, and
spent their time, with vast satisfaction to themselves, in making
everybody jolly and comfortable who happened to pass that way. The
milk-pitcher, I must not forget to say, retained its marvellous quality
of being never empty, when it was desirable to have it full. Whenever an
honest, good-humored, and free-hearted guest took a draught from this
pitcher, he invariably found it the sweetest and most invigorating fluid
that ever ran down his throat. But, if a cross and disagreeable
curmudgeon happened to sip, he was pretty certain to twist his visage
into a hard knot, and pronounce it a pitcher of sour milk!

Thus the old couple lived in their palace a great, great while, and grew
older and older, and very old indeed. At length, however, there came a
summer morning when Philemon and Baucis failed to make their appearance,
as on other mornings, with one hospitable smile overspreading both their
pleasant faces, to invite the guests of over-night to breakfast. The
guests searched everywhere, from top to bottom of the spacious palace,
and all to no purpose. But, after a great deal of perplexity, they
espied, in front of the portal, two venerable trees, which nobody could
remember to have seen there the day before. Yet there they stood, with
their roots fastened deep into the soil, and a huge breadth of foliage
overshadowing the whole front of the edifice. One was an oak, and the
other a linden-tree. Their boughs--it was strange and beautiful to
see--were intertwined together, and embraced one another, so that each
tree seemed to live in the other tree's bosom much more than in its own.

While the guests were marvelling how these trees, that must have
required at least a century to grow, could have come to be so tall and
venerable in a single night, a breeze sprang up, and set their
intermingled boughs astir. And then there was a deep, broad murmur in
the air, as if the two mysterious trees were speaking.

"I am old Philemon!" murmured the oak.

"I am old Baucis!" murmured the linden-tree.

But, as the breeze grew stronger, the trees both spoke at
once,--"Philemon! Baucis! Baucis! Philemon!"--as if one were both and
both were one, and talking together in the depths of their mutual heart.
It was plain enough to perceive that the good old couple had renewed
their age, and were now to spend a quiet and delightful hundred years or
so, Philemon as an oak, and Baucis as a linden-tree. And oh, what a
hospitable shade did they fling around them. Whenever a wayfarer paused
beneath it, he heard a pleasant whisper of the leaves above his head,
and wondered how the sound should so much resemble words like these:--

"Welcome, welcome, dear traveller, welcome!"

And some kind soul, that knew what would have pleased old Baucis and old
Philemon best, built a circular seat around both their trunks, where,
for a great while afterwards, the weary, and the hungry, and the thirsty
used to repose themselves, and quaff milk abundantly out of the
miraculous pitcher.

And I wish, for all our sakes, that we had the pitcher here now!

The Hill-Side

_After the Story_

"How much did the pitcher hold?" asked Sweet Fern. "It did not hold
quite a quart," answered the student; "but you might keep pouring milk
out of it, till you should fill a hogshead, if you pleased. The truth
is, it would run on forever, and not be dry even at midsummer,--which is
more than can be said of yonder rill, that goes babbling down the
hill-side."

"And what has become of the pitcher now?" inquired the little boy.

"It was broken, I am sorry to say, about twenty-five thousand years
ago," replied Cousin Eustace. "The people mended it as well as they
could, but, though it would hold milk pretty well, it was never
afterwards known to fill itself of its own accord. So, you see, it was
no better than any other cracked earthen pitcher."

"What a pity!" cried all the children at once.

The respectable dog Ben had accompanied the party, as did likewise a
half-grown Newfoundland puppy, who went by the name of Bruin, because he
was just as black as a bear. Ben, being elderly, and of very circumspect
habits, was respectfully requested, by Cousin Eustace, to stay behind
with the four little children, in order to keep them out of mischief. As
for black Bruin, who was himself nothing but a child, the student
thought it best to take him along, lest, in his rude play with the
other children, he should trip them up, and send them rolling and
tumbling down the hill. Advising Cowslip, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, and
Squash-Blossom to sit pretty still, in the spot where he left them, the
student, with Primrose and the elder children, began to ascend, and were
soon out of sight among the trees.


THE CHIMÆRA


Bald-Summit

_Introductory to "The Chimæra"_

Upward, along the steep and wooded hill-side, went Eustace Bright and
his companions. The trees were not yet in full leaf, but had budded
forth sufficiently to throw an airy shadow, while the sunshine filled
them with green light. There were moss-grown rocks, half hidden among
the old, brown, fallen leaves; there were rotten tree-trunks, lying at
full length where they had long ago fallen; there were decayed boughs,
that had been shaken down by the wintry gales, and were scattered
everywhere about. But still, though these things looked so aged, the
aspect of the wood was that of the newest life; for, whichever way you
turned your eyes, something fresh and green was springing forth, so as
to be ready for the summer.

At last, the young people reached the upper verge of the wood, and found
themselves almost at the summit of the hill. It was not a peak, nor a
great round ball, but a pretty wide plain, or table-land, with a house
and barn upon it, at some distance. That house was the home of a
solitary family; and often-times the clouds, whence fell the rain, and
whence the snow-storm drifted down into the valley, hung lower than this
bleak and lonely dwelling-place.

On the highest point of the hill was a heap of stones, in the centre of
which was stuck a long pole, with a little flag fluttering at the end of
it. Eustace led the children thither, and bade them look around, and
see how large a tract of our beautiful world they could take in at a
glance. And their eyes grew wider as they looked.

Monument Mountain, to the southward, was still in the centre of the
scene, but seemed to have sunk and subsided, so that it was now but an
undistinguished member of a large family of hills. Beyond it, the
Taconic range looked higher and bulkier than before. Our pretty lake was
seen, with all its little bays and inlets; and not that alone, but two
or three new lakes were opening their blue eyes to the sun. Several
white villages, each with its steeple, were scattered about in the
distance. There were so many farm-houses, with their acres of woodland,
pasture, mowing-fields, and tillage, that the children could hardly make
room in their minds to receive all these different objects. There, too,
was Tanglewood, which they had hitherto thought such an important apex
of the world. It now occupied so small a space, that they gazed far
beyond it, and on either side, and searched a good while with all their
eyes, before discovering whereabout it stood.

White, fleecy clouds were hanging in the air, and threw the dark spots
of their shadow here and there over the landscape. But, by and by, the
sunshine was where the shadow had been, and the shadow was somewhere
else.

Far to the westward was a range of blue mountains, which Eustace Bright
told the children were the Catskills. Among those misty hills, he said,
was a spot where some old Dutchmen were playing an everlasting game of
nine-pins, and where an idle fellow, whose name was Rip Van Winkle, had
fallen asleep, and slept twenty years at a stretch. The children eagerly
besought Eustace to tell them all about this wonderful affair. But the
student replied that the story had been told once already, and better
than it ever could be told again; and that nobody would have a right to
alter a word of it, until it should have grown as old as "The Gorgon's
Head," and "The Three Golden Apples," and the rest of those miraculous
legends.

"At least," said Periwinkle, "while we rest ourselves here, and are
looking about us, you can tell us another of your own stories."

"Yes, Cousin Eustace," cried Primrose, "I advise you to tell us a story
here. Take some lofty subject or other, and see if your imagination will
not come up to it. Perhaps the mountain air may make you poetical, for
once. And no matter how strange and wonderful the story may be, now that
we are up among the clouds, we can believe anything."

"Can you believe," asked Eustace, "that there was once a winged horse?"

"Yes," said saucy Primrose; "but I am afraid you will never be able to
catch him."

"For that matter, Primrose," rejoined the student, "I might possibly
catch Pegasus, and get upon his back, too, as well as a dozen other
fellows that I know of. At any rate, here is a story about him; and, of
all places in the world, it ought certainly to be told upon a
mountain-top."

So, sitting on the pile of stones, while the children clustered
themselves at its base, Eustace fixed his eyes on a white cloud that was
sailing by, and began as follows.


The Chimæra

Once, in the old, old times (for all the strange things which I tell you
about happened long before anybody can remember), a fountain gushed out
of a hill-side, in the marvellous land of Greece. And, for aught I know,
after so many thousand years, it is still gushing out of the very
selfsame spot. At any rate, there was the pleasant fountain, welling
freshly forth and sparkling adown the hill-side, in the golden sunset,
when a handsome young man named Bellerophon drew near its margin. In his
hand he held a bridle, studded with brilliant gems, and adorned with a
golden bit. Seeing an old man, and another of middle age, and a little
boy, near the fountain, and likewise a maiden, who was dipping up some
of the water in a pitcher, he paused, and begged that he might refresh
himself with a draught.

"This is very delicious water," he said to the maiden as he rinsed and
filled her pitcher, after drinking out of it. "Will you be kind enough
to tell me whether the fountain has any name?"

"Yes; it is called the Fountain of Pirene," answered the maiden; and
then she added, "My grandmother has told me that this clear fountain was
once a beautiful woman; and when her son was killed by the arrows of the
huntress Diana, she melted all away into tears. And so the water, which
you find so cool and sweet, is the sorrow of that poor mother's heart!"

"I should not have dreamed," observed the young stranger, "that so clear
a well-spring, with its gush and gurgle, and its cheery dance out of the
shade into the sunlight, had so much as one tear-drop in its bosom! And
this, then, is Pirene? I thank you, pretty maiden, for telling me its
name. I have come from a far-away country to find this very spot."

A middle-aged country fellow (he had driven his cow to drink out of the
spring) stared hard at young Bellerophon, and at the handsome bridle
which he carried in his hand.

"The water-courses must be getting low, friend, in your part of the
world," remarked he, "if you come so far only to find the Fountain of
Pirene. But, pray, have you lost a horse? I see you carry the bridle in
your hand; and a very pretty one it is with that double row of bright
stones upon it. If the horse was as fine as the bridle, you are much to
be pitied for losing him."

"I have lost no horse," said Bellerophon, with a smile. "But I happen to
be seeking a very famous one, which, as wise people have informed me,
must be found hereabouts, if anywhere. Do you know whether the winged
horse Pegasus still haunts the Fountain of Pirene, as he used to do in
your forefathers' days?"

But then the country fellow laughed.

Some of you, my little friends, have probably heard that this Pegasus
was a snow-white steed, with beautiful silvery wings, who spent most of
his time on the summit of Mount Helicon. He was as wild, and as swift,
and as buoyant, in his flight through the air, as any eagle that ever
soared into the clouds. There was nothing else like him in the world. He
had no mate; he never had been backed or bridled by a master; and, for
many a long year, he led a solitary and a happy life.

Oh, how fine a thing it is to be a winged horse! Sleeping at night, as
he did, on a lofty mountain-top, and passing the greater part of the day
in the air, Pegasus seemed hardly to be a creature of the earth.
Whenever he was seen, up very high above people's heads, with the
sunshine on his silvery wings, you would have thought that he belonged
to the sky, and that, skimming a little too low, he had got astray among
our mists and vapors, and was seeking his way back again. It was very
pretty to behold him plunge into the fleecy bosom of a bright cloud, and
be lost in it, for a moment or two, and then break forth from the other
side. Or, in a sullen rain-storm, when there was a gray pavement of
clouds over the whole sky, it would sometimes happen that the winged
horse descended right through it, and the glad light of the upper region
would gleam after him. In another instant, it is true, both Pegasus and
the pleasant light would be gone away together. But any one that was
fortunate enough to see this wondrous spectacle felt cheerful the whole
day afterwards, and as much longer as the storm lasted.

In the summer-time, and in the beautifullest of weather, Pegasus often
alighted on the solid earth, and, closing his silvery wings, would
gallop over hill and dale for pastime, as fleetly as the wind. Oftener
than in any other place, he had been seen near the Fountain of Pirene,
drinking the delicious water, or rolling himself upon the soft grass of
the margin. Sometimes, too (but Pegasus was very dainty in his food), he
would crop a few of the clover-blossoms that happened to be sweetest.

To the Fountain of Pirene, therefore, people's great-grandfathers had
been in the habit of going (as long as they were youthful, and retained
their faith in winged horses), in hopes of getting a glimpse at the
beautiful Pegasus. But, of late years, he had been very seldom seen.
Indeed, there were many of the country folks, dwelling within half an
hour's walk of the fountain, who had never beheld Pegasus, and did not
believe that there was any such creature in existence. The country
fellow to whom Bellerophon was speaking chanced to be one of those
incredulous persons.

And that was the reason why he laughed.

"Pegasus, indeed!" cried he, turning up his nose as high as such a flat
nose could be turned up,--"Pegasus, indeed! A winged horse, truly! Why,
friend, are you in your senses? Of what use would wings be to a horse?
Could he drag the plough so well, think you? To be sure, there might be
a little saving in the expense of shoes; but then, how would a man like
to see his horse flying out of the stable window?--yes, or whisking him
up above the clouds, when he only wanted to ride to mill? No, no! I
don't believe in Pegasus. There never was such a ridiculous kind of a
horse-fowl made!"

"I have some reason to think otherwise," said Bellerophon, quietly.

And then he turned to an old, gray man, who was leaning on a staff, and
listening very attentively, with his head stretched forward, and one
hand at his ear, because, for the last twenty years, he had been getting
rather deaf.

"And what say you, venerable sir?" inquired he. "In your younger days, I
should imagine, you must frequently have seen the winged steed!"

"Ah, young stranger, my memory is very poor!" said the aged man. "When I
was a lad, if I remember rightly, I used to believe there was such a
horse, and so did everybody else. But, nowadays, I hardly know what to
think, and very seldom think about the winged horse at all. If I ever
saw the creature, it was a long, long while ago; and, to tell you the
truth, I doubt whether I ever did see him. One day, to be sure, when I
was quite a youth, I remember seeing some hoof-tramps round about the
brink of the fountain. Pegasus might have made those hoof-marks; and so
might some other horse."

"And have you never seen him, my fair maiden?" asked Bellerophon of the
girl, who stood with the pitcher on her head, while this talk went on.
"You certainly could see Pegasus, if anybody can, for your eyes are very
bright."

"Once I thought I saw him," replied the maiden, with a smile and a
blush. "It was either Pegasus, or a large white bird, a very great way
up in the air. And one other time, as I was coming to the fountain with
my pitcher, I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as
that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. But it
startled me, nevertheless; so that I ran home without filling my
pitcher."

"That was truly a pity!" said Bellerophon.

And he turned to the child, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the
story, and who was gazing at him, as children are apt to gaze at
strangers, with his rosy mouth wide open.

"Well, my little fellow," cried Bellerophon, playfully pulling one of
his curls, "I suppose you have often seen the winged horse."

"That I have," answered the child, very readily. "I saw him yesterday,
and many times before."

"You are a fine little man!" said Bellerophon, drawing the child closer
to him. "Come, tell me all about it."

"Why," replied the child, "I often come here to sail little boats in the
fountain, and to gather pretty pebbles out of its basin. And sometimes,
when I look down into the water, I see the image of the winged horse, in
the picture of the sky that is there. I wish he would come down, and
take me on his back, and let me ride him up to the moon! But, if I so
much as stir to look at him, he flies far away out of sight."

And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had seen the image of
Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden, who had heard him neigh so
melodiously, rather than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in
cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of
his youth.

Therefore, he haunted about the Fountain of Pirene for a great many days
afterwards. He kept continually on the watch, looking upward at the sky,
or else down into the water, hoping forever that he should see either
the reflected image of the winged horse, or the marvellous reality. He
held the bridle, with its bright gems and golden bit, always ready in
his hand. The rustic people, who dwelt in the neighborhood, and drove
their cattle to the fountain to drink, would often laugh at poor
Bellerophon, and sometimes take him pretty severely to task. They told
him that an able-bodied young man, like himself, ought to have better
business than to be wasting his time in such an idle pursuit. They
offered to sell him a horse, if he wanted one; and when Bellerophon
declined the purchase, they tried to drive a bargain with him for his
fine bridle.

Even the country boys thought him so very foolish, that they used to
have a great deal of sport about him, and were rude enough not to care a
fig, although Bellerophon saw and heard it. One little urchin, for
example, would play Pegasus, and cut the oddest imaginable capers, by
way of flying; while one of his schoolfellows would scamper after him,
holding forth a twist of bulrushes, which was intended to represent
Bellerophon's ornamental bridle. But the gentle child, who had seen the
picture of Pegasus in the water, comforted the young stranger more than
all the naughty boys could torment him. The dear little fellow, in his
play-hours, often sat down beside him, and, without speaking a word,
would look down into the fountain and up towards the sky, with so
innocent a faith, that Bellerophon could not help feeling encouraged.

Now you will, perhaps, wish to be told why it was that Bellerophon had
undertaken to catch the winged horse. And we shall find no better
opportunity to speak about this matter than while he is waiting for
Pegasus to appear.

If I were to relate the whole of Bellerophon's previous adventures, they
might easily grow into a very long story. It will be quite enough to
say, that, in a certain country of Asia, a terrible monster, called a
Chimæra, had made its appearance, and was doing more mischief than could
be talked about between now and sunset. According to the best accounts
which I have been able to obtain, this Chimæra was nearly, if not quite,
the ugliest and most poisonous creature, and the strangest and
unaccountablest, and the hardest to fight with, and the most difficult
to run away from, that ever came out of the earth's inside. It had a
tail like a boa-constrictor; its body was like I do not care what; and
it had three separate heads, one of which was a lion's, the second a
goat's, and the third an abominably great snake's. And a hot blast of
fire came flaming out of each of its three mouths! Being an earthly
monster, I doubt whether it had any wings; but, wings or no, it ran like
a goat and a lion, and wriggled along like a serpent, and thus contrived
to make about as much speed as all the three together.

[Illustration: BELLEROPHON BY THE FOUNTAIN OF PIRENE]

Oh, the mischief, and mischief, and mischief that this naughty creature
did! With its flaming breath, it could set a forest on fire, or burn up
a field of grain, or, for that matter, a village, with all its fences
and houses. It laid waste the whole country round about, and used to eat
up people and animals alive, and cook them afterwards in the burning
oven of its stomach. Mercy on us, little children, I hope neither you
nor I will ever happen to meet a Chimæra!

While the hateful beast (if a beast we can anywise call it) was doing
all these horrible things, it so chanced that Bellerophon came to that
part of the world, on a visit to the king. The king's name was Iobates,
and Lycia was the country which he ruled over. Bellerophon was one of
the bravest youths in the world, and desired nothing so much as to do
some valiant and beneficent deed, such as would make all mankind admire
and love him. In those days, the only way for a young man to distinguish
himself was by fighting battles, either with the enemies of his country,
or with wicked giants, or with troublesome dragons, or with wild beasts,
when he could find nothing more dangerous to encounter. King Iobates,
perceiving the courage of his youthful visitor, proposed to him to go
and fight the Chimæra, which everybody else was afraid of, and which,
unless it should be soon killed, was likely to convert Lycia into a
desert. Bellerophon hesitated not a moment, but assured the king that he
would either slay this dreaded Chimæra, or perish in the attempt.

But, in the first place, as the monster was so prodigiously swift, he
bethought himself that he should never win the victory by fighting on
foot. The wisest thing he could do, therefore, was to get the very best
and fleetest horse that could anywhere be found. And what other horse,
in all the world, was half so fleet as the marvellous horse Pegasus, who
had wings as well as legs, and was even more active in the air than on
the earth? To be sure, a great many people denied that there was any
such horse with wings, and said that the stories about him were all
poetry and nonsense. But, wonderful as it appeared, Bellerophon believed
that Pegasus was a real steed, and hoped that he himself might be
fortunate enough to find him; and, once fairly mounted on his back, he
would be able to fight the Chimæra at better advantage.

And this was the purpose with which he had travelled from Lycia to
Greece, and had brought the beautifully ornamented bridle in his hand.
It was an enchanted bridle. If he could only succeed in putting the
golden bit into the mouth of Pegasus, the winged horse would be
submissive, and would own Bellerophon for his master, and fly
whithersoever he might choose to turn the rein.

But, indeed, it was a weary and anxious time, while Bellerophon waited
and waited for Pegasus, in hopes that he would come and drink at the
Fountain of Pirene. He was afraid lest King Iobates should imagine that
he had fled from the Chimæra. It pained him, too, to think how much
mischief the monster was doing, while he himself, instead of fighting
with it, was compelled to sit idly poring over the bright waters of
Pirene, as they gushed out of the sparkling sand. And as Pegasus came
thither so seldom in these latter years, and scarcely alighted there
more than once in a lifetime, Bellerophon feared that he might grow an
old man, and have no strength left in his arms nor courage in his heart,
before the winged horse would appear. Oh, how heavily passes the time,
while an adventurous youth is yearning to do his part in life, and to
gather in the harvest of his renown! How hard a lesson it is to wait!
Our life is brief, and how much of it is spent in teaching us only this!

Well was it for Bellerophon that the gentle child had grown so fond of
him, and was never weary of keeping him company. Every morning the child
gave him a new hope to put in his bosom, instead of yesterday's withered
one.

"Dear Bellerophon," he would cry, looking up hopefully into his face, "I
think we shall see Pegasus to-day!"

And, at length, if it had not been for the little boy's unwavering
faith, Bellerophon would have given up all hope, and would have gone
back to Lycia, and have done his best to slay the Chimæra without the
help of the winged horse. And in that case poor Bellerophon would at
least have been terribly scorched by the creature's breath, and would
most probably have been killed and devoured. Nobody should ever try to
fight an earth-born Chimæra, unless he can first get upon the back of an
aerial steed.

One morning the child spoke to Bellerophon even more hopefully than
usual.

"Dear, dear Bellerophon," cried he, "I know not why it is, but I feel as
if we should certainly see Pegasus to-day!"

And all that day he would not stir a step from Bellerophon's side; so
they ate a crust of bread together, and drank some of the water of the
fountain. In the afternoon, there they sat, and Bellerophon had thrown
his arm around the child, who likewise had put one of his little hands
into Bellerophon's. The latter was lost in his own thoughts, and was
fixing his eyes vacantly on the trunks of the trees that overshadowed
the fountain, and on the grapevines that clambered up among their
branches. But the gentle child was gazing down into the water; he was
grieved, for Bellerophon's sake, that the hope of another day should be
deceived, like so many before it; and two or three quiet tear-drops fell
from his eyes, and mingled with what were said to be the many tears of
Pirene, when she wept for her slain children.

But, when he least thought of it, Bellerophon felt the pressure of the
child's little hand, and heard a soft, almost breathless, whisper.

"See there, dear Bellerophon! There is an image in the water!"

The young man looked down into the dimpling mirror of the fountain, and
saw what he took to be the reflection of a bird which seemed to be
flying at a great height in the air, with a gleam of sunshine on its
snowy or silvery wings.

"What a splendid bird it must be!" said he. "And how very large it
looks, though it must really be flying higher than the clouds!"

"It makes me tremble!" whispered the child. "I am afraid to look up into
the air! It is very beautiful, and yet I dare only look at its image in
the water. Dear Bellerophon, do you not see that it is no bird? It is
the winged horse Pegasus!"

Bellerophon's heart began to throb! He gazed keenly upward, but could
not see the winged creature, whether bird or horse; because, just then,
it had plunged into the fleecy depths of a summer cloud. It was but a
moment, however, before the object reappeared, sinking lightly down out
of the cloud, although still at a vast distance from the earth.
Bellerophon caught the child in his arms, and shrank back with him, so
that they were both hidden among the thick shrubbery which grew all
around the fountain. Not that he was afraid of any harm, but he dreaded
lest, if Pegasus caught a glimpse of them, he would fly far away, and
alight in some inaccessible mountain-top. For it was really the winged
horse. After they had expected him so long, he was coming to quench his
thirst with the water of Pirene.

Nearer and nearer came the aerial wonder, flying in great circles, as
you may have seen a dove when about to alight. Downward came Pegasus, in
those wide, sweeping circles, which grew narrower, and narrower still,
as he gradually approached the earth. The nigher the view of him, the
more beautiful he was, and the more marvellous the sweep of his silvery
wings. At last, with so light a pressure as hardly to bend the grass
about the fountain, or imprint a hoof-tramp in the sand of its margin,
he alighted, and, stooping his wild head, began to drink. He drew in the
water, with long and pleasant sighs, and tranquil pauses of enjoyment;
and then another draught, and another, and another. For, nowhere in the
world, or up among the clouds, did Pegasus love any water as he loved
this of Pirene. And when his thirst was slaked, he cropped a few of the
honey-blossoms of the clover, delicately tasting them, but not caring to
make a hearty meal, because the herbage, just beneath the clouds, on the
lofty sides of Mount Helicon, suited his palate better than this
ordinary grass.

After thus drinking to his heart's content, and in his dainty fashion,
condescending to take a little food, the winged horse began to caper to
and fro, and dance as it were, out of mere idleness and sport. There
never was a more playful creature made than this very Pegasus. So there
he frisked, in a way that it delights me to think about, fluttering his
great wings as lightly as ever did a linnet, and running little races,
half on earth and half in air, and which I know not whether to call a
flight or a gallop. When a creature is perfectly able to fly, he
sometimes chooses to run, just for the pastime of the thing; and so did
Pegasus, although it cost him some little trouble to keep his hoofs so
near the ground. Bellerophon, meanwhile, holding the child's hand,
peeped forth from the shrubbery, and thought that never was any sight
so beautiful as this, nor ever a horse's eyes so wild and spirited as
those of Pegasus. It seemed a sin to think of bridling him and riding on
his back.

Once or twice, Pegasus stopped, and snuffed the air, pricking up his
ears, tossing his head, and turning it on all sides, as if he partly
suspected some mischief or other. Seeing nothing, however, and hearing
no sound, he soon began his antics again.

At length,--not that he was weary, but only idle and luxurious,--Pegasus
folded his wings, and lay down on the soft green turf. But, being too
full of aerial life to remain quiet for many moments together, he soon
rolled over on his back, with his four slender legs in the air. It was
beautiful to see him, this one solitary creature, whose mate had never
been created, but who needed no companion, and, living a great many
hundred years, was as happy as the centuries were long. The more he did
such things as mortal horses are accustomed to do, the less earthly and
the more wonderful he seemed. Bellerophon and the child almost held
their breath, partly from a delightful awe, but still more because they
dreaded lest the slightest stir or murmur should send him up, with the
speed of an arrow-flight, into the farthest blue of the sky.

Finally, when he had had enough of rolling over and over, Pegasus turned
himself about, and, indolently, like any other horse, put out his fore
legs, in order to rise from the ground; and Bellerophon, who had guessed
that he would do so, darted suddenly from the thicket, and leaped
astride of his back.

Yes, there he sat, on the back of the winged horse!

But what a bound did Pegasus make, when, for the first time, he felt the
weight of a mortal man upon his loins! A bound, indeed! Before he had
time to draw a breath, Bellerophon found himself five hundred feet
aloft, and still shooting upward, while the winged horse snorted and
trembled with terror and anger. Upward he went, up, up, up, until he
plunged into the cold misty bosom of a cloud, at which, only a little
while before, Bellerophon had been gazing, and fancying it a very
pleasant spot. Then again, out of the heart of the cloud, Pegasus shot
down like a thunderbolt, as if he meant to dash both himself and his
rider headlong against a rock. Then he went through about a thousand of
the wildest caprioles that had ever been performed either by a bird or a
horse.

I cannot tell you half that he did. He skimmed straight forward, and
sideways, and backward. He reared himself erect, with his fore legs on a
wreath of mist, and his hind legs on nothing at all. He flung out his
heels behind, and put down his head between his legs, with his wings
pointing right upward. At about two miles' height above the earth, he
turned a somerset, so that Bellerophon's heels were where his head
should have been, and he seemed to look down into the sky, instead of
up. He twisted his head about, and, looking Bellerophon in the face,
with fire flashing from his eyes, made a terrible attempt to bite him.
He fluttered his pinions so wildly that one of the silver feathers was
shaken out, and floating earthward, was picked up by the child, who kept
it as long as he lived, in memory of Pegasus and Bellerophon.

But the latter (who, as you may judge, was as good a horseman as ever
galloped) had been watching his opportunity, and at last clapped the
golden bit of the enchanted bridle between the winged steed's jaws. No
sooner was this done, than Pegasus became as manageable as if he had
taken food, all his life, out of Bellerophon's hand. To speak what I
really feel, it was almost a sadness to see so wild a creature grow
suddenly so tame. And Pegasus seemed to feel it so, likewise. He looked
round to Bellerophon, with the tears in his beautiful eyes, instead of
the fire that so recently flashed from them. But when Bellerophon patted
his head, and spoke a few authoritative, yet kind and soothing words,
another look came into the eyes of Pegasus; for he was glad at heart,
after so many lonely centuries, to have found a companion and a master.

Thus it always is with winged horses, and with all such wild and
solitary creatures. If you can catch and overcome them, it is the surest
way to win their love.

While Pegasus had been doing his utmost to shake Bellerophon off his
back, he had flown a very long distance; and they had come within sight
of a lofty mountain by the time the bit was in his mouth. Bellerophon
had seen this mountain before, and knew it to be Helicon, on the summit
of which was the winged horse's abode. Thither (after looking gently
into his rider's face, as if to ask leave) Pegasus now flew, and,
alighting, waited patiently until Bellerophon should please to dismount.
The young man, accordingly, leaped from his steed's back, but still held
him fast by the bridle. Meeting his eyes, however, he was so affected by
the gentleness of his aspect, and by the thought of the free life which
Pegasus had heretofore lived, that he could not bear to keep him a
prisoner, if he really desired his liberty.

Obeying this generous impulse he slipped the enchanted bridle off the
head of Pegasus, and took the bit from his mouth.

"Leave me, Pegasus!" said he. "Either leave me, or love me."

In an instant, the winged horse shot almost out of sight, soaring
straight upward from the summit of Mount Helicon. Being long after
sunset, it was now twilight on the mountain-top, and dusky evening over
all the country round about. But Pegasus flew so high that he overtook
the departed day, and was bathed in the upper radiance of the sun.
Ascending higher and higher, he looked like a bright speck, and, at
last, could no longer be seen in the hollow waste of the sky. And
Bellerophon was afraid that he should never behold him more. But, while
he was lamenting his own folly, the bright speck reappeared, and drew
nearer and nearer, until it descended lower than the sunshine; and,
behold, Pegasus had come back! After this trial there was no more fear
of the winged horse's making his escape. He and Bellerophon were
friends, and put loving faith in one another.

That night they lay down and slept together, with Bellerophon's arm
about the neck of Pegasus, not as a caution, but for kindness. And they
awoke at peep of day, and bade one another good morning, each in his own
language.

In this manner, Bellerophon and the wondrous steed spent several days,
and grew better acquainted and fonder of each other all the time. They
went on long aerial journeys, and sometimes ascended so high that the
earth looked hardly bigger than--the moon. They visited distant
countries, and amazed the inhabitants, who thought that the beautiful
young man, on the back of the winged horse, must have come down out of
the sky. A thousand miles a day was no more than an easy space for the
fleet Pegasus to pass over. Bellerophon was delighted with this kind of
life, and would have liked nothing better than to live always in the
same way, aloft in the clear atmosphere; for it was always sunny weather
up there, however cheerless and rainy it might be in the lower region.
But he could not forget the horrible Chimæra, which he had promised King
Iobates to slay. So, at last, when he had become well accustomed to
feats of horsemanship in the air, and could manage Pegasus with the
least motion of his hand, and had taught him to obey his voice, he
determined to attempt the performance of this perilous adventure.

At daybreak, therefore, as soon as he unclosed his eyes, he gently
pinched the winged horse's ear, in order to arouse him. Pegasus
immediately started from the ground, and pranced about a quarter of a
mile aloft, and made a grand sweep around the mountain-top, by way of
showing that he was wide awake, and ready for any kind of an excursion.
During the whole of this little flight, he uttered a loud, brisk, and
melodious neigh, and finally came down at Bellerophon's side, as
lightly as ever you saw a sparrow hop upon a twig.

"Well done, dear Pegasus! well done, my sky-skimmer!" cried Bellerophon,
fondly stroking the horse's neck. "And now, my fleet and beautiful
friend, we must break our fast. To-day we are to fight the terrible
Chimæra."

As soon as they had eaten their morning meal, and drank some sparkling
water from a spring called Hippocrene, Pegasus held out his head, of his
own accord, so that his master might put on the bridle. Then, with a
great many playful leaps and airy caperings, he showed his impatience to
be gone; while Bellerophon was girding on his sword, and hanging his
shield about his neck, and preparing himself for battle. When everything
was ready, the rider mounted, and (as was his custom, when going a long
distance) ascended five miles perpendicularly, so as the better to see
whither he was directing his course. He then turned the head of Pegasus
towards the east, and set out for Lycia. In their flight they overtook
an eagle, and came so nigh him, before he could get out of their way,
that Bellerophon might easily have caught him by the leg. Hastening
onward at this rate, it was still early in the forenoon when they beheld
the lofty mountains of Lycia, with their deep and shaggy valleys. If
Bellerophon had been told truly, it was in one of those dismal valleys
that the hideous Chimæra had taken up its abode.

Being now so near their journey's end, the winged horse gradually
descended with his rider; and they took advantage of some clouds that
were floating over the mountain-tops, in order to conceal themselves.
Hovering on the upper surface of a cloud, and peeping over its edge,
Bellerophon had a pretty distinct view of the mountainous part of Lycia,
and could look into all its shadowy vales at once. At first there
appeared to be nothing remarkable. It was a wild, savage, and rocky
tract of high and precipitous hills. In the more level part of the
country, there were the ruins of houses that had been burnt, and, here
and there, the carcasses of dead cattle, strewn about the pastures where
they had been feeding.

"The Chimæra must have done this mischief," thought Bellerophon. "But
where can the monster be?"

As I have already said, there was nothing remarkable to be detected, at
first sight, in any of the valleys and dells that lay among the
precipitous heights of the mountains. Nothing at all; unless, indeed it
were three spires of black smoke, which issued from what seemed to be
the mouth of a cavern, and clambered sullenly into the atmosphere.
Before reaching the mountain-top, these three black smoke-wreaths
mingled themselves into one. The cavern was almost directly beneath the
winged horse and his rider, at the distance of about a thousand feet.
The smoke, as it crept heavily upward, had an ugly, sulphurous, stifling
scent, which caused Pegasus to snort and Bellerophon to sneeze. So
disagreeable was it to the marvellous steed (who was accustomed to
breathe only the purest air), that he waved his wings, and shot half a
mile out of the range of this offensive vapor.

But, on looking behind him, Bellerophon saw something that induced him
first to draw the bridle, and then to turn Pegasus about. He made a
sign, which the winged horse understood, and sunk slowly through the
air, until his hoofs were scarcely more than a man's height above the
rocky bottom of the valley. In front, as far off as you could throw a
stone, was the cavern's mouth, with the three smoke-wreaths oozing out
of it. And what else did Bellerophon behold there?

There seemed to be a heap of strange and terrible creatures curled up
within the cavern. Their bodies lay so close together, that Bellerophon
could not distinguish them apart; but, judging by their heads, one of
these creatures was a huge snake, the second a fierce lion, and the
third an ugly goat. The lion and the goat were asleep; the snake was
broad awake, and kept staring around him with a great pair of fiery
eyes. But--and this was the most wonderful part of the matter--the three
spires of smoke evidently issued from the nostrils of these three heads!
So strange was the spectacle, that, though Bellerophon had been all
along expecting it, the truth did not immediately occur to him, that
here was the terrible three-headed Chimæra. He had found out the
Chimæra's cavern. The snake, the lion, and the goat, as he supposed them
to be, were not three separate creatures, but one monster!

The wicked, hateful thing! Slumbering as two thirds of it were, it still
held, in its abominable claws, the remnant of an unfortunate lamb,--or
possibly (but I hate to think so) it was a dear little boy,--which its
three mouths had been gnawing, before two of them fell asleep!

All at once, Bellerophon started as from a dream, and knew it to be the
Chimæra. Pegasus seemed to know it, at the same instant, and sent forth
a neigh, that sounded like the call of a trumpet to battle. At this
sound the three heads reared themselves erect, and belched out great
flashes of flame. Before Bellerophon had time to consider what to do
next, the monster flung itself out of the cavern and sprung straight
towards him, with its immense claws extended, and its snaky tail
twisting itself venomously behind. If Pegasus had not been as nimble as
a bird, both he and his rider would have been overthrown by the
Chimera's headlong rush, and thus the battle have been ended before it
was well begun. But the winged horse was not to be caught so. In the
twinkling of an eye he was up aloft, half-way to the clouds, snorting
with anger. He shuddered, too, not with affright, but with utter disgust
at the loathsomeness of this poisonous thing with three heads.

The Chimæra, on the other hand, raised itself up so as to stand
absolutely on the tip-end of its tail, with its talons pawing fiercely
in the air, and its three heads spluttering fire at Pegasus and his
rider. My stars, how it roared, and hissed, and bellowed! Bellerophon,
meanwhile, was fitting his shield on his arm, and drawing his sword.

"Now, my beloved Pegasus," he whispered in the winged horse's ear, "thou
must help me to slay this insufferable monster; or else thou shalt fly
back to thy solitary mountain-peak without thy friend Bellerophon. For
either the Chimæra dies, or its three mouths shall gnaw this head of
mine, which has slumbered upon thy neck!"

Pegasus whinnied, and, turning back his head, rubbed his nose tenderly
against his rider's cheek. It was his way of telling him that, though he
had wings and was an immortal horse, yet he would perish, if it were
possible for immortality to perish, rather than leave Bellerophon
behind.

"I thank you, Pegasus," answered Bellerophon. "Now, then, let us make a
dash at the monster!"

Uttering these words, he shook the bridle; and Pegasus darted down
aslant, as swift as the flight of an arrow, right towards the Chimæra's
threefold head, which, all this time, was poking itself as high as it
could into the air. As he came within arm's-length, Bellerophon made a
cut at the monster, but was carried onward by his steed, before he could
see whether the blow had been successful. Pegasus continued his course,
but soon wheeled round, at about the same distance from the Chimæra as
before. Bellerophon then perceived that he had cut the goat's head of
the monster almost off, so that it dangled downward by the skin, and
seemed quite dead.

But, to make amends, the snake's head and the lion's head had taken all
the fierceness of the dead one into themselves, and spit flame, and
hissed, and roared, with a vast deal more fury than before.

"Never mind, my brave Pegasus!" cried Bellerophon. "With another stroke
like that, we will stop either its hissing or its roaring."

And again he shook the bridle. Dashing aslantwise, as before, the winged
horse made another arrow-flight towards the Chimæra, and Bellerophon
aimed another downright stroke at one of the two remaining heads, as he
shot by. But this time, neither he nor Pegasus escaped so well as at
first. With one of its claws, the Chimæra had given the young man a deep
scratch in his shoulder, and had slightly damaged the left wing of the
flying steed with the other. On his part, Bellerophon had mortally
wounded the lion's head of the monster, insomuch that it now hung
downward, with its fire almost extinguished, and sending out gasps of
thick black smoke. The snake's head, however (which was the only one now
left), was twice as fierce and venomous as ever before. It belched forth
shoots of fire five hundred yards long, and emitted hisses so loud, so
harsh, and so ear-piercing, that King Iobates heard them, fifty miles
off, and trembled till the throne shook under him.

"Well-a-day!" thought the poor king; "the Chimæra is certainly coming to
devour me!"

Meanwhile Pegasus had again paused in the air, and neighed angrily,
while sparkles of a pure crystal flame darted out of his eyes. How
unlike the lurid fire of the Chimæra! The aerial steed's spirit was all
aroused, and so was that of Bellerophon.

"Dost thou bleed, my immortal horse?" cried the young man, caring less
for his own hurt than for the anguish of this glorious creature, that
ought never to have tasted pain. "The execrable Chimæra shall pay for
this mischief with his last head!"

Then he shook the bridle, shouted loudly, and guided Pegasus, not
aslantwise as before, but straight at the monster's hideous front. So
rapid was the onset, that it seemed but a dazzle and a flash before
Bellerophon was at close gripes with his enemy.

The Chimæra, by this time, after losing its second head, had got into a
red-hot passion of pain and rampant rage. It so flounced about, half on
earth and partly in the air, that it was impossible to say which element
it rested upon. It opened its snake-jaws to such an abominable width,
that Pegasus might almost, I was going to say, have flown right down its
throat, wings outspread, rider and all! At their approach it shot out a
tremendous blast of its fiery breath, and enveloped Bellerophon and his
steed in a perfect atmosphere of flame, singeing the wings of Pegasus,
scorching off one whole side of the young man's golden ringlets, and
making them both far hotter than was comfortable, from head to foot.

But this was nothing to what followed.

When the airy rush of the winged horse had brought him within the
distance of a hundred yards, the Chimæra gave a spring, and flung its
huge, awkward, venomous, and utterly detestable carcass right upon poor
Pegasus, clung round him with might and main, and tied up its snaky tail
into a knot! Up flew the aerial steed, higher, higher, higher, above the
mountain-peaks, above the clouds, and almost out of sight of the solid
earth. But still the earth-born monster kept its hold, and was borne
upward, along with the creature of light and air. Bellerophon,
meanwhile, turning about, found himself face to face with the ugly
grimness of the Chimæra's visage, and could only avoid being scorched to
death, or bitten right in twain, by holding up his shield. Over the
upper edge of the shield, he looked sternly into the savage eyes of the
monster.

But the Chimæra was so mad and wild with pain, that it did not guard
itself so well as might else have been the case. Perhaps, after all, the
best way to fight a Chimæra is by getting as close to it as you can. In
its efforts to stick its horrible iron claws into its enemy, the
creature left its own breast quite exposed; and perceiving this,
Bellerophon thrust his sword up to the hilt into its cruel heart.
Immediately the snaky tail untied its knot. The monster let go its hold
of Pegasus, and fell from that vast height, downward; while the fire
within its bosom, instead of being put out, burned fiercer than ever,
and quickly began to consume the dead carcass. Thus it fell out of the
sky, all a-flame, and (it being nightfall before it reached the earth)
was mistaken for a shooting star or a comet. But, at early sunrise, some
cottagers were going to their day's labor, and saw, to their
astonishment, that several acres of ground were strewn with black ashes.
In the middle of a field, there was a heap of whitened bones, a great
deal higher than a haystack. Nothing else was ever seen of the dreadful
Chimæra!

And when Bellerophon had won the victory, he bent forward and kissed
Pegasus, while the tears stood in his eyes.

"Back now, my beloved steed!" said he. "Back to the Fountain of Pirene!"

Pegasus skimmed through the air, quicker than ever he did before, and
reached the fountain in a very short time. And there he found the old
man leaning on his staff, and the country fellow watering his cow, and
the pretty maiden filling her pitcher.

"I remember now," quoth the old man, "I saw this winged horse once
before, when I was quite a lad. But he was ten times handsomer in those
days."

"I own a cart-horse, worth three of him!" said the country fellow. "If
this pony were mine, the first thing I should do would be to clip his
wings!"

But the poor maiden said nothing, for she had always the luck to be
afraid at the wrong time. So she ran away, and let her pitcher tumble
down, and broke it.

"Where is the gentle child," asked Bellerophon, "who used to keep me
company, and never lost his faith, and never was weary of gazing into
the fountain?"

"Here am I, dear Bellerophon!" said the child, softly.

For the little boy had spent day after day, on the margin of Pirene,
waiting for his friend to come back; but when he perceived Bellerophon
descending through the clouds, mounted on the winged horse, he had
shrunk back into the shrubbery. He was a delicate and tender child, and
dreaded lest the old man and the country fellow should see the tears
gushing from his eyes.

"Thou hast won the victory," said he, joyfully, running to the knee of
Bellerophon, who still sat on the back of Pegasus. "I knew thou
wouldst."

"Yes, dear child!" replied Bellerophon, alighting from the winged horse.
"But if thy faith had not helped me, I should never have waited for
Pegasus, and never have gone up above the clouds, and never have
conquered the terrible Chimæra. Thou, my beloved little friend, hast
done it all. And now let us give Pegasus his liberty."

So he slipped off the enchanted bridle from the head of the marvellous
steed.

"Be free, forevermore, my Pegasus!" cried he, with a shade of sadness in
his tone. "Be as free as thou art fleet!"

But Pegasus rested his head on Bellerophon's shoulder, and would not be
persuaded to take flight.

"Well then," said Bellerophon, caressing the airy horse, "thou shalt be
with me, as long as thou wilt; and we will go together, forthwith, and
tell King Iobates that the Chimæra is destroyed."

Then Bellerophon embraced the gentle child, and promised to come to him
again, and departed. But, in after years, that child took higher flights
upon the aerial steed than ever did Bellerophon, and achieved more
honorable deeds than his friend's victory over the Chimæra. For, gentle
and tender as he was, he grew to be a mighty poet!


Bald-Summit

_After the Story_

Eustace Bright told the legend of Bellerophon with as much fervor and
animation as if he had really been taking a gallop on the winged horse.
At the conclusion, he was gratified to discern, by the glowing
countenances of his auditors, how greatly they had been interested. All
their eyes were dancing in their heads, except those of Primrose. In her
eyes there were positively tears; for she was conscious of something in
the legend which the rest of them were not yet old enough to feel.
Child's story as it was, the student had contrived to breathe through it
the ardor, the generous hope, and the imaginative enterprise of youth.

"I forgive you, now, Primrose," said he, "for all your ridicule of
myself and my stories. One tear pays for a great deal of laughter."

"Well, Mr. Bright," answered Primrose, wiping her eyes, and giving him
another of her mischievous smiles, "it certainly does elevate your
ideas, to get your head above the clouds. I advise you never to tell
another story, unless it be, as at present, from the top of a mountain."

"Or from the back of Pegasus," replied Eustace, laughing. "Don't you
think that I succeeded pretty well in catching that wonderful pony?"

"It was so like one of your madcap pranks!" cried Primrose, clapping her
hands. "I think I see you now on his back, two miles high, and with your
head downward! It is well that you have not really an opportunity of
trying your horsemanship on any wilder steed than our sober Davy, or Old
Hundred."

[Illustration: THE FOUNTAIN OF PIRENE

(From the original in the collection of Austin M. Purves, Esq're
Philadelphia)]

"For my part, I wish I had Pegasus here, at this moment," said the
student. "I would mount him forthwith, and gallop about the country,
within a circumference of a few miles, making literary calls on my
brother authors. Dr. Dewey would be within my reach, at the foot of
Taconic. In Stockbridge, yonder, is Mr. James, conspicuous to all the
world on his mountain-pile of history and romance. Longfellow, I
believe, is not yet at the Ox-bow, else the winged horse would neigh at
the sight of him. But, here in Lenox, I should find our most truthful
novelist, who has made the scenery and life of Berkshire all her own. On
the hither side of Pittsfield sits Herman Melville, shaping out the
gigantic conception of his 'White Whale,' while the gigantic shape of
Graylock looms upon him from his study-window. Another bound of my
flying steed would bring me to the door of Holmes, whom I mention last,
because Pegasus would certainly unseat me, the next minute, and claim
the poet as his rider."

"Have we not an author for our next neighbor?" asked Primrose. "That
silent man, who lives in the old red house, near Tanglewood Avenue, and
whom we sometimes meet, with two children at his side, in the woods or
at the lake. I think I have heard of his having written a poem, or a
romance, or an arithmetic, or a school-history, or some other kind of a
book."

"Hush, Primrose, hush!" exclaimed Eustace, in a thrilling whisper, and
putting his finger on his lip. "Not a word about that man, even on a
hill-top! If our babble were to reach his ears, and happen not to please
him, he has but to fling a quire or two of paper into the stove, and
you, Primrose, and I, and Periwinkle, Sweet Fern, Squash-Blossom, Blue
Eye, Huckleberry, Clover, Cowslip, Plantain, Milkweed, Dandelion, and
Buttercup,--yes, and wise Mr. Pringle, with his unfavorable criticisms
on my legends, and poor Mrs. Pringle, too,--would all turn to smoke,
and go whisking up the funnel! Our neighbor in the red house is a
harmless sort of person enough, for aught I know, as concerns the rest
of the world; but something whispers to me that he has a terrible power
over ourselves, extending to nothing short of annihilation."

"And would Tanglewood turn to smoke, as well as we?" asked Periwinkle,
quite appalled at the threatened destruction. "And what would become of
Ben and Bruin?"

"Tanglewood would remain," replied the student, "looking just as it does
now, but occupied by an entirely different family. And Ben and Bruin
would be still alive, and would make themselves very comfortable with
the bones from the dinner-table, without ever thinking of the good times
which they and we have had together!"

"What nonsense you are talking!" exclaimed Primrose.

With idle chat of this kind, the party had already begun to descend the
hill, and were now within the shadow of the woods. Primrose gathered
some mountain-laurel, the leaf of which, though of last year's growth,
was still as verdant and elastic as if the frost and thaw had not
alternately tried their force upon its texture. Of these twigs of laurel
she twined a wreath, and took off the student's cap, in order to place
it on his brow.

"Nobody else is likely to crown you for your stories," observed saucy
Primrose, "so take this from me."

"Do not be too sure," answered Eustace, looking really like a youthful
poet, with the laurel among his glossy curls, "that I shall not win
other wreaths by these wonderful and admirable stories. I mean to spend
all my leisure, during the rest of the vacation, and throughout the
summer term at college, in writing them out for the press. Mr. J. T.
Fields (with whom I became acquainted when he was in Berkshire, last
summer, and who is a poet, as well as a publisher) will see their
uncommon merit at a glance. He will get them illustrated, I hope, by
Billings, and will bring them before the world under the very best of
auspices, through the eminent house of Ticknor & Co. In about five
months from this moment, I make no doubt of being reckoned among the
lights of this age!"

"Poor boy!" said Primrose, half aside. "What a disappointment awaits
him!"

Descending a little lower, Bruin began to bark, and was answered by the
graver bow-wow of the respectable Ben. They soon saw the good old dog,
keeping careful watch over Dandelion, Sweet Fern, Cowslip, and
Squash-Blossom. These little people, quite recovered from their fatigue,
had set about gathering checkerberries, and now came clambering to meet
their playfellows. Thus reunited, the whole party went down through
Luther Butler's orchard, and made the best of their way home to
Tanglewood.



Tanglewood Tales,

For Girls And Boys,

Being A Second Wonder-Book



TANGLEWOOD TALES



The Wayside


_Introductory_

A short time ago, I was favored with a flying visit from my young friend
Eustace Bright, whom I had not before met with since quitting the breezy
mountains of Berkshire. It being the winter vacation at his college,
Eustace was allowing himself a little relaxation, in the hope, he told
me, of repairing the inroads which severe application to study had made
upon his health; and I was happy to conclude, from the excellent
physical condition in which I saw him, that the remedy had already been
attended with very desirable success. He had now run up from Boston by
the noon train, partly impelled by the friendly regard with which he is
pleased to honor me, and partly, as I soon found, on a matter of
literary business.

It delighted me to receive Mr. Bright, for the first time, under a roof,
though a very humble one, which I could really call my own. Nor did I
fail (as is the custom of landed proprietors all about the world) to
parade the poor fellow up and down over my half a dozen acres; secretly
rejoicing, nevertheless, that the disarray of the inclement season, and
particularly the six inches of snow then upon the ground, prevented him
from observing the ragged neglect of soil and shrubbery into which the
place has lapsed. It was idle, however, to imagine that an airy guest
from Monument Mountain, Bald-Summit, and old Graylock, shaggy with
primeval forests, could see anything to admire in my poor little
hill-side, with its growth of frail and insect-eaten locust-trees.
Eustace very frankly called the view from my hill-top tame; and so, no
doubt, it was, after rough, broken, rugged, headlong Berkshire, and
especially the northern parts of the county, with which his college
residence had made him familiar. But to me there is a peculiar, quiet
charm in these broad meadows and gentle eminences. They are better than
mountains, because they do not stamp and stereotype themselves into the
brain, and thus grow wearisome with the same strong impression, repeated
day after day. A few summer weeks among mountains, a lifetime among
green meadows and placid slopes, with outlines forever new, because
continually fading out of the memory,--such would be my sober choice.

I doubt whether Eustace did not internally pronounce the whole thing a
bore, until I led him to my predecessor's little ruined, rustic
summer-house, midway on the hill-side. It is a mere skeleton of slender,
decaying tree-trunks, with neither walls nor a roof; nothing but a
tracery of branches and twigs, which the next wintry blast will be very
likely to scatter in fragments along the terrace. It looks, and is, as
evanescent as a dream; and yet, in its rustic net-work of boughs, it has
somehow enclosed a hint of spiritual beauty, and has become a true
emblem of the subtile and ethereal mind that planned it. I made Eustace
Bright sit down on a snow-bank, which bad heaped itself over the mossy
seat, and gazing through the arched window opposite, he acknowledged
that the scene at once grew picturesque.

"Simple as it looks," said he, "this little edifice seems to be the work
of magic. It is full of suggestiveness, and, in its way, is as good as a
cathedral. Ah, it would be just the spot for one to sit in, of a summer
afternoon, and tell the children some more of those wild stories from
the classic myths!"

"It would, indeed," answered I. "The summer-house itself, so airy and so
broken, is like one of those old tales, imperfectly remembered; and
these living branches of the Baldwin apple-tree, thrusting themselves so
rudely in, are like your unwarrantable interpolations. But, by the by,
have you added any more legends to the series, since the publication of
the Wonder Book?"

"Many more," said Eustace; "Primrose, Periwinkle, and the rest of them
allow me no comfort of my life, unless I tell them a story every day or
two. I have run away from home partly to escape the importunity of those
little wretches! But I have written out six of the new stories, and have
brought them for you to look over."

"Are they as good as the first?" I inquired.

"Better chosen, and better handled," replied Eustace Bright. "You will
say so when you read them."

"Possibly not," I remarked. "I know, from my own experience, that an
author's last work is always his best one, in his own estimate, until it
quite loses the red heat of composition. After that, it falls into its
true place, quietly enough. But let us adjourn to my study, and examine
these new stories. It would hardly be doing yourself justice, were you
to bring me acquainted with them, sitting here on this snow-bank!"

So we descended the hill to my small, old cottage, and shut ourselves up
in the southeastern room, where the sunshine comes in, warmly and
brightly, through the better half of a winter's day. Eustace put his
bundle of manuscript into my hands; and I skimmed through it pretty
rapidly, trying to find out its merits and demerits by the touch of my
fingers, as a veteran story-teller ought to know how to do.

It will be remembered, that Mr. Bright condescended to avail himself of
my literary experience by constituting me editor of the Wonder Book. As
he had no reason to complain of the reception of that erudite work by
the public, he was now disposed to retain me in a similar position, with
respect to the present volume, which he entitled "TANGLEWOOD TALES."
Not, as Eustace hinted, that there was any real necessity for my
services as introductor, inasmuch as his own name had become
established, in some good degree of favor, with the literary world. But
the connection with myself, he was kind enough to say, had been highly
agreeable; nor was he by any means desirous, as most people are, of
kicking away the ladder that had perhaps helped him to reach his present
elevation. My young friend was willing, in short, that the fresh verdure
of his growing reputation should spread over my straggling and
half-naked boughs; even as I have sometimes thought of training a vine,
with its broad leafiness, and purple fruitage, over the worm-eaten posts
and rafters of the rustic summer-house. I was not insensible to the
advantages of his proposal, and gladly assured him of my acceptance.

Merely from the titles of the stories, I saw at once that the subjects
were not less rich than those of the former volume; nor did I at all
doubt that Mr. Bright's audacity (so far as that endowment might avail)
had enabled him to take full advantage of whatever capabilities they
offered. Yet, in spite of my experience of his free way of handling
them, I did not quite see, I confess, how he could have obviated all the
difficulties in the way of rendering them presentable to children. These
old legends, so brimming over with everything that is most abhorrent to
our Christianized moral sense,--some of them so hideous, others so
melancholy and miserable, amid which the Greek tragedians sought their
themes, and moulded them into the sternest forms of grief that ever the
world saw; was such material the stuff that children's playthings should
be made of! How were they to be purified? How was the blessed sunshine
to be thrown into them?

But Eustace told me that these myths were the most singular things in
the world, and that he was invariably astonished, whenever he began to
relate one, by the readiness with which it adapted itself to the
childish purity of his auditors. The objectionable characteristics seem
to be a parasitical growth, having no essential connection with the
original fable. They fall away, and are thought of no more, the instant
he puts his imagination in sympathy with the innocent little circle,
whose wide-open eyes are fixed so eagerly upon him. Thus the stories
(not by any strained effort of the narrator's, but in harmony with their
inherent germ) transform themselves, and reassume the shapes which they
might be supposed to possess in the pure childhood of the world. When
the first poet or romancer told these marvellous legends (such is
Eustace Bright's opinion), it was still the Golden Age. Evil had never
yet existed; and sorrow, misfortune, crime, were mere shadows which the
mind fancifully created for itself, as a shelter against too sunny
realities; or, at most, but prophetic dreams, to which the dreamer
himself did not yield a waking credence. Children are now the only
representatives of the men and women of that happy era; and therefore it
is that we must raise the intellect and fancy to the level of childhood,
in order to recreate the original myths.

I let the youthful author talk as much and as extravagantly as he
pleased, and was glad to see him commencing life with such confidence in
himself and his performances. A few years will do all that is necessary
towards showing him the truth in both respects. Meanwhile, it is but
right to say, he does really appear to have overcome the moral
objections against these fables, although at the expense of such
liberties with their structure as must be left to plead their own
excuse, without any help from me. Indeed, except that there was a
necessity for it,--and that the inner life of the legends cannot be come
at save by making them entirely one's own property,--there is no defence
to be made.

Eustace informed me that he had told his stories to the children in
various situations,--in the woods, on the shore of the lake, in the dell
of Shadow Brook, in the play-room, at Tanglewood fireside, and in a
magnificent palace of snow, with ice windows, which he helped his little
friends to build. His auditors were even more delighted with the
contents of the present volume than with the specimens which have
already been given to the world. The classically learned Mr. Pringle,
too, had listened to two or three of the tales, and censured them even
more bitterly than he did THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES; so that, what with
praise, and what with criticism, Eustace Bright thinks that there is
good hope of at least as much success with the public as in the case of
the Wonder Book.

I made all sorts of inquiries about the children, not doubting that
there would be great eagerness to hear of their welfare among some good
little folks who have written to me, to ask for another volume of myths.
They are all, I am happy to say (unless we except Clover), in excellent
health and spirits. Primrose is now almost a young lady, and, Eustace
tells me, is just as saucy as ever. She pretends to consider herself
quite beyond the age to be interested by such idle stories as these;
but, for all that, whenever a story is to be told, Primrose never fails
to be one of the listeners, and to make fun of it when finished.
Periwinkle is very much grown, and is expected to shut up her baby-house
and throw away her doll in a month or two more. Sweet Fern has learned
to read and write, and has put on a jacket and pair of pantaloons,--all
of which improvements I am sorry for. Squash-Blossom, Blue Eye,
Plantain, and Buttercup have had the scarlet fever, but came easily
through it. Huckleberry, Milkweed, and Dandelion were attacked with the
hooping-cough, but bore it bravely, and kept out of doors whenever the
sun shone. Cowslip, during the autumn, had either the measles, or some
eruption that looked very much like it, but was hardly sick a day. Poor
Clover has been a good deal troubled with her second teeth, which have
made her meagre in aspect and rather fractious in temper; nor, even when
she smiles, is the matter much mended, since it discloses a gap just
within her lips, almost as wide as the barn door. But all this will
pass over, and it is predicted that she will turn out a very pretty
girl.

As for Mr. Bright himself, he is now in his senior year at Williams
College, and has a prospect of graduating with some degree of honorable
distinction at the next Commencement. In his oration for the bachelor's
degree, he gives me to understand, he will treat of the classical myths,
viewed in the aspect of baby stories, and has a great mind to discuss
the expediency of using up the whole of ancient history for the same
purpose. I do not know what he means to do with himself after leaving
college, but trust that, by dabbling so early with the dangerous and
seductive business of authorship, he will not be tempted to become an
author by profession. If so, I shall be very sorry for the little that I
have had to do with the matter, in encouraging these first beginnings.

I wish there were any likelihood of my soon seeing Primrose, Periwinkle,
Dandelion, Sweet Fern, Clover, Plantain, Huckleberry, Milkweed, Cowslip,
Buttercup, Blue Eye, and Squash-Blossom again. But as I do not know when
I shall revisit Tanglewood, and as Eustace Bright probably will not ask
me to edit a third Wonder Book, the public of little folks must not
expect to hear any more about those dear children from me. Heaven bless
them, and everybody else, whether grown people or children!

    THE WAYSIDE, CONCORD, MASS.

    _March 13, 1853._



The Minotaur


In the old city of Troezene, at the foot of a lofty mountain, there
lived, a very long time ago, a little boy named Theseus. His
grandfather, King Pittheus, was the sovereign of that country, and was
reckoned a very wise man; so that Theseus, being brought up in the royal
palace, and being naturally a bright lad, could hardly fail of profiting
by the old king's instructions. His mother's name was Æthra. As for his
father, the boy had never seen him. But, from his earliest remembrance,
Æthra used to go with little Theseus into a wood, and sit down upon a
moss-grown rock, which was deeply sunk into the earth. Here she often
talked with her son about his father, and said that he was called Ægeus,
and that he was a great king, and ruled over Attica, and dwelt at
Athens, which was as famous a city as any in the world. Theseus was very
fond of hearing about King Ægeus, and often asked his good mother Æthra
why he did not come and live with them at Troezene.

"Ah, my dear son," answered Æthra, with a sigh, "a monarch has his
people to take care of. The men and women over whom he rules are in the
place of children to him; and he can seldom spare time to love his own
children as other parents do. Your father will never be able to leave
his kingdom for the sake of seeing his little boy."

"Well, but, dear mother," asked the boy, "why cannot I go to this famous
city of Athens, and tell King Ægeus that I am his son?"

"That may happen by and by," said Æthra. "Be patient, and we shall see.
You are not yet big and strong enough to set out on such an errand."

"And how soon shall I be strong enough?" Theseus persisted in inquiring.

"You are but a tiny boy as yet," replied his mother. "See if you can
lift this rock on which we are sitting?"

The little fellow had a great opinion of his own strength. So, grasping
the rough protuberances of the rock, he tugged and toiled amain, and got
himself quite out of breath, without being able to stir the heavy stone.
It seemed to be rooted into the ground. No wonder he could not move it;
for it would have taken all the force of a very strong man to lift it
out of its earthy bed.

His mother stood looking on, with a sad kind of a smile on her lips and
in her eyes, to see the zealous and yet puny efforts of her little boy.
She could not help being sorrowful at finding him already so impatient
to begin his adventures in the world.

"You see how it is, my dear Theseus," said she. "You must possess far
more strength than now before I can trust you to go to Athens, and tell
King Ægeus that you are his son. But when you can lift this rock, and
show me what is hidden beneath it, I promise you my permission to
depart."

Often and often, after this, did Theseus ask his mother whether it was
yet time for him to go to Athens; and still his mother pointed to the
rock, and told him that, for years to come, he could not be strong
enough to move it. And again and again the rosy-cheeked and curly-headed
boy would tug and strain at the huge mass of stone, striving, child as
he was, to do what a giant could hardly have done without taking both of
his great hands to the task. Meanwhile the rock seemed to be sinking
farther and farther into the ground. The moss grew over it thicker and
thicker, until at last it looked almost like a soft green seat, with
only a few gray knobs of granite peeping out. The overhanging trees,
also, shed their brown leaves upon it, as often as the autumn came; and
at its base grew ferns and wild flowers, some of which crept quite over
its surface. To all appearance, the rock was as firmly fastened as any
other portion of the earth's substance.

But, difficult as the matter looked, Theseus was now growing up to be
such a vigorous youth, that, in his own opinion, the time would quickly
come when he might hope to get the upper hand of this ponderous lump of
stone.

"Mother, I do believe it has started!" cried he, after one of his
attempts. "The earth around it is certainly a little cracked!"

"No, no, child!" his mother hastily answered. "It is not possible you
can have moved it, such a boy as you still are!"

Nor would she be convinced, although Theseus showed her the place where
he fancied that the stem of a flower had been partly uprooted by the
movement of the rock. But Æthra sighed and looked disquieted; for, no
doubt, she began to be conscious that her son was no longer a child, and
that, in a little while hence, she must send him forth among the perils
and troubles of the world.

It was not more than a year afterwards when they were again sitting on
the moss-covered stone. Æthra had once more told him the oft-repeated
story of his father, and how gladly he would receive Theseus at his
stately palace, and how he would present him to his courtiers and the
people, and tell them that here was the heir of his dominions. The eyes
of Theseus glowed with enthusiasm, and he would hardly sit still to hear
his mother speak.

"Dear mother Æthra," he exclaimed, "I never felt half so strong as now!
I am no longer a child, nor a boy, nor a mere youth! I feel myself a
man! It is now time to make one earnest trial to remove the stone!"

"Ah, my dearest Theseus," replied his mother, "not yet! not yet!"

"Yes, mother," said he, resolutely, "the time has come."

Then Theseus bent himself in good earnest to the task, and strained
every sinew, with manly strength and resolution. He put his whole brave
heart into the effort. He wrestled with the big and sluggish stone, as
if it had been a living enemy. He heaved, he lifted, he resolved now to
succeed, or else to perish there, and let the rock be his monument
forever! Æthra stood gazing at him, and clasped her hands, partly with a
mother's pride, and partly with a mother's sorrow. The great rock
stirred! Yes, it was raised slowly from the bedded moss and earth,
uprooting the shrubs and flowers along with it, and was turned upon its
side. Theseus had conquered!

While taking breath, he looked joyfully at his mother, and she smiled
upon him through her tears.

"Yes, Theseus," she said, "the time has come, and you must stay no
longer at my side! See what King Ægeus, your royal father, left for you,
beneath the stone, when he lifted it in his mighty arms, and laid it on
the spot whence you have now removed it."

Theseus looked, and saw that the rock had been placed over another slab
of stone, containing a cavity within it; so that it somewhat resembled a
roughly made chest or coffer, of which the upper mass had served as the
lid. Within the cavity lay a sword, with a golden hilt, and a pair of
sandals.

"That was your father's sword," said Æthra, "and those were his sandals.
When he went to be king of Athens, he bade me treat you as a child until
you should prove yourself a man by lifting this heavy stone. That task
being accomplished, you are to put on his sandals, in order to follow in
your father's footsteps, and to gird on his sword, so that you may fight
giants and dragons, as King Ægeus did in his youth."

"I will set out for Athens this very day!" cried Theseus.

But his mother persuaded him to stay a day or two longer, while she got
ready some necessary articles for his journey. When his grandfather, the
wise King Pittheus, heard that Theseus intended to present himself at
his father's palace, he earnestly advised him to get on board of a
vessel, and go by sea; because he might thus arrive within fifteen miles
of Athens, without either fatigue or danger.

"The roads are very bad by land," quoth the venerable king; "and they
are terribly infested with robbers and monsters. A mere lad, like
Theseus, is not fit to be trusted on such a perilous journey, all by
himself. No, no; let him go by sea!"

But when Theseus heard of robbers and monsters, he pricked up his ears,
and was so much the more eager to take the road along which they were to
be met with. On the third day, therefore, he bade a respectful farewell
to his grandfather, thanking him for all his kindness, and, after
affectionately embracing his mother, he set forth, with a good many of
her tears glistening on his cheeks, and some, if the truth must be told,
that had gushed out of his own eyes. But he let the sun and wind dry
them, and walked stoutly on, playing with the golden hilt of his sword
and taking very manly strides in his father's sandals.

I cannot stop to tell you hardly any of the adventures that befell
Theseus on the road to Athens. It is enough to say, that he quite
cleared that part of the country of the robbers, about whom King
Pittheus had been so much alarmed. One of these bad people was named
Procrustes; and he was indeed a terrible fellow, and had an ugly way of
making fun of the poor travellers who happened to fall into his
clutches. In his cavern he had a bed, on which, with great pretence of
hospitality, he invited his guests to lie down; but if they happened to
be shorter than the bed, this wicked villain stretched them out by main
force; or, if they were too long, he lopped off their heads or feet, and
laughed at what he had done, as an excellent joke. Thus, however weary
a man might be, he never liked to lie in the bed of Procrustes. Another
of these robbers, named Scinis, must likewise have been a very great
scoundrel. He was in the habit of flinging his victims off a high cliff
into the sea; and, in order to give him exactly his deserts, Theseus
tossed him off the very same place. But if you will believe me, the sea
would not pollute itself by receiving such a bad person into its bosom,
neither would the earth, having once got rid of him, consent to take him
back; so that, between the cliff and the sea, Scinis stuck fast in the
air, which was forced to bear the burden of his naughtiness.

After these memorable deeds, Theseus heard of an enormous sow, which ran
wild, and was the terror of all the farmers round about; and, as he did
not consider himself above doing any good thing that came in his way, he
killed this monstrous creature, and gave the carcass to the poor people
for bacon. The great sow had been an awful beast, while ramping about
the woods and fields, but was a pleasant object enough when cut up into
joints, and smoking on I know not how many dinner tables.

Thus, by the time he had reached his journey's end, Theseus had done
many valiant deeds with his father's golden-hilted sword, and had gained
the renown of being one of the bravest young men of the day. His fame
travelled faster than he did, and reached Athens before him. As he
entered the city, he heard the inhabitants talking at the
street-corners, and saying that Hercules was brave, and Jason too, and
Castor and Pollux likewise, but that Theseus, the son of their own king,
would turn out as great a hero as the best of them. Theseus took longer
strides on hearing this, and fancied himself sure of a magnificent
reception at his father's court, since he came hither with Fame to blow
her trumpet before him, and cry to King Ægeus, "Behold your son!"

He little suspected, innocent youth that he was, that here, in this
very Athens, where his father reigned, a greater danger awaited him than
any which he had encountered on the road. Yet this was the truth. You
must understand that the father of Theseus, though not very old in
years, was almost worn out with the cares of government, and had thus
grown aged before his time. His nephews, not expecting him to live a
very great while, intended to get all the power of the kingdom into
their own hands. But when they heard that Theseus had arrived in Athens,
and learned what a gallant young man he was, they saw that he would not
be at all the kind of person to let them steal away his father's crown
and sceptre, which ought to be his own by right of inheritance. Thus
these bad-hearted nephews of King Ægeus, who were the own cousins of
Theseus, at once became his enemies. A still more dangerous enemy was
Medea, the wicked enchantress; for she was now the king's wife, and
wanted to give the kingdom to her son Medus, instead of letting it be
given to the son of Æthra, whom she hated.

It so happened that the king's nephews met Theseus, and found out who he
was, just as he reached the entrance of the royal palace. With all their
evil designs against him, they pretended to be their cousin's best
friends, and expressed great joy at making his acquaintance. They
proposed to him that he should come into the king's presence as a
stranger, in order to try whether Ægeus would discover in the young
man's features any likeness either to himself or his mother Æthra, and
thus recognize him for a son. Theseus consented; for he fancied that his
father would know him in a moment, by the love that was in his heart.
But, while he waited at the door, the nephews ran and told King Ægeus
that a young man had arrived in Athens, who, to their certain knowledge,
intended to put him to death, and get possession of his royal crown.

"And he is now waiting for admission to your Majesty's presence," added
they.

"Aha!" cried the old king, on hearing this. "Why, he must be a very
wicked young fellow indeed! Pray, what would you advise me to do with
him?"

In reply to this question, the wicked Medea put in her word. As I have
already told you, she was a famous enchantress. According to some
stories, she was in the habit of boiling old people in a large caldron,
under pretence of making them young again; but King Ægeus, I suppose,
did not fancy such an uncomfortable way of growing young, or perhaps was
contented to be old, and therefore would never let himself be popped
into the caldron. If there were time to spare from more important
matters, I should be glad to tell you of Medea's fiery chariot, drawn by
winged dragons, in which the enchantress used often to take an airing
among the clouds. This chariot, in fact, was the vehicle that first
brought her to Athens, where she had done nothing but mischief ever
since her arrival. But these and many other wonders must be left untold;
and it is enough to say, that Medea, amongst a thousand other bad
things, knew how to prepare a poison, that was instantly fatal to
whomsoever might so much as touch it with his lips.

So, when the king asked what he should do with Theseus, this naughty
woman had an answer ready at her tongue's end.

"Leave that to me, please your Majesty," she replied. "Only admit this
evil-minded young man to your presence, treat him civilly, and invite
him to drink a goblet of wine. Your Majesty is well aware that I
sometimes amuse myself with distilling very powerful medicines. Here is
one of them in this small phial. As to what it is made of, that is one
of my secrets of state. Do but let me put a single drop into the goblet,
and let the young man taste it; and I will answer for it, he shall quite
lay aside the bad designs with which he comes hither."

As she said this, Medea smiled; but, for all her smiling face, she meant
nothing less than to poison the poor innocent Theseus, before his
father's eyes. And King Ægeus, like most other kings, thought any
punishment mild enough for a person who was accused of plotting against
his life. He therefore made little or no objection to Medea's scheme,
and as soon as the poisonous wine was ready, gave orders that the young
stranger should be admitted into his presence. The goblet was set on a
table beside the king's throne; and a fly, meaning just to sip a little
from the brim, immediately tumbled into it, dead. Observing this, Medea
looked round at the nephews, and smiled again.

When Theseus was ushered into the royal apartment, the only object that
he seemed to behold was the white-bearded old king. There he sat on his
magnificent throne, a dazzling crown on his head, and a sceptre in his
hand. His aspect was stately and majestic, although his years and
infirmities weighed heavily upon him, as if each year were a lump of
lead, and each infirmity a ponderous stone, and all were bundled up
together, and laid upon his weary shoulders. The tears both of joy and
sorrow sprang into the young man's eyes; for he thought how sad it was
to see his dear father so infirm, and how sweet it would be to support
him with his own youthful strength, and to cheer him up with the
alacrity of his loving spirit. When a son takes his father into his warm
heart, it renews the old man's youth in a better way than by the heat of
Medea's magic caldron. And this was what Theseus resolved to do. He
could scarcely wait to see whether King Ægeus would recognize him, so
eager was he to throw himself into his arms.

Advancing to the foot of the throne, he attempted to make a little
speech, which he had been thinking about, as he came up the stairs. But
he was almost choked by a great many tender feelings that gushed out of
his heart and swelled into his throat, all struggling to find utterance
together. And therefore, unless he could have laid his full,
over-brimming heart into the king's hand, poor Theseus knew not what to
do or say. The cunning Medea observed what was passing in the young
man's mind. She was more wicked at that moment than ever she had been
before; for (and it makes me tremble to tell you of it) she did her
worst to turn all this unspeakable love with which Theseus was agitated,
to his own ruin and destruction.

"Does your Majesty see his confusion?" she whispered in the king's ear.
"He is so conscious of guilt, that he trembles and cannot speak. The
wretch lives too long! Quick! offer him the wine!"

Now King Ægeus had been gazing earnestly at the young stranger, as he
drew near the throne. There was something, he knew not what, either in
his white brow, or in the fine expression of his mouth, or in his
beautiful and tender eyes, that made him indistinctly feel as if he had
seen this youth before; as if, indeed, he had trotted him on his knee
when a baby, and had beheld him growing to be a stalwart man, while he
himself grew old. But Medea guessed how the king felt, and would not
suffer him to yield to these natural sensibilities; although they were
the voice of his deepest heart, telling him, as plainly as it could
speak, that here was his dear son, and Æthra's son, coming to claim him
for a father. The enchantress again whispered in the king's ear, and
compelled him, by her witchcraft, to see everything under a false
aspect.

He made up his mind, therefore, to let Theseus drink off the poisoned
wine.

"Young man," said he, "you are welcome! I am proud to show hospitality
to so heroic a youth. Do me the favor to drink the contents of this
goblet. It is brimming over, as you see, with delicious wine, such as I
bestow only on those who are worthy of it! None is more worthy to quaff
it than yourself!"

So saying, King Ægeus took the golden goblet from the table, and was
about to offer it to Theseus. But, partly through his infirmities, and
partly because it seemed so sad a thing to take away this young man's
life, however wicked he might be, and partly, no doubt, because his
heart was wiser than his head, and quaked within him at the thought of
what he was going to do,--for all these reasons, the king's hand
trembled so much that a great deal of the wine slopped over. In order to
strengthen his purpose, and fearing lest the whole of the precious
poison should be wasted, one of his nephews now whispered to him,--

"Has your Majesty any doubt of this stranger's guilt? There is the very
sword with which he meant to slay you. How sharp, and bright, and
terrible it is! Quick!--let him taste the wine; or perhaps he may do the
deed even yet."

At these words, Ægeus drove every thought and feeling out of his breast,
except the one idea of how justly the young man deserved to be put to
death. He sat erect on his throne, and held out the goblet of wine with
a steady hand, and bent on Theseus a frown of kingly severity; for,
after all, he had too noble a spirit to murder even a treacherous enemy
with a deceitful smile upon his face.

"Drink!" said he, in the stern tone with which he was wont to condemn a
criminal to be beheaded. "You have well deserved of me such wine as
this!"

Theseus held out his hand to take the wine. But, before he touched it,
King Ægeus trembled again. His eyes had fallen on the gold-hilted sword
that hung at the young man's side. He drew back the goblet.

"That sword!" he cried; "how came you by it?"

"It was my father's sword," replied Theseus, with a tremulous voice.
"These were his sandals. My dear mother (her name is Æthra) told me his
story while I was yet a little child. But it is only a month since I
grew strong enough to lift the heavy stone, and take the sword and
sandals from beneath it, and come to Athens to seek my father."

"My son! my son!" cried King Ægeus, flinging away the fatal goblet, and
tottering down from the throne to fall into the arms of Theseus. "Yes,
these are Æthra's eyes. It is my son."

I have quite forgotten what became of the king's nephews. But when the
wicked Medea saw this new turn of affairs, she hurried out of the room,
and going to her private chamber, lost no time in setting her
enchantments at work. In a few moments, she heard a great noise of
hissing snakes outside of the chamber window; and, behold! there was her
fiery chariot, and four huge winged serpents, wriggling and twisting in
the air, flourishing their tails higher than the top of the palace, and
all ready to set off on an aerial journey. Medea stayed only long enough
to take her son with her, and to steal the crown jewels, together with
the king's best robes, and whatever other valuable things she could lay
hands on; and getting into the chariot, she whipped up the snakes, and
ascended high over the city.

The king, hearing the hiss of the serpents, scrambled as fast as he
could to the window, and bawled out to the abominable enchantress never
to come back. The whole people of Athens, too, who had run out of doors
to see this wonderful spectacle, set up a shout of joy at the prospect
of getting rid of her. Medea, almost bursting with rage, uttered
precisely such a hiss as one of her own snakes, only ten times more
venomous and spiteful; and glaring fiercely out of the blaze of the
chariot, she shook her hands over the multitude below, as if she were
scattering a million of curses among them. In so doing, however, she
unintentionally let fall about five hundred diamonds of the first water,
together with a thousand great pearls, and two thousand emeralds,
rubies, sapphires, opals, and topazes, to which she had helped herself
out of the king's strong-box. All these came pelting down, like a shower
of many-colored hailstones, upon the heads of grown people and children,
who forthwith gathered them up and carried them back to the palace. But
King Ægeus told them that they were welcome to the whole, and to twice
as many more, if he had them, for the sake of his delight at finding
his son, and losing the wicked Medea. And, indeed, if you had seen how
hateful was her last look, as the flaming chariot flew upward, you would
not have wondered that both king and people should think her departure a
good riddance.

And now Prince Theseus was taken into great favor by his royal father.
The old king was never weary of having him sit beside him on his throne
(which was quite wide enough for two), and of hearing him tell about his
dear mother, and his childhood, and his many boyish efforts to lift the
ponderous stone. Theseus, however, was much too brave and active a young
man to be willing to spend all his time in relating things which had
already happened. His ambition was to perform other and more heroic
deeds, which should be better worth telling in prose and verse. Nor had
he been long in Athens before he caught and chained a terrible mad bull,
and made a public show of him, greatly to the wonder and admiration of
good King Ægeus and his subjects. But pretty soon, he undertook an
affair that made all his foregone adventures seem like mere boy's play.
The occasion of it was as follows:--

One morning, when Prince Theseus awoke, he fancied that he must have had
a very sorrowful dream, and that it was still running in his mind, even
now that his eyes were open. For it appeared as if the air was full of a
melancholy wail; and when he listened more attentively, he could hear
sobs and groans, and screams of woe, mingled with deep, quiet sighs,
which came from the king's palace, and from the streets, and from the
temples, and from every habitation in the city. And all these mournful
noises, issuing out of thousands of separate hearts, united themselves
into the one great sound of affliction, which bad startled Theseus from
slumber. He put on his clothes as quickly as he could (not forgetting
his sandals and gold-hilted sword), and hastening to the king, inquired
what it all meant.

"Alas! my son," quoth King Ægeus, heaving a long sigh, "here is a very
lamentable matter in hand! This is the wofullest anniversary in the
whole year. It is the day when we annually draw lots to see which of the
youths and maidens of Athens shall go to be devoured by the horrible
Minotaur!"

"The Minotaur!" exclaimed Prince Theseus; and, like a brave young prince
as he was, he put his hand to the hilt of his sword. "What kind of a
monster may that be? Is it not possible, at the risk of one's life, to
slay him?"

But King Ægeus shook his venerable head, and to convince Theseus that it
was quite a hopeless case, he gave him an explanation of the whole
affair. It seems that in the island of Crete there lived a certain
dreadful monster, called a Minotaur, which was shaped partly like a man
and partly like a bull, and was altogether such a hideous sort of a
creature that it is really disagreeable to think of him. If he were
suffered to exist at all, it should have been on some desert island, or
in the duskiness of some deep cavern, where nobody would ever be
tormented by his abominable aspect. But King Minos, who reigned over
Crete, laid out a vast deal of money in building a habitation for the
Minotaur, and took great care of his health and comfort, merely for
mischief's sake. A few years before this time, there had been a war
between the city of Athens and the island of Crete, in which the
Athenians were beaten, and compelled to beg for peace. No peace could
they obtain, however, except on condition that they should send seven
young men and seven maidens, every year, to be devoured by the pet
monster of the cruel King Minos. For three years past, this grievous
calamity had been borne. And the sobs, and groans, and shrieks, with
which the city was now filled, were caused by the people's woe, because
the fatal day had come again, when the fourteen victims were to be
chosen by lot; and the old people feared lest their sons or daughters
might be taken, and the youths and damsels dreaded lest they themselves
might be destined to glut the ravenous maw of that detestable man-brute.

But when Theseus heard the story, he straightened himself up, so that he
seemed taller than ever before; and as for his face, it was indignant,
despiteful, bold, tender, and compassionate, all in one look.

"Let the people of Athens, this year, draw lots for only six young men,
instead of seven," said he. "I will myself be the seventh; and let the
Minotaur devour me, if he can!"

"O my dear son," cried King Ægeus, "why should you expose yourself to
this horrible fate? You are a royal prince, and have a right to hold
yourself above the destinies of common men."

"It is because I am a prince, your son, and the rightful heir of your
kingdom, that I freely take upon me the calamity of your subjects,"
answered Theseus. "And you, my father, being king over this people, and
answerable to Heaven for their welfare, are bound to sacrifice what is
dearest to you, rather than that the son or daughter of the poorest
citizen should come to any harm."

The old king shed tears, and besought Theseus not to leave him desolate
in his old age, more especially as he had but just begun to know the
happiness of possessing a good and valiant son. Theseus, however, felt
that he was in the right, and therefore would not give up his
resolution. But he assured his father that he did not intend to be eaten
up, unresistingly, like a sheep, and that, if the Minotaur devoured him,
it should not be without a battle for his dinner. And finally, since he
could not help it, King Ægeus consented to let him go. So a vessel was
got ready, and rigged with black sails; and Theseus, with six other
young men, and seven tender and beautiful damsels, came down to the
harbor to embark. A sorrowful multitude accompanied them to the shore.
There was the poor old king, too, leaning on his son's arm, and looking
as if his single heart held all the grief of Athens.

Just as Prince Theseus was going on board, his father bethought himself
of one last word to say.

"My beloved son," said he, grasping the prince's hand, "you observe that
the sails of this vessel are black; as indeed they ought to be, since it
goes upon a voyage of sorrow and despair. Now, being weighed down with
infirmities, I know not whether I can survive till the vessel shall
return. But, as long as I do live, I shall creep daily to the top of
yonder cliff, to watch if there be a sail upon the sea. And, dearest
Theseus, if by some happy chance you should escape the jaws of the
Minotaur, then tear down those dismal sails, and hoist others that shall
be bright as the sunshine. Beholding them on the horizon, myself and all
the people will know that you are coming back victorious, and will
welcome you with such a festal uproar as Athens never heard before."

Theseus promised that he would do so. Then, going on board, the mariners
trimmed the vessel's black sails to the wind, which blew faintly off the
shore, being pretty much made up of the sighs that everybody kept
pouring forth on this melancholy occasion. But by and by, when they had
got fairly out to sea, there came a stiff breeze from the northwest, and
drove them along as merrily over the white-capped waves as if they had
been going on the most delightful errand imaginable. And though it was a
sad business enough, I rather question whether fourteen young people,
without any old persons to keep them in order, could continue to spend
the whole time of the voyage in being miserable. There had been some few
dances upon the undulating deck, I suspect, and some hearty bursts of
laughter, and other such unseasonable merriment among the victims,
before the high, blue mountains of Crete began to show themselves among
the far-off clouds. That sight, to be sure, made them all very grave
again.

Theseus stood among the sailors, gazing eagerly towards the land;
although, as yet, it seemed hardly more substantial than the clouds,
amidst which the mountains were looming up. Once or twice, he fancied
that he saw a glare of some bright object, a long way off, flinging a
gleam across the waves.

"Did you see that flash of light?" he inquired of the master of the
vessel.

"No, prince; but I have seen it before," answered the master. "It came
from Talus, I suppose."

As the breeze came fresher just then, the master was busy with trimming
his sails, and had no more time to answer questions. But while the
vessel flew faster and faster towards Crete, Theseus was astonished to
behold a human figure, gigantic in size, which appeared to be striding
with a measured movement, along the margin of the island. It stepped
from cliff to cliff, and sometimes from one headland to another, while
the sea foamed and thundered on the shore beneath, and dashed its jets
of spray over the giant's feet. What was still more remarkable, whenever
the sun shone on this huge figure, it flickered and glimmered; its vast
countenance, too, had a metallic lustre, and threw great flashes of
splendor through the air. The folds of its garments, moreover, instead
of waving in the wind, fell heavily over its limbs, as if woven of some
kind of metal.

The nigher the vessel came, the more Theseus wondered what this immense
giant could be, and whether it actually had life or no. For though it
walked, and made other lifelike motions, there yet was a kind of jerk in
its gait, which, together with its brazen aspect, caused the young
prince to suspect that it was no true giant, but only a wonderful piece
of machinery. The figure looked all the more terrible because it carried
an enormous brass club on its shoulder.

"What is this wonder?" Theseus asked of the master of the vessel, who
was now at leisure to answer him.

"It is Talus, the Man of Brass," said the master.

"And is he a live giant, or a brazen image?" asked Theseus.

"That, truly," replied the master, "is the point which has always
perplexed me. Some say, indeed, that this Talus was hammered out for
King Minos by Vulcan himself, the skilfullest of all workers in metal.
But who ever saw a brazen image that had sense enough to walk round an
island three times a day, as this giant walks round the island of Crete,
challenging every vessel that comes nigh the shore? And, on the other
hand, what living thing, unless his sinews were made of brass, would not
be weary of marching eighteen hundred miles in the twenty-four hours, as
Talus does, without ever sitting down to rest? He is a puzzler, take him
how you will."

Still the vessel went bounding onward; and now Theseus could hear the
brazen clangor of the giant's footsteps, as he trod heavily upon the
sea-beaten rocks, some of which were seen to crack and crumble into the
foamy waves beneath his weight. As they approached the entrance of the
port, the giant straddled clear across it, with a foot firmly planted on
each headland, and uplifting his club to such a height that its butt-end
was hidden in a cloud, he stood in that formidable posture, with the sun
gleaming all over his metallic surface. There seemed nothing else to be
expected but that, the next moment, he would fetch his great club down,
slam bang, and smash the vessel into a thousand pieces, without heeding
how many innocent people he might destroy; for there is seldom any mercy
in a giant, you know, and quite as little in a piece of brass clockwork.
But just when Theseus and his companions thought the blow was coming,
the brazen lips unclosed themselves, and the figure spoke.

"Whence come you, strangers?"

And when the ringing voice ceased, there was just such a reverberation
as you may have heard within a great church bell, for a moment or two
after the stroke of the hammer.

"From Athens!" shouted the master in reply.

"On what errand?" thundered the Man of Brass.

And he whirled his club aloft more threateningly than ever, as if he
were about to smite them with a thunder-stroke right amid-ships, because
Athens, so little while ago, had been at war with Crete.

"We bring the seven youths and the seven maidens," answered the master,
"to be devoured by the Minotaur!"

"Pass!" cried the brazen giant.

That one loud word rolled all about the sky, while again there was a
booming reverberation within the figure's breast. The vessel glided
between the headlands of the port, and the giant resumed his march. In a
few moments, this wondrous sentinel was far away, flashing in the
distant sunshine, and revolving with immense strides around the island
of Crete, as it was his never-ceasing task to do.

No sooner had they entered the harbor than a party of the guards of King
Minos came down to the water-side, and took charge of the fourteen young
men and damsels. Surrounded by these armed warriors, Prince Theseus and
his companions were led to the king's palace, and ushered into his
presence. Now, Minos was a stern and pitiless king. If the figure that
guarded Crete was made of brass, then the monarch, who ruled over it,
might be thought to have a still harder metal in his breast, and might
have been called a man of iron. He bent his shaggy brows upon the poor
Athenian victims. Any other mortal, beholding their fresh and tender
beauty, and their innocent looks, would have felt himself sitting on
thorns until he had made every soul of them happy, by bidding them go
free as the summer wind. But this immitigable Minos cared only to
examine whether they were plump enough to satisfy the Minotaur's
appetite. For my part, I wish he had himself been the only victim; and
the monster would have found him a pretty tough one.

One after another, King Minos called these pale, frightened youths and
sobbing maidens to his footstool, gave them each a poke in the ribs with
his sceptre (to try whether they were in good flesh or no), and
dismissed them with a nod to his guards. But when his eyes rested on
Theseus, the king looked at him more attentively, because his face was
calm and brave.

"Young man," asked he, with his stern voice, "are you not appalled at
the certainty of being devoured by this terrible Minotaur?"

"I have offered my life in a good cause," answered Theseus, "and
therefore I give it freely and gladly. But thou, King Minos, art thou
not thyself appalled, who, year after year, hast perpetrated this
dreadful wrong, by giving seven innocent youths and as many maidens to
be devoured by a monster? Dost thou not tremble, wicked king, to turn
thine eyes inward on thine own heart? Sitting there on thy golden
throne, and in thy robes of majesty, I tell thee to thy face, King
Minos, thou art a more hideous monster than the Minotaur himself!"

"Aha! do you think me so?" cried the king, laughing in his cruel way.
"To-morrow, at breakfast-time, you shall have an opportunity of judging
which is the greater monster, the Minotaur or the king! Take them away,
guards; and let this free-spoken youth be the Minotaur's first morsel!"

Near the king's throne (though I had no time to tell you so before)
stood his daughter Ariadne. She was a beautiful and tender-hearted
maiden, and looked at these poor doomed captives with very different
feelings from those of the iron-breasted King Minos. She really wept,
indeed, at the idea of how much human happiness would be needlessly
thrown away, by giving so many young people, in the first bloom and rose
blossom of their lives, to be eaten up by a creature who, no doubt,
would have preferred a fat ox, or even a large pig, to the plumpest of
them. And when she beheld the brave, spirited figure of Prince Theseus
bearing himself so calmly in his terrible peril, she grew a hundred
times more pitiful than before. As the guards were taking him away, she
flung herself at the king's feet, and besought him to set all the
captives free, and especially this one young man.

"Peace, foolish girl!" answered King Minos. "What hast thou to do with
an affair like this? It is a matter of state policy, and therefore quite
beyond thy weak comprehension. Go water thy flowers, and think no more
of these Athenian caitiffs, whom the Minotaur shall as certainly eat up
for breakfast as I will eat a partridge for my supper."

So saying, the king looked cruel enough to devour Theseus and all the
rest of the captives, himself, had there been no Minotaur to save him
the trouble. As he would not hear another word in their favor, the
prisoners were now led away, and clapped into a dungeon, where the
jailer advised them to go to sleep as soon as possible, because the
Minotaur was in the habit of calling for breakfast early. The seven
maidens and six of the young men soon sobbed themselves to slumber! But
Theseus was not like them. He felt conscious that he was wiser and
braver and stronger than his companions, and that therefore he had the
responsibility of all their lives upon him, and must consider whether
there was no way to save them, even in this last extremity. So he kept
himself awake, and paced to and fro across the gloomy dungeon in which
they were shut up.

Just before midnight, the door was softly unbarred, and the gentle
Ariadne showed herself, with a torch in her hand.

"Are you awake, Prince Theseus?" she whispered.

"Yes," answered Theseus. "With so little time to live, I do not choose
to waste any of it in sleep."

"Then follow me," said Ariadne, "and tread softly."

What had become of the jailer and the guards, Theseus never knew. But
however that might be, Ariadne opened all the doors, and led him forth
from the darksome prison into the pleasant moonlight.

"Theseus," said the maiden, "you can now get on board your vessel, and
sail away for Athens."

"No," answered the young man; "I will never leave Crete unless I can
first slay the Minotaur, and save my poor companions, and deliver Athens
from this cruel tribute."

"I knew that this would be your resolution," said Ariadne. "Come, then,
with me, brave Theseus. Here is your own sword, which the guards
deprived you of. You will need it; and pray Heaven you may use it well."

Then she led Theseus along by the hand until they came to a dark, shadow
grove, where the moonlight wasted itself on the tops of the trees,
without shedding hardly so much as a glimmering beam upon their pathway.
After going a good way through this obscurity, they reached a high,
marble wall, which was overgrown with creeping plants, that made it
shaggy with their verdure. The wall seemed to have no door, nor any
windows, but rose up, lofty, and massive, and mysterious, and was
neither to be clambered over, nor, so far as Theseus could perceive, to
be passed through. Nevertheless, Ariadne did but press one of her soft
little fingers against a particular block of marble, and, though it
looked as solid as any other part of the wall, it yielded to her touch,
disclosing an entrance just wide enough to admit them. They crept
through, and the marble stone swung back into its place.

"We are now," said Ariadne, "in the famous labyrinth which Dædalus built
before he made himself a pair of wings, and flew away from our island
like a bird. That Dædalus was a very cunning workman; but of all his
artful contrivances, this labyrinth is the most wondrous. Were we to
take but a few steps from the doorway, we might wander about all our
lifetime, and never find it again. Yet in the very centre of this
labyrinth is the Minotaur; and, Theseus, you must go thither to seek
him."

"But how shall I ever find him?" asked Theseus, "if the labyrinth so
bewilders me as you say it will?"

Just as he spoke, they heard a rough and very disagreeable roar, which
greatly resembled the lowing of a fierce bull, but yet had some sort of
sound like the human voice. Theseus even fancied a rude articulation in
it, as if the creature that uttered it were trying to shape his hoarse
breath into words. It was at some distance, however, and he really could
not tell whether it sounded most like a bull's roar or a man's harsh
voice.

"That is the Minotaur's noise," whispered Ariadne, closely grasping the
hand of Theseus, and pressing one of her own hands to her heart, which
was all in a tremble. "You must follow that sound through the windings
of the labyrinth, and, by and by, you will find him. Stay! take the end
of this silken string; I will hold the other end; and then, if you win
the victory, it will lead you again to this spot. Farewell, brave
Theseus."

So the young man took the end of the silken string in his left hand, and
his gold-hilted sword, ready drawn from its scabbard, in the other, and
trod boldly into the inscrutable labyrinth. How this labyrinth was built
is more than I can tell you. But so cunningly contrived a mizmaze was
never seen in the world, before nor since. There can be nothing else so
intricate, unless it were the brain of a man like Dædalus, who planned
it, or the heart of any ordinary man; which last, to be sure, is ten
times as great a mystery as the labyrinth of Crete. Theseus had not
taken five steps before he lost sight of Ariadne; and in five more his
head was growing dizzy. But still he went on, now creeping through a low
arch, now ascending a flight of steps, now in one crooked passage and
now in another, with here a door opening before him, and there one
banging behind, until it really seemed as if the walls spun round, and
whirled him round along with them. And all the while, through these
hollow avenues, now nearer, now farther off again, resounded the cry of
the Minotaur; and the sound was so fierce, so cruel, so ugly, so like a
bull's roar, and withal so like a human voice, and yet like neither of
them, that the brave heart of Theseus grew sterner and angrier at every
step; for he felt it an insult to the moon and sky, and to our
affectionate and simple Mother Earth, that such a monster should have
the audacity to exist.

As he passed onward, the clouds gathered over the moon, and the
labyrinth grew so dusky that Theseus could no longer discern the
bewilderment through which he was passing. He would have felt quite
lost, and utterly hopeless of ever again walking in a straight path, if,
every little while, he had not been conscious of a gentle twitch at the
silken cord. Then he knew that the tender-hearted Ariadne was still
holding the other end, and that she was fearing for him, and hoping for
him, and giving him just as much of her sympathy as if she were close by
his side. Oh, indeed, I can assure you, there was a vast deal of human
sympathy running along that slender thread of silk. But still he
followed the dreadful roar of the Minotaur, which now grew louder and
louder, and finally so very loud that Theseus fully expected to come
close upon him, at every new zigzag and wriggle of the path. And at
last, in an open space, at the very centre of the labyrinth, he did
discern the hideous creature.

Sure enough, what an ugly monster it was! Only his horned head belonged
to a bull; and yet, somehow or other, he looked like a bull all over,
preposterously waddling on his hind legs; or, if you happened to view
him in another way, he seemed wholly a man, and all the more monstrous
for being so. And there he was, the wretched thing, with no society, no
companion, no kind of a mate, living only to do mischief, and incapable
of knowing what affection means. Theseus hated him, and shuddered at
him, and yet could not but be sensible of some sort of pity; and all the
more, the uglier and more detestable the creature was. For he kept
striding to and fro in a solitary frenzy of rage, continually emitting a
hoarse roar, which was oddly mixed up with half-shaped words; and, after
listening awhile, Theseus understood that the Minotaur was saying to
himself how miserable he was, and how hungry, and how he hated
everybody, and how he longed to eat up the human race alive.

Ah, the bull-headed villain! And O, my good little people, you will
perhaps see, one of these days, as I do now, that every human being who
suffers anything evil to get into his nature, or to remain there, is a
kind of Minotaur, an enemy of his fellow-creatures, and separated from
all good companionship, as this poor monster was.

Was Theseus afraid? By no means, my dear auditors. What! a hero like
Theseus afraid! Not had the Minotaur had twenty bull heads instead of
one. Bold as he was, however, I rather fancy that it strengthened his
valiant heart, just at this crisis, to feel a tremulous twitch at the
silken cord, which he was still holding in his left hand. It was as if
Ariadne were giving him all her might and courage; and, much as he
already had, and little as she had to give, it made his own seem twice
as much. And to confess the honest truth, he needed the whole; for now
the Minotaur, turning suddenly about, caught sight of Theseus, and
instantly lowered his horribly sharp horns, exactly as a mad bull does
when he means to rush against an enemy. At the same time, he belched
forth a tremendous roar, in which there was something like the words of
human language, but all disjointed and shaken-to pieces by passing
through the gullet of a miserably enraged brute.

Theseus could only guess what the creature intended to say, and that
rather by his gestures than his words; for the Minotaur's horns were
sharper than his wits, and of a great deal more service to him than his
tongue. But probably this was the sense of what he uttered:--

"Ah, wretch of a human being! I'll stick my horns through you, and toss
you fifty feet high, and eat you up the moment you come down."

"Come on, then, and try it!" was all that Theseus deigned to reply; for
he was far too magnanimous to assault his enemy with insolent language.

Without more words on either side, there ensued the most awful fight
between Theseus and the Minotaur that ever happened beneath the sun or
moon. I really know not how it might have turned out, if the monster, in
his first headlong rush against Theseus, had not missed him, by a
hair's-breadth, and broken one of his horns short off against the stone
wall. On this mishap, he bellowed so intolerably that a part of the
labyrinth tumbled down, and all the inhabitants of Crete mistook the
noise for an uncommonly heavy thunder-storm. Smarting with the pain, he
galloped around the open space in so ridiculous a way that Theseus
laughed at it, long afterwards, though not precisely at the moment.
After this, the two antagonists stood valiantly up to one another, and
fought sword to horn, for a long while. At last, the Minotaur made a run
at Theseus, grazed his left side with his horn, and flung him down; and
thinking that he had stabbed him to the heart, he cut a great caper in
the air, opened his bull mouth from ear to ear, and prepared to snap his
head off. But Theseus by this time had leaped up, and caught the monster
off his guard. Fetching a sword-stroke at him with all his force, he hit
him fair upon the neck, and made his bull head skip six yards from his
human body, which fell down flat upon the ground.

So now the battle was ended. Immediately the moon shone out as brightly
as if all the troubles of the world, and all the wickedness and the
ugliness that infest human life, were past and gone forever. And
Theseus, as he leaned on his sword, taking breath, felt another twitch
of the silken cord; for all through the terrible encounter he had held
it fast in his left hand. Eager to let Ariadne know of his success, he
followed the guidance of the thread, and soon found himself at the
entrance of the labyrinth.

"Thou hast slain the monster," cried Ariadne, clasping her hands.

"Thanks to thee, dear Ariadne," answered Theseus, "I return victorious."

"Then," said Ariadne, "we must quickly summon thy friends, and get them
and thyself on board the vessel before dawn. If morning finds thee here,
my father will avenge the Minotaur."

To make my story short, the poor captives were awakened, and, hardly
knowing whether it was not a joyful dream, were told of what Theseus had
done, and that they must set sail for Athens before daybreak. Hastening
down to the vessel, they all clambered on board, except Prince Theseus,
who lingered behind them, on the strand, holding Ariadne's hand clasped
in his own.

"Dear maiden," said he, "thou wilt surely go with us. Thou art too
gentle and sweet a child for such an iron-hearted father as King Minos.
He cares no more for thee than a granite rock cares for the little
flower that grows in one of its crevices. But my father. King Ægeus, and
my dear mother, Æthra, and all the fathers and mothers in Athens, and
all the sons and daughters too, will love and honor thee as their
benefactress. Come with us, then; for King Minos will be very angry when
he knows what thou hast done."

Now, some low-minded people, who pretend to tell the story of Theseus
and Ariadne, have the face to say that this royal and honorable maiden
did really flee away, under cover of the night, with the young stranger
whose life she had preserved. They say, too, that Prince Theseus (who
would have died sooner than wrong the meanest creature in the world)
ungratefully deserted Ariadne, on a solitary island, where the vessel
touched on its voyage to Athens. But, had the noble Theseus heard these
falsehoods, he would have served their slanderous authors as he served
the Minotaur! Here is what Ariadne answered, when the brave Prince of
Athens besought her to accompany him:--

"No, Theseus," the maiden said, pressing his hand, and then drawing back
a step or two, "I cannot go with you. My father is old, and has nobody
but myself to love him. Hard as you think his heart is, it would break
to lose me. At first King Minos will be angry; but he will soon forgive
his only child; and, by and by, he will rejoice, I know, that no more
youths and maidens must come from Athens to be devoured by the Minotaur.
I have saved you, Theseus, as much for my father's sake as for your own.
Farewell! Heaven bless you!"

All this was so true, and so maiden-like, and was spoken with so sweet a
dignity, that Theseus would have blushed to urge her any longer. Nothing
remained for him, therefore, but to bid Ariadne an affectionate
farewell, and go on board the vessel, and set sail.

In a few moments the white foam was boiling up before their prow, as
Prince Theseus and his companions sailed out of the harbor with a
whistling breeze behind them. Talus, the brazen giant, on his
never-ceasing sentinel's march, happened to be approaching that part of
the coast; and they saw him, by the glimmering of the moonbeams on his
polished surface, while he was yet a great way off. As the figure moved
like clockwork, however, and could neither hasten his enormous strides
nor retard them, he arrived at the port when they were just beyond the
reach of his club. Nevertheless, straddling from headland to headland,
as his custom was, Talus attempted to strike a blow at the vessel, and,
overreaching himself, tumbled at full length into the sea, which
splashed high over his gigantic shape, as when an iceberg turns a
somerset. There he lies yet; and whoever desires to enrich himself by
means of brass had better go thither with a diving-bell, and fish up
Talus.

On the homeward voyage, the fourteen youths and damsels were in
excellent spirits, as you will easily suppose. They spent most of their
time in dancing, unless when the sidelong breeze made the deck slope too
much. In due season, they came within sight of the coast of Attica,
which was their native country. But here, I am grieved to tell you,
happened a sad misfortune.

You will remember (what Theseus unfortunately forgot) that his father,
King Ægeus, had enjoined it upon him to hoist sunshine sails, instead of
black ones, in case he should overcome the Minotaur, and return
victorious. In the joy of their success, however, and amidst the sports,
dancing, and other merriment, with which these young folks wore away the
time, they never once thought whether their sails were black, white, or
rainbow colored, and, indeed, left it entirely to the mariners whether
they had any sails at all. Thus the vessel returned, like a raven, with
the same sable wings that had wafted her away. But poor King Ægeus, day
after day, infirm as he was, had clambered to the summit of a cliff that
overhung the sea, and there sat watching for Prince Theseus, homeward
bound; and no sooner did he behold the fatal blackness of the sails,
than he concluded that his dear son, whom he loved so much, and felt so
proud of, had been eaten by the Minotaur. He could not bear the thought
of living any longer; so, first flinging his crown and sceptre into the
sea, (useless bawbles that they were to him now!) King Ægeus merely
stooped forward, and fell headlong over the cliff, and was drowned, poor
soul, in the waves that foamed at its base!

This was melancholy news for Prince Theseus, who, when he stepped
ashore, found himself king of all the country, whether he would or no;
and such a turn of fortune was enough to make any young man feel very
much out of spirits. However, he sent for his dear mother to Athens,
and, by taking her advice in matters of state, became a very excellent
monarch, and was greatly beloved by his people.



The Pygmies


A great while ago, when the world was full of wonders, there lived an
earth-born Giant named Antæus, and a million or more of curious little
earth-born people, who were called Pygmies. This Giant and these Pygmies
being children of the same mother (that is to say, our good old
Grandmother Earth), were all brethren and dwelt together in a very
friendly and affectionate manner, far, far off, in the middle of hot
Africa. The Pygmies were so small, and there were so many sandy deserts
and such high mountains between them and the rest of mankind, that
nobody could get a peep at them oftener than once in a hundred years. As
for the Giant, being of a very lofty stature, it was easy enough to see
him, but safest to keep out of his sight.

Among the Pygmies, I suppose, if one of them grew to the height of six
or eight inches, he was reckoned a prodigiously tall man. It must have
been very pretty to behold their little cities, with streets two or
three feet wide, paved with the smallest pebbles, and bordered by
habitations about as big as a squirrel's cage. The king's palace
attained to the stupendous magnitude of Periwinkle's baby-house, and
stood in the centre of a spacious square, which could hardly have been
covered by our hearth-rug. Their principal temple, or cathedral, was as
lofty as yonder bureau, and was looked upon as a wonderfully sublime and
magnificent edifice. All these structures were built neither of stone
nor wood. They were neatly plastered together by the Pygmy workmen,
pretty much like bird's-nests, out of straw, feathers, eggshells, and
other small bits of stuff, with stiff clay instead of mortar; and when
the hot sun had dried them, they were just as snug and comfortable as a
Pygmy could desire.

The country round about was conveniently laid out in fields, the largest
of which was nearly of the same extent as one of Sweet Fern's
flower-beds. Here the Pygmies used to plant wheat and other kinds of
grain, which, when it grew up and ripened, overshadowed these tiny
people, as the pines, and the oaks, and the walnut and chestnut-trees
overshadow you and me, when we walk in our own tracts of woodland. At
harvest-time, they were forced to go with their little axes and cut down
the grain, exactly as a wood-cutter makes a clearing in the forest; and
when a stalk of wheat, with its overburdened top, chanced to come
crashing down upon an unfortunate Pygmy, it was apt to be a very sad
affair. If it did not smash him all to pieces, at least, I am sure, it
must have made the poor little fellow's head ache. And oh, my stars! if
the fathers and mothers were so small, what must the children and babies
have been? A whole family of them might have been put to bed in a shoe,
or have crept into an old glove, and played at hide-and-seek in its
thumb and fingers. You might have hidden a year-old baby under a
thimble.

Now these funny Pygmies, as I told you before, had a Giant for their
neighbor and brother, who was bigger, if possible, than they were
little. He was so very tall that he carried a pine-tree, which was eight
feet through the butt, for a walking-stick. It took a far-sighted Pygmy,
I can assure you, to discern his summit without the help of a telescope;
and sometimes, in misty weather, they could not see his upper half, but
only his long legs, which seemed to be striding about by themselves. But
at noonday, in a clear atmosphere, when the sun shone brightly over him,
the Giant Antæus presented a very grand spectacle. There he used to
stand, a perfect mountain of a man, with his great countenance smiling
down upon his little brothers, and his one vast eye (which was as big
as a cart-wheel, and placed right in the centre of his forehead) giving
a friendly wink to the whole nation at once.

The Pygmies loved to talk with Antæus; and fifty times a day, one or
another of them would turn up his head, and shout through the hollow of
his fists, "Halloo, brother Antæus! How are you, my good fellow?" and
when the small, distant squeak of their voices reached his ear, the
Giant would make answer, "Pretty well, brother Pygmy, I thank you," in a
thunderous roar that would have shaken down the walls of their strongest
temple, only that it came from so far aloft.

It was a happy circumstance that Antæus was the Pygmy people's friend;
for there was more strength in his little finger than in ten million of
such bodies as theirs. If he had been as ill-natured to them as he was
to everybody else, he might have beaten down their biggest city at one
kick, and hardly have known that he did it. With the tornado of his
breath, he could have stripped the roofs from a hundred dwellings, and
sent thousands of the inhabitants whirling through the air. He might
have set his immense foot upon a multitude; and when he took it up
again, there would have been a pitiful sight, to be sure. But, being the
son of Mother Earth, as they likewise were, the Giant gave them his
brotherly kindness, and loved them with as big a love as it was possible
to feel for creatures so very small. And, on their parts, the Pygmies
loved Antæus with as much affection as their tiny hearts could hold. He
was always ready to do them any good offices that lay in his power; as,
for example, when they wanted a breeze to turn their windmills, the
Giant would set all the sails a-going with the mere natural respiration
of his lungs. When the sun was too hot, he often sat himself down, and
let his shadow fall over the kingdom, from one frontier to the other;
and as for matters in general, he was wise enough to let them alone, and
leave the Pygmies to manage their own affairs,--which, after all, is
about the best thing that great people can do for little ones.

In short, as I said before, Antæus loved the Pygmies, and the Pygmies
loved Antæus. The Giant's life being as long as his body was large,
while the lifetime of a Pygmy was but a span, this friendly intercourse
had been going on for innumerable generations and ages. It was written
about in the Pygmy histories, and talked about in their ancient
traditions. The most venerable and white-bearded Pygmy had never heard
of a time, even in his greatest of grandfather's days, when the Giant
was not their enormous friend. Once, to be sure (as was recorded on an
obelisk, three feet high, erected on the place of the catastrophe),
Antæus sat down upon about five thousand Pygmies, who were assembled at
a military review. But this was one of those unlucky accidents for which
nobody is to blame; so that the small folks never took it to heart, and
only requested the Giant to be careful forever afterwards to examine the
acre of ground where he intended to squat himself.

It is a very pleasant picture to imagine Antæus standing among the
Pygmies, like the spire of the tallest cathedral that ever was built,
while they ran about like pismires at his feet; and to think that, in
spite of their difference in size, there were affection and sympathy
between them and him! Indeed, it has always seemed to me that the Giant
needed the little people more than the Pygmies needed the Giant. For,
unless they had been his neighbors and wellwishers, and, as we may say,
his playfellows, Antæus would not have had a single friend in the world.
No other being like himself had ever been created. No creature of his
own size had ever talked with him, in thunder-like accents, face to
face. When he stood with his head among the clouds, he was quite alone,
and had been so for hundreds of years, and would be so forever. Even if
he had met another Giant, Antæus would have fancied the world not big
enough for two such vast personages, and, instead of being friends with
him, would have fought him till one of the two was killed. But with the
Pygmies he was the most sportive, and humorous, and merry-hearted, and
sweet-tempered old Giant that ever washed his face in a wet cloud.

His little friends, like all other small people, had a great opinion of
their own importance, and used to assume quite a patronizing air towards
the Giant.

"Poor creature!" they said one to another. "He has a very dull time of
it, all by himself; and we ought not to grudge wasting a little of our
precious time to amuse him. He is not half so bright as we are, to be
sure; and, for that reason, he needs us to look after his comfort and
happiness. Let us be kind to the old fellow. Why, if Mother Earth had
not been very kind to ourselves, we might all have been Giants too."

On all their holidays, the Pygmies had excellent sport with Antæus. He
often stretched himself out at full length on the ground, where he
looked like the long ridge of a hill; and it was a good hour's walk, no
doubt, for a short-legged Pygmy to journey from head to foot of the
Giant. He would lay down his great hand flat on the grass, and challenge
the tallest of them to clamber upon it, and straddle from finger to
finger. So fearless were they, that they made nothing of creeping in
among the folds of his garments. When his head lay sidewise on the
earth, they would march boldly up, and peep into the great cavern of his
mouth, and take it all as a joke, (as indeed it was meant) when Antæus
gave a sudden snap with his jaws, as if he were going to swallow fifty
of them at once. You would have laughed to see the children dodging in
and out among his hair, or swinging from his beard. It is impossible to
tell half of the funny tricks that they played with their huge comrade;
but I do not know that anything was more curious than when a party of
boys were seen running races on his forehead, to try which of them could
get first round the circle of his one great eye. It was another favorite
feat with them to march along the bridge of his nose, and jump down upon
his upper lip.

If the truth must be told, they were sometimes as troublesome to the
Giant as a swarm of ants or mosquitoes, especially as they had a
fondness for mischief, and liked to prick his skin with their little
swords and lances, to see how thick and tough it was. But Antæus took it
all kindly enough; although, once in a while, when he happened to be
sleepy, he would grumble out a peevish word or two, like the muttering
of a tempest, and ask them to have done with their nonsense. A great
deal oftener, however, he watched their merriment and gambols until his
huge, heavy, clumsy wits were completely stirred up by them; and then
would he roar out such a tremendous volume of immeasurable laughter,
that the whole nation of Pygmies had to put their hands to their ears,
else it would certainly have deafened them.

"Ho! ho! ho!" quoth the Giant, shaking his mountainous sides. "What a
funny thing it is to be little! If I were not Antæus, I should like to
be a pygmy, just for the joke's sake."

The Pygmies had but one thing to trouble them in the world. They were
constantly at war with the cranes, and had always been so, ever since
the long-lived giant could remember. From time to time very terrible
battles had been fought, in which sometimes the little men won the
victory, and sometimes the cranes. According to some historians, the
Pygmies used to go to the battle, mounted on the backs of goats and
rams; but such animals as these must have been far too big for Pygmies
to ride upon; so that, I rather suppose, they rode on squirrel-back, or
rabbit-back, or rat-back, or perhaps got upon hedgehogs, whose prickly
quills would be very terrible to the enemy. However this might be, and
whatever creatures the Pygmies rode upon, I do not doubt that they made
a formidable appearance, armed with sword and spear, and bow and arrow,
blowing their tiny trumpet, and shouting their little war-cry. They
never failed to exhort one another to fight bravely, and recollect that
the world had its eyes upon them; although, in simple truth, the only
spectator was the Giant Antæus, with his one, great, stupid eye, in the
middle of his forehead.

When the two armies joined battle, the cranes would rush forward,
flapping their wings and stretching out their necks, and would perhaps
snatch up some of the Pygmies crosswise in their beaks. Whenever this
happened, it was truly an awful spectacle to see those little men of
might kicking and sprawling in the air, and at last disappearing down
the crane's long, crooked throat, swallowed up alive. A hero, you know,
must hold himself in readiness for any kind of fate; and doubtless the
glory of the thing was a consolation to him, even in the crane's
gizzard. If Antæus observed that the battle was going hard against his
little allies, he generally stopped laughing, and ran with mile-long
strides to their assistance, flourishing his club aloft and shouting at
the cranes, who quacked and croaked, and retreated as fast as they
could. Then the Pygmy army would march homeward in triumph, attributing
the victory entirely to their own valor, and to the warlike skill and
strategy of whomsoever happened to be captain general; and for a tedious
while afterwards, nothing would be heard of but grand processions, and
public banquets, and brilliant illuminations, and shows of waxwork, with
likenesses of the distinguished officers as small as life.

In the above-described warfare, if a Pygmy chanced to pluck out a
crane's tail-feather, it proved a very great feather in his cap. Once or
twice, if you will believe me, a little man was made chief ruler of the
nation for no other merit in the world than bringing home such a
feather.

But I have now said enough to let you see what a gallant little people
these were, and how happily they and their forefathers, for nobody knows
how many generations, had lived with the immeasurable Giant Antæus. In
the remaining part of the story, I shall tell you of a far more
astonishing battle than any that was fought between the Pygmies and the
cranes.

One day the mighty Antæus was lolling at full length among his little
friends. His pine-tree walking-stick lay on the ground close by his
side. His head was in one part of the kingdom, and his feet extended
across the boundaries of another part; and he was taking whatever
comfort he could get, while the Pygmies scrambled over him, and peeped
into his cavernous mouth, and played among his hair. Sometimes, for a
minute or two, the Giant dropped asleep, and snored like the rush of a
whirlwind. During one of these little bits of slumber, a Pygmy chanced
to climb upon his shoulder, and took a view around the horizon, as from
the summit of a hill; and he beheld something, a long way off, which
made him rub the bright specks of his eyes, and look sharper than
before. At first he mistook it for a mountain, and wondered how it had
grown up so suddenly out of the earth. But soon he saw the mountain
move. As it came nearer and nearer, what should it turn out to be but a
human shape, not so big as Antæus, it is true, although a very enormous
figure, in comparison with Pygmies, and a vast deal bigger than the men
whom we see nowadays.

When the Pygmy was quite satisfied that his eyes had not deceived him,
he scampered, as fast as his legs would carry him, to the Giant's ear,
and stooping over its cavity, shouted lustily into it,--

"Halloo, brother Antæus! Get up this minute, and take your pine-tree
walking-stick in your hand. Here comes another Giant to have a tussle
with you."

"Poh, poh!" grumbled Antæus, only half awake, "None of your nonsense, my
little fellow! Don't you see I'm sleepy. There is not a Giant on earth
for whom I would take the trouble to get up."

But the Pygmy looked again, and now perceived that the stranger was
coming directly towards the prostrate form of Antæus. With every step he
looked less like a blue mountain, and more like an immensely large man.
He was soon so nigh, that there could be no possible mistake about the
matter. There he was, with the sun flaming on his golden helmet, and
flashing from his polished breastplate; he had a sword by his side, and
a lion's skin over his back, and on his right shoulder he carried a
club, which looked bulkier and heavier than the pine-tree walking-stick
of Antæus.

By this time, the whole nation of Pygmies had seen the new wonder, and a
million of them set up a shout, all together; so that it really made
quite an audible squeak.

"Get up, Antæus! Bestir yourself, you lazy old Giant! Here comes another
Giant, as strong as you are, to fight with you."

"Nonsense, nonsense!" growled the sleepy Giant. "I'll have my nap out."

Still the stranger drew nearer; and now the Pygmies could plainly
discern that if his stature were less lofty than the Giant's, yet his
shoulders were even broader. And, in truth, what a pair of shoulders
they must have been! As I told you, a long while ago, they once upheld
the sky. The Pygmies, being ten times as vivacious as their great
numskull of a brother, could not abide the Giant's slow movements, and
were determined to have him on his feet. So they kept shouting to him,
and even went so far as to prick him with their swords.

"Get up, get up, get up!" they cried. "Up with you, lazy bones! The
strange Giant's club is bigger than your own, his shoulders are the
broadest, and we think him the stronger of the two."

Antæus could not endure to have it said that any mortal was half so
mighty as himself. This latter remark of the Pygmies pricked him deeper
than their swords; and, sitting up, in rather a sulky humor, he gave a
gape of several yards wide, rubbed his eye, and finally turned his
stupid head in the direction whither his little friends were eagerly
pointing.

No sooner did he set eye on the stranger than, leaping on his feet, and
seizing his walking-stick, he strode a mile or two to meet him; all the
while brandishing the sturdy pine-tree, so that it whistled through the
air.

"Who are you?" thundered the Giant. "And what do you want in my
dominions?"

There was one strange thing about Antæus, of which I have not yet told
you, lest, hearing of so many wonders all in a lump, you might not
believe much more than half of them. You are to know, then, that
whenever this redoubtable Giant touched the ground, either with his
hand, his foot, or any other part of his body, he grew stronger than
ever he had been before. The Earth, you remember, was his mother, and
was very fond of him, as being almost the biggest of her children; and
so she took this method of keeping him always in full vigor. Some
persons affirm that he grew ten times stronger at every touch; others
say that it was only twice as strong. But only think of it! Whenever
Antæus took a walk, supposing it were but ten miles, and that he stepped
a hundred yards at a stride, you may try to cipher out how much mightier
he was, on sitting down again, than when he first started. And whenever
he flung himself on the earth to take a little repose, even if he got up
the very next instant, he would be as strong as exactly ten just such
giants as his former self. It was well for the world that Antæus
happened to be of a sluggish disposition, and liked ease better than
exercise; for, if he had frisked about like the Pygmies, and touched the
earth as often as they did, he would long ago have been strong enough to
pull down the sky about people's ears. But these great lubberly fellows
resemble mountains, not only in bulk, but in their disinclination to
move.

Any other mortal man, except the very one whom Antæus had now
encountered, would have been half frightened to death by the Giant's
ferocious aspect and terrible voice. But the stranger did not seem at
all disturbed. He carelessly lifted his club, and balanced it in his
hand, measuring Antæus with his eye from head to foot, not as if
wonder-smitten at his stature, but as if he had seen a great many Giants
before, and this was by no means the biggest of them. In fact, if the
Giant had been no bigger than the Pygmies (who stood pricking up their
ears, and looking and listening to what was going forward), the stranger
could not have been less afraid of him.

"Who are you, I say?" roared Antæus again. "What's your name? Why do you
come hither? Speak, you vagabond, or I'll try the thickness of your
skull with my walking-stick."

"You are a very discourteous Giant," answered the stranger, quietly,
"and I shall probably have to teach you a little civility, before we
part. As for my name, it is Hercules. I have come hither because this is
my most convenient road to the garden of the Hesperides, whither I am
going to get three of the golden apples for King Eurystheus."

"Caitiff, you shall go no farther!" bellowed Antæus, putting on a
grimmer look than before; for he had heard of the mighty Hercules, and
hated him because he was said to be so strong. "Neither shall you go
back whence you came!"

"How will you prevent me," asked Hercules, "from going whither I
please?"

"By hitting you a rap with this pine-tree here," shouted Antæus,
scowling so that he made himself the ugliest monster in Africa. "I am
fifty times stronger than you; and, now that I stamp my foot upon the
ground, I am five hundred times stronger! I am ashamed to kill such a
puny little dwarf as you seem to be. I will make a slave of you, and you
shall likewise be the slave of my brethren, here, the Pygmies. So throw
down your club and your other weapons; and as for that lion's skin, I
intend to have a pair of gloves made of it."

"Come and take it off my shoulders, then," answered Hercules, lifting
his club.

Then the Giant, grinning with rage, strode towerlike towards the
stranger (ten times strengthened at every step), and fetched a monstrous
blow at him with his pine-tree, which Hercules caught upon his club; and
being more skilful than Antæus, he paid him back such a rap upon the
sconce, that down tumbled the great lumbering man-mountain, flat upon
the ground. The poor little Pygmies (who really never dreamed that
anybody in the world was half so strong as their brother Antæus) were a
good deal dismayed at this. But no sooner was the Giant down, than up he
bounced again, with tenfold might, and such a furious visage as was
horrible to behold. He aimed another blow at Hercules, but struck awry,
being blinded with wrath, and only hit his poor, innocent Mother Earth,
who groaned and trembled at the stroke. His pine-tree went so deep into
the ground, and stuck there so fast, that before Antæus could get it
out, Hercules brought down his club across his shoulders with a mighty
thwack, which made the Giant roar as if all sorts of intolerable noises
had come screeching and rumbling out of his immeasurable lungs in that
one cry. Away it went, over mountains and valleys, and, for aught I
know, was heard on the other side of the African deserts.

As for the Pygmies, their capital city was laid in ruins by the
concussion and vibration of the air; and, though there was uproar enough
without their help, they all set up a shriek out of three millions of
little throats, fancying, no doubt, that they swelled the Giant's bellow
by at least ten times as much. Meanwhile, Antæus had scrambled upon his
feet again, and pulled his pine-tree out of the earth; and, all a-flame
with fury, and more outrageously strong than ever, he ran at Hercules,
and brought down another blow.

"This time, rascal," shouted he, "you shall not escape me."

But once more Hercules warded off the stroke with his club, and the
Giant's pine-tree was shattered into a thousand splinters, most of which
flew among the Pygmies, and did them more mischief than I like to think
about. Before Antæus could get out of the way, Hercules let drive
again, and gave him another knock-down blow, which sent him heels over
head, but served only to increase his already enormous and insufferable
strength. As for his rage, there is no telling what a fiery furnace it
had now got to be. His one eye was nothing but a circle of red flame.
Having now no weapons but his fists, he doubled them up (each bigger
than a hogshead), smote one against the other, and danced up and down
with absolute frenzy, flourishing his immense arms about, as if he meant
not merely to kill Hercules, but to smash the whole world to pieces.

"Come on!" roared this thundering Giant. "Let me hit you but one box on
the ear, and you'll never have the headache again."

Now Hercules (though strong enough, as you already know, to hold the sky
up) began to be sensible that he should never win the victory, if he
kept on knocking Antæus down; for, by and by, if he hit him such hard
blows, the Giant would inevitably, by the help of his Mother Earth,
become stronger than the mighty Hercules himself. So, throwing down his
club, with which he had fought so many dreadful battles, the hero stood
ready to receive his antagonist with naked arms.

"Step forward," cried he. "Since I've broken your pine-tree, we'll try
which is the better man at a wrestling-match."

"Aha! then I'll soon satisfy you," shouted the Giant; for, if there was
one thing on which he prided himself more than another, it was his skill
in wrestling. "Villain, I'll fling you where you can never pick yourself
up again."

On came Antæus, hopping and capering with the scorching heat of his
rage, and getting new vigor wherewith to wreak his passion every time he
hopped. But Hercules, you must understand, was wiser than this numskull
of a Giant, and had thought of a way to fight him,--huge, earth-born
monster that he was,--and to conquer him too, in spite of all that his
Mother Earth could do for him. Watching his opportunity, as the mad
Giant made a rush at him, Hercules caught him round the middle with both
hands, lifted him high into the air, and held him aloft overhead.

Just imagine it, my dear little friends! What a spectacle it must have
been, to see this monstrous fellow sprawling in the air, face downward,
kicking out his long legs and wriggling his whole vast body, like a baby
when its father holds it at arm's-length toward the ceiling.

But the most wonderful thing was, that, as soon as Antæus was fairly off
the earth, he began to lose the vigor which he had gained by touching
it. Hercules very soon perceived that his troublesome enemy was growing
weaker, both because he struggled and kicked with less violence, and
because the thunder of his big voice subsided into a grumble. The truth
was, that, unless the Giant touched Mother Earth as often as once in
five minutes, not only his overgrown strength, but the very breath of
his life, would depart from him. Hercules had guessed this secret; and
it may be well for us all to remember it, in case we should ever have to
fight a battle with a fellow like Antæus. For these earth-born creatures
are only difficult to conquer on their own ground, but may easily be
managed if we can contrive to lift them into a loftier and purer region.
So it proved with the poor Giant, whom I am really sorry for,
notwithstanding his uncivil way of treating strangers who came to visit
him.

When his strength and breath were quite gone, Hercules gave his huge
body a toss, and flung it about a mile off, where it fell heavily, and
lay with no more motion than a sand-hill. It was too late for the
Giant's Mother Earth to help him now; and I should not wonder if his
ponderous bones were lying on the same spot to this very day, and were
mistaken for those of an uncommonly large elephant.

But, alas me! What a wailing did the poor little Pygmies set up when
they saw their enormous brother treated in this terrible manner! If
Hercules heard their shrieks, however, he took no notice, and perhaps
fancied them only the shrill, plaintive twittering of small birds that
had been frightened from their nests by the uproar of the battle between
himself and Antæus. Indeed, his thoughts had been so much taken up with
the Giant, that he had never once looked at the Pygmies, nor even knew
that there was such a funny little nation in the world. And now, as he
had travelled a good way, and was also rather weary with his exertions
in the fight, he spread out his lion's skin on the ground, and reclining
himself upon it, fell fast asleep.

As soon as the Pygmies saw Hercules preparing for a nap, they nodded
their little heads at one another, and winked with their little eyes.
And when his deep, regular breathing gave them notice that he was
asleep, they assembled together in an immense crowd, spreading over a
space of about twenty-seven feet square. One of their most eloquent
orators (and a valiant warrior enough, besides, though hardly so good at
any other weapon as he was with his tongue) climbed upon a toadstool,
and, from that elevated position, addressed the multitude. His
sentiments were pretty much as follows; or, at all events, something
like this was probably the upshot of his speech:--

"Tall Pygmies and mighty little men! You and all of us have seen what a
public calamity has been brought to pass, and what an insult has here
been offered to the majesty of our nation. Yonder lies Antæus, our great
friend and brother, slain, within our territory, by a miscreant who took
him at disadvantage, and fought him (if fighting it can be called) in a
way that neither man, nor Giant, nor Pygmy ever dreamed of fighting
until this hour. And, adding a grievous contumely to the wrong already
done us, the miscreant has now fallen asleep as quietly as if nothing
were to be dreaded from our wrath! It behooves you, fellow-countrymen,
to consider in what aspect we shall stand before the world, and what
will be the verdict of impartial history, should we suffer these
accumulated outrages to go unavenged.

"Antæus was our brother, born of that same beloved parent to whom we owe
the thews and sinews, as well as the courageous hearts, which made him
proud of our relationship. He was our faithful ally, and fell fighting
as much for our national rights and immunities as for his own personal
ones. We and our forefathers have dwelt in friendship with him, and held
affectionate intercourse, as man to man, through immemorial generations.
You remember how often our entire people have reposed in his great
shadow, and how our little ones have played at hide-and-seek in the
tangles of his hair, and how his mighty footsteps have familiarly gone
to and fro among us, and never trodden upon any of our toes. And there
lies this dear brother,--this sweet and amiable friend,--this brave and
faithful ally,--this virtuous Giant,--this blameless and excellent
Antæus,--dead! Dead! Silent! Powerless! A mere mountain of clay! Forgive
my tears! Nay, I behold your own! Were we to drown the world with them,
could the world blame us?

"But to resume: Shall we, my countrymen, suffer this wicked stranger to
depart unharmed, and triumph in his treacherous victory, among distant
communities of the earth? Shall we not rather compel him to leave his
bones here on our soil, by the side of our slain brother's bones, so
that, while one skeleton shall remain as the everlasting monument of our
sorrow, the other shall endure as long, exhibiting to the whole human
race a terrible example of Pygmy vengeance? Such is the question. I put
it to you in full confidence of a response that shall be worthy of our
national character, and calculated to increase, rather than diminish,
the glory which our ancestors have transmitted to us, and which we
ourselves have proudly vindicated in our welfare with the cranes."

The orator was here interrupted by a burst of irrepressible enthusiasm;
every individual Pygmy crying out that the national honor must be
preserved at all hazards. He bowed, and making a gesture for silence,
wound up his harangue in the following admirable manner:--

"It only remains for us, then, to decide whether we shall carry on the
war in our national capacity,--one united people against a common
enemy,--or whether some champion, famous in former fights, shall be
selected to defy the slayer of our brother Antæus to single combat. In
the latter case, though not unconscious that there may be taller men
among you, I hereby offer myself for that enviable duty. And, believe
me, dear countrymen, whether I live or die, the honor of this great
country, and the fame bequeathed us by our heroic progenitors, shall
suffer no diminution in my hands. Never, while I can wield this sword,
of which I now fling away the scabbard,--never, never, never, even if
the crimson hand that slew the great Antæus shall lay me prostrate, like
him, on the soil which I give my life to defend."

So saying, this valiant Pygmy drew out his weapon (which was terrible to
behold, being as long as the blade of a penknife), and sent the scabbard
whirling over the heads of the multitude. His speech was followed by an
uproar of applause, as its patriotism and self-devotion unquestionably
deserved; and the shouts and clapping of hands would have been greatly
prolonged had they not been rendered quite inaudible by a deep
respiration, vulgarly called a snore, from the sleeping Hercules.

It was finally decided that the whole nation of Pygmies should set to
work to destroy Hercules; not, be it understood, from any doubt that a
single champion would be capable of putting him to the sword, but
because he was a public enemy, and all were desirous of sharing in the
glory of his defeat. There was a debate whether the national honor did
not demand that a herald should be sent with a trumpet, to stand over
the ear of Hercules, and, after blowing a blast right into it, to defy
him to the combat by formal proclamation. But two or three venerable and
sagacious Pygmies, well versed in state affairs, gave it as their
opinion that war already existed, and that it was their rightful
privilege to take the enemy by surprise. Moreover, if awakened, and
allowed to get upon his feet, Hercules might happen to do them a
mischief before he could be beaten down again. For, as these sage
counsellors remarked, the stranger's club was really very big, and had
rattled like a thunderbolt against the skull of Antæus. So the Pygmies
resolved to set aside all foolish punctilios, and assail their
antagonist at once.

Accordingly, all the fighting men of the nation took their weapons, and
went boldly up to Hercules, who still lay fast asleep, little dreaming
of the harm which the Pygmies meant to do him. A body of twenty thousand
archers marched in front, with their little bows all ready, and the
arrows on the string. The same number were ordered to clamber upon
Hercules, some with spades to dig his eyes out, and others with bundles
of hay, and all manner of rubbish, with which they intended to plug up
his mouth and nostrils, so that he might perish for lack of breath.
These last, however, could by no means perform their appointed duty;
inasmuch as the enemy's breath rushed out of his nose in an obstreperous
hurricane and whirlwind, which blew the Pygmies away as fast as they
came nigh. It was found necessary, therefore, to hit upon some other
method of carrying on the war.

After holding a council, the captains ordered their troops to collect
sticks, straws, dry weeds, and whatever combustible stuff they could
find, and make a pile of it, heaping it high around the head of
Hercules. As a great many thousand Pygmies were employed in this task,
they soon brought together several bushels of inflammatory matter, and
raised so tall a heap, that, mounting on its summit, they were quite
upon a level with the sleeper's face. The archers, meanwhile, were
stationed within bow-shot, with orders to let fly at Hercules the
instant that he stirred. Everything being in readiness, a torch was
applied to the pile, which immediately burst into flames, and soon waxed
hot enough to roast the enemy, had he but chosen to lie still. A Pygmy,
you know, though so very small, might set the world on fire, just as
easily as a Giant could; so that this was certainly the very best way of
dealing with their foe, provided they could have kept him quiet while
the conflagration was going forward.

But no sooner did Hercules begin to be scorched, than up he started,
with his hair in a red blaze.

"What's all this?" he cried, bewildered with sleep, and staring about
him as if he expected to see another Giant.

At that moment the twenty thousand archers twanged their bowstrings, and
the arrows came whizzing, like so many winged mosquitoes, right into the
face of Hercules. But I doubt whether more than half a dozen of them
punctured the skin, which was remarkably tough, as you know the skin of
a hero has good need to be.

"Villain!" shouted all the Pygmies at once. "You have killed the Giant
Antæus, our great brother, and the ally of our nation. We declare bloody
war against you and will slay you on the spot."

Surprised at the shrill piping of so many little voices, Hercules, after
putting out the conflagration of his hair, gazed all round about, but
could see nothing. At last, however, looking narrowly on the ground, he
espied the innumerable assemblage of Pygmies at his feet. He stooped
down, and taking up the nearest one between his thumb and finger, set
him on the palm of his left hand, and held him at a proper distance for
examination. It chanced to be the very identical Pygmy who had spoken
from the top of the toadstool, and had offered himself as a champion to
meet Hercules in single combat.

"What in the world, my little fellow," ejaculated Hercules, "may you
be?"

"I am your enemy," answered the valiant Pygmy, in his mightiest squeak.
"You have slain the enormous Antæus, our brother by the mother's side,
and for ages the faithful ally of our illustrious nation. We are
determined to put you to death; and for my own part, I challenge you to
instant battle, on equal ground."

Hercules was so tickled with the Pygmy's big words and warlike gestures,
that he burst into a great explosion of laughter, and almost dropped the
poor little mite of a creature off the palm of his hand, through the
ecstasy and convulsion of his merriment.

"Upon my word," cried he, "I thought I had seen wonders before
to-day,--hydras with nine heads, stags with golden horns, six-legged
men, three-headed dogs, giants with furnaces in their stomachs, and
nobody knows what besides. But here, on the palm of my hand, stands a
wonder that outdoes them all! Your body, my little friend, is about the
size of an ordinary man's finger. Pray, how big may your soul be?"

"As big as your own!" said the Pygmy.

Hercules was touched with the little man's dauntless courage, and could
not help acknowledging such a brotherhood with him as one hero feels for
another.

"My good little people," said he, making a low obeisance to the grand
nation, "not for all the world would I do an intentional injury to such
brave fellows as you! Your hearts seem to me so exceedingly great, that,
upon my honor, I marvel how your small bodies can contain them. I sue
for peace, and, as a condition of it, will take five strides, and be out
of your kingdom at the sixth. Good-by. I shall pick my steps carefully,
for fear of treading upon some fifty of you, without knowing it. Ha, ha,
ha! Ho, ho, ho! For once, Hercules acknowledges himself vanquished."

Some writers say, that Hercules gathered up the whole race of Pygmies in
his lion's skin, and carried them home to Greece, for the children of
King Eurystheus to play with. But this is a mistake. He left them, one
and all, within their own territory, where, for aught I can tell, their
descendants are alive to the present day, building their little houses,
cultivating their little fields, spanking their little children, waging
their little warfare with the cranes, doing their little business,
whatever it may be, and reading their little histories of ancient times.
In those histories, perhaps, it stands recorded, that, a great many
centuries ago, the valiant Pygmies avenged the death of the Giant Antæus
by scaring away the mighty Hercules.



The Dragon's Teeth


Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, the three sons of King Agenor, and their
little sister Europa (who was a very beautiful child) were at play
together, near the sea-shore, in their father's kingdom of Phoenicia.
They had rambled to some distance from the palace where their parents
dwelt, and were now in a verdant meadow, on one side of which lay the
sea, all sparkling and dimpling in the sunshine, and murmuring gently
against the beach. The three boys were very happy, gathering flowers,
and twining them into garlands, with which they adorned the little
Europa. Seated on the grass, the child was almost hidden under an
abundance of buds and blossoms, whence her rosy face peeped merrily out,
and, as Cadmus said, was the prettiest of all the flowers.

Just then, there came a splendid butterfly, fluttering along the meadow;
and Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix set off in pursuit of it, crying out
that it was a flower with wings. Europa, who was a little wearied with
playing all day long, did not chase the butterfly with her brothers, but
sat still where they had left her, and closed her eyes. For a while, she
listened to the pleasant murmur of the sea, which was like a voice
saying "Hush!" and bidding her go to sleep. But the pretty child, if she
slept at all, could not have slept more than a moment, when she heard
something trample on the grass, not far from her, and peeping out from
the heap of flowers, beheld a snow-white bull.

And whence could this bull have come? Europa and her brothers had been a
long time playing in the meadow, and had seen no cattle, nor other
living thing, either there or on the neighboring hills.

[Illustration: CADMUS SOWING THE DRAGON'S TEETH]

"Brother Cadmus!" cried Europa, starting up out of the midst of the
roses and lilies. "Phoenix! Cilix! Where are you all? Help! Help! Come
and drive away this bull!"

But her brothers were too far off to hear; especially as the fright took
away Europa's voice, and hindered her from calling very loudly. So there
she stood, with her pretty mouth wide open, as pale as the white lilies
that were twisted among the other flowers in her garlands.

Nevertheless, it was the suddenness with which she had perceived the
bull, rather than anything frightful in his appearance, that caused
Europa so much alarm. On looking at him more attentively, she began to
see that he was a beautiful animal, and even fancied a particularly
amiable expression in his face. As for his breath,--the breath of
cattle, you know, is always sweet,--it was as fragrant as if he had been
grazing on no other food than rosebuds, or, at least, the most delicate
of clover-blossoms. Never before did a bull have such bright and tender
eyes, and such smooth horns of ivory, as this one. And the bull ran
little races, and capered sportively around the child; so that she quite
forgot how big and strong he was, and, from the gentleness and
playfulness of his actions, soon came to consider him as innocent a
creature as a pet lamb.

Thus, frightened as she at first was, you might by and by have seen
Europa stroking the bull's forehead with her small white hand, and
taking the garlands off her own head to hang them on his neck and ivory
horns. Then she pulled up some blades of grass, and he ate them out of
her hand, not as if he were hungry, but because he wanted to be friends
with the child, and took pleasure in eating what she had touched. Well,
my stars! was there ever such a gentle, sweet, pretty, and amiable
creature as this bull, and ever such a nice playmate for a little girl?

When the animal saw (for the bull had so much intelligence that it is
really wonderful to think of), when he saw that Europa was no longer
afraid of him, he grew overjoyed, and could hardly contain himself for
delight. He frisked about the meadow, now here, now there, making
sprightly leaps, with as little effort as a bird expends in hopping from
twig to twig. Indeed, his motion was as light as if he were flying
through the air, and his hoofs seemed hardly to leave their print in the
grassy soil over which he trod. With his spotless hue, he resembled a
snow-drift, wafted along by the wind. Once be galloped so far away that
Europa feared lest she might never see him again; so, setting up her
childish voice, she called him back.

"Come back, pretty creature!" she cried. "Here is a nice
clover-blossom."

And then it was delightful to witness the gratitude of this amiable
bull, and how he was so full of joy and thankfulness that he capered
higher than ever. He came running, and bowed his head before Europa, as
if he knew her to be a king's daughter, or else recognized the important
truth that a little girl is everybody's queen. And not only did the bull
bend his neck, he absolutely knelt down at her feet, and made such
intelligent nods, and other inviting gestures, that Europa understood
what he meant just as well as if he had put it in so many words.

"Come, dear child," was what he wanted to say, "let me give you a ride
on my back."

At the first thought of such a thing, Europa drew back. But then she
considered in her wise little head that there could be no possible harm
in taking just one gallop on the back of this docile and friendly
animal, who would certainly set her down the very instant she desired
it. And how it would surprise her brothers to see her riding across the
green meadow! And what merry times they might have, either taking turns
for a gallop, or clambering on the gentle creature, all four children
together, and careering round the field with shouts of laughter that
would be heard as far off as King Agenor's palace!

"I think I will do it," said the child to herself.

And, indeed, why not? She cast a glance around, and caught a glimpse of
Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, who were still in pursuit of the
butterfly, almost at the other end of the meadow. It would be the
quickest way of rejoining them, to get upon the white bull's back. She
came a step nearer to him, therefore; and--sociable creature that he
was--he showed so much joy at this mark of her confidence, that the
child could not find it in her heart to hesitate any longer. Making one
bound (for this little princess was as active as a squirrel), there sat
Europa on the beautiful bull, holding an ivory horn in each hand, lest
she should fall off.

"Softly, pretty bull, softly!" she said, rather frightened at what she
had done. "Do not gallop too fast."

Having got the child on his back, the animal gave a leap into the air,
and came down so like a feather that Europa did not know when his hoofs
touched the ground. He then began a race to that part of the flowery
plain where her three brothers were, and where they had just caught
their splendid butterfly. Europa screamed with delight; and Phoenix,
Cilix, and Cadmus stood gaping at the spectacle of their sister mounted
on a white bull, not knowing whether to be frightened or to wish the
same good luck for themselves. The gentle and innocent creature (for who
could possibly doubt that he was so?) pranced round among the children
as sportively as a kitten. Europa all the while looked down upon her
brothers, nodding and laughing, but yet with a sort of stateliness in
her rosy little face. As the bull wheeled about to take another gallop
across the meadow, the child waved her hand, and said, "Good-by,"
playfully pretending that she was now bound on a distant journey, and
might not see her brothers again for nobody could tell how long.

"Good-by," shouted Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, all in one breath.

But, together with her enjoyment of the sport, there was still a little
remnant of fear in the child's heart; so that her last look at the three
boys was a troubled one, and made them feel as if their dear sister were
really leaving them forever. And what do you think the snowy bull did
next? Why, he set off, as swift as the wind, straight down to the
sea-shore, scampered across the sand, took an airy leap, and plunged
right in among the foaming billows. The white spray rose in a shower
over him and little Europa, and fell spattering down upon the water.

Then what a scream of terror did the poor child send forth! The three
brothers screamed manfully, likewise, and ran to the shore as fast as
their legs would carry them, with Cadmus at their head. But it was too
late. When they reached the margin of the sand, the treacherous animal
was already far away in the wide blue sea, with only his snowy head and
tail emerging, and poor little Europa between them, stretching out one
hand towards her dear brothers, while she grasped the bull's ivory horn
with the other. And there stood Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, gazing at
this sad spectacle, through their tears, until they could no longer
distinguish the bull's snowy head from the white-capped billows that
seemed to boil up out of the sea's depths around him. Nothing more was
ever seen of the white bull,--nothing more of the beautiful child.

This was a mournful story, as you may well think, for the three boys to
carry home to their parents. King Agenor, their father, was the ruler of
the whole country; but he loved his little daughter Europa better than
his kingdom, or than all his other children, or than anything else in
the world. Therefore, when Cadmus and his two brothers came crying home,
and told him how that a white bull had carried off their sister, and
swam with her over the sea, the king was quite beside himself with grief
and rage. Although it was now twilight, and fast growing dark, he bade
them set out instantly in search of her.

"Never shall you see my face again," he cried, "unless you bring me back
my little Europa, to gladden me with her smiles and her pretty ways.
Begone, and enter my presence no more, till you come leading her by the
hand."

As King Agenor said this, his eyes flashed fire (for he was a very
passionate king), and he looked so terribly angry that the poor boys did
not even venture to ask for their suppers, but slunk away out of the
palace, and only paused on the steps a moment to consult whither they
should go first. While they were standing there all in dismay, their
mother, Queen Telephassa (who happened not to be by when they told the
story to the king), came hurrying after them, and said that she too
would go in quest of her daughter.

"Oh no, mother!" cried the boys. "The night is dark, and there is no
knowing what troubles and perils we may meet with."

"Alas! my dear children," answered poor Queen Telephassa, weeping
bitterly, "that is only another reason why I should go with you. If I
should lose you, too, as well as my little Europa, what would become of
me?"

"And let me go likewise!" said their playfellow Thasus, who came running
to join them.

Thasus was the son of a sea-faring person in the neighborhood; he had
been brought up with the young princes, and was their intimate friend,
and loved Europa very much; so they consented that he should accompany
them. The whole party, therefore, set forth together; Cadmus, Phoenix,
Cilix, and Thasus clustered round Queen Telephassa, grasping her skirts,
and begging her to lean upon their shoulders whenever she felt weary. In
this manner they went down the palace steps, and began a journey which
turned out to be a great deal longer than they dreamed of. The last that
they saw of King Agenor, he came to the door, with a servant holding a
torch beside him, and called after them into the gathering darkness:--

"Remember! Never ascend these steps again without the child!"

"Never!" sobbed Queen Telephassa; and the three brothers and Thasus
answered, "Never! Never! Never! Never!"

And they kept their word. Year after year King Agenor sat in the
solitude of his beautiful palace, listening in vain for their returning
footsteps, hoping to hear the familiar voice of the queen, and the
cheerful talk of his sons and their playfellow Thasus, entering the door
together, and the sweet, childish accents of little Europa in the midst
of them. But so long a time went by, that, at last, if they had really
come, the king would not have known that this was the voice of
Telephassa, and these the younger voices that used to make such joyful
echoes when the children were playing about the palace. We must now
leave King Agenor to sit on his throne, and must go along with Queen
Telephassa and her four youthful companions.

They went on and on, and travelled a long way, and passed over mountains
and rivers, and sailed over seas. Here, and there, and everywhere, they
made continual inquiry if any person could tell them what had become of
Europa. The rustic people, of whom they asked this question, paused a
little while from their labors in the field, and looked very much
surprised. They thought it strange to behold a woman in the garb of a
queen (for Telephassa, in her haste, had forgotten to take off her crown
and her royal robes), roaming about the country, with four lads around
her, on such an errand as this seemed to be. But nobody could give them
any tidings of Europa; nobody had seen a little girl dressed like a
princess, and mounted on a snow-white bull, which galloped as swiftly as
the wind.

I cannot tell you how long Queen Telephassa, and Cadmus, Phoenix, and
Cilix, her three sons, and Thasus, their playfellow, went wandering
along the highways and bypaths, or through the pathless wildernesses of
the earth, in this manner. But certain it is, that, before they reached
any place of rest, their splendid garments were quite worn out. They all
looked very much travel-stained, and would have had the dust of many
countries on their shoes, if the streams, through which they had waded,
had not washed it all away. When they had been gone a year, Telephassa
threw away her crown, because it chafed her forehead.

"It has given me many a headache," said the poor queen, "and it cannot
cure my heartache."

As fast as their princely robes got torn and tattered, they exchanged
them for such mean attire as ordinary people wore. By and by they came
to have a wild and homeless aspect; so that you would sooner have taken
them for a gypsy family than a queen and three princes and a young
nobleman, who had once a palace for their home, and a train of servants
to do their bidding. The four boys grew up to be tall young men, with
sunburnt faces. Each of them girded on a sword, to defend themselves
against the perils of the way. When the husbandmen, at whose farm-houses
they sought hospitality, needed their assistance in the harvest-field,
they gave it willingly; and Queen Telephassa (who had done no work in
her palace, save to braid silk threads with golden ones) came behind
them to bind the sheaves. If payment was offered, they shook their
heads, and only asked for tidings of Europa.

"There are bulls enough in my pasture," the old farmer would reply; "but
I never heard of one like this you tell me of. A snow-white bull with a
little princess on his back! Ho! ho! I ask your pardon, good folks; but
there was never such a sight seen hereabouts."

At last, when his upper lip began to have the down on it, Phoenix grew
weary of rambling hither and thither to no purpose. So, one day, when
they happened to be passing through a pleasant and solitary tract of
country, he sat himself down on a heap of moss.

"I can go no farther," said Phoenix. "It is a mere foolish waste of
life, to spend it, as we do, in always wandering up and down, and never
coming to any home at nightfall. Our sister is lost, and never will be
found. She probably perished in the sea; or, to whatever shore the white
bull may have carried her; it is now so many years ago, that there would
be neither love nor acquaintance between us should we meet again. My
father has forbidden us to return to his palace; so I shall build me a
hut of branches, and dwell here."

"Well, son Phoenix," said Telephassa, sorrowfully, "you have grown to
be a man, and must do as you judge best. But, for my part, I will still
go in quest of my poor child."

"And we three will go along with you!" cried Cadmus and Cilix, and their
faithful friend Thasus.

But, before setting out, they all helped Phoenix to build a
habitation. When completed, it was a sweet rural bower, roofed overhead
with an arch of living boughs. Inside there were two pleasant rooms, one
of which had a soft heap of moss for a bed, while the other was
furnished with a rustic seat or two, curiously fashioned out of the
crooked roots of trees. So comfortable and homelike did it seem, that
Telephassa and her three companions could not help sighing, to think
that they must still roam about the world, instead of spending the
remainder of their lives in some such cheerful abode as they had here
built for Phoenix. But, when they bade him farewell, Phoenix shed
tears, and probably regretted that he was no longer to keep them
company.

However, he had fixed upon an admirable place to dwell in. And by and by
there came other people, who chanced to have no homes; and, seeing how
pleasant a spot it was, they built themselves huts in the neighborhood
of Phoenix's habitation. Thus, before many years went by, a city had
grown up there, in the centre of which was seen a stately palace of
marble, wherein dwelt Phoenix, clothed in a purple robe, and wearing a
golden crown upon his head. For the inhabitants of the new city, finding
that he had royal blood in his veins, had chosen him to be their king.
The very first decree of state which King Phoenix issued was, that if
a maiden happened to arrive in the kingdom, mounted on a snow-white
bull, and calling herself Europa, his subjects should treat her with the
greatest kindness and respect, and immediately bring her to the palace.
You may see, by this, that Phoenix's conscience never quite ceased to
trouble him, for giving up the quest of his dear sister, and sitting
himself down to be comfortable, while his mother and her companions went
onward.

But often and often, at the close of a weary day's journey, did
Telephassa and Cadmus, Cilix and Thasus, remember the pleasant spot in
which they had left Phoenix. It was a sorrowful prospect for these
wanderers, that on the morrow they must again set forth, and that, after
many nightfalls, they would perhaps be no nearer the close of their
toilsome pilgrimage than now. These thoughts made them all melancholy at
times, but appeared to torment Cilix more than the rest of the party. At
length, one morning, when they were taking their staffs in hand to set
out, he thus addressed them:--

"My dear mother, and you good brother Cadmus, and my friend Thasus,
methinks we are like people in a dream. There is no substance in the
life which we are leading. It is such a dreary length of time since the
white bull carried off my sister Europa, that I have quite forgotten how
she looked, and the tones of her voice, and, indeed, almost doubt
whether such a little girl ever lived in the world. And whether she once
lived or no, I am convinced that she no longer survives, and that
therefore it is the merest folly to waste our own lives and happiness in
seeking her. Were we to find her, she would now be a woman grown, and
would look upon us all as strangers. So, to tell you the truth, I have
resolved to take up my abode here; and I entreat you, mother, brother,
and friend, to follow my example."

"Not I, for one," said Telephassa; although the poor queen, firmly as
she spoke, was so travel-worn that she could hardly put her foot to the
ground,--"not I, for one! In the depths of my heart, little Europa is
still the rosy child who ran to gather flowers so many years ago. She
has not grown to womanhood, nor forgotten me. At noon, at night,
journeying onward, sitting down to rest, her childish voice is always in
my ears, calling, 'Mother! mother!' Stop here who may, there is no
repose for me."

"Nor for me," said Cadmus, "while my dear mother pleases to go onward."

And the faithful Thasus, too, was resolved to bear them company. They
remained with Cilix a few days, however, and helped him to build a
rustic bower, resembling the one which they had formerly built for
Phoenix.

When they were bidding him farewell, Cilix burst into tears, and told
his mother that it seemed just as melancholy a dream to stay there, in
solitude, as to go onward. If she really believed that they would ever
find Europa, he was willing to continue the search with them, even now.
But Telephassa bade him remain there, and be happy, if his own heart
would let him. So the pilgrims took their leave of him, and departed,
and were hardly out of sight before some other wandering people came
along that way, and saw Cilix's habitation, and were greatly delighted
with the appearance of the place. There being abundance of unoccupied
ground in the neighborhood, these strangers built huts for themselves,
and were soon joined by a multitude of new settlers, who quickly formed
a city. In the middle of it was seen a magnificent palace of colored
marble, on the balcony of which, every noontide, appeared Cilix, in a
long purple robe, and with a jewelled crown upon his head; for the
inhabitants, when they found out that he was a king's son, had
considered him the fittest of all men to be a king himself.

One of the first acts of King Cilix's government was to send out an
expedition, consisting of a grave ambassador and an escort of bold and
hardy young men, with orders to visit the principal kingdoms of the
earth, and inquire whether a young maiden had passed through those
regions, galloping swiftly on a white bull. It is, therefore, plain to
my mind, that Cilix secretly blamed himself for giving up the search for
Europa, as long as he was able to put one foot before the other.

As for Telephassa, and Cadmus, and the good Thasus, it grieves me to
think of them, still keeping up that weary pilgrimage. The two young men
did their best for the poor queen, helping her over the rough places
often carrying her across rivulets in their faithful arms, and seeking
to shelter her at nightfall, even when they themselves lay on the
ground. Sad, sad it was to hear them asking of every passer-by if he had
seen Europa, so long after the white bull had carried her away. But,
though the gray years thrust themselves between, and made the child's
figure dim in their remembrance, neither of these true-hearted three
ever dreamed of giving up the search.

One morning, however, poor Thasus found that he had sprained his ankle,
and could not possibly go a step farther.

"After a few days, to be sure," said he, mournfully, "I might make shift
to hobble along with a stick. But that would only delay you, and perhaps
hinder you from finding dear little Europa, after all your pains and
trouble. Do you go forward, therefore, my beloved companions, and leave
me to follow as I may."

"Thou hast been a true friend, dear Thasus," said Queen Telephassa,
kissing his forehead. "Being neither my son, nor the brother of our lost
Europa, thou hast shown thyself truer to me and her than Phoenix and
Cilix did, whom we have left behind us. Without thy loving help, and
that of my son Cadmus, my limbs could not have borne me half so far as
this. Now, take thy rest, and be at peace. For--and it is the first
time I have owned it to myself--I begin to question whether we shall
ever find my beloved daughter in this world."

Saying this, the poor queen shed tears, because it was a grievous trial
to the mother's heart to confess that her hopes were growing faint. From
that day forward, Cadmus noticed that she never travelled with the same
alacrity of spirit that had heretofore supported her. Her weight was
heavier upon his arm.

Before setting out, Cadmus helped Thasus build a bower; while
Telephassa, being too infirm to give any great assistance, advised them
how to fit it up and furnish it, so that it might be as comfortable as a
hut of branches could. Thasus, however, did not spend all his days in
this green bower. For it happened to him, as to Phoenix and Cilix,
that other homeless people visited the spot and liked it, and built
themselves habitations in the neighborhood. So here, in the course of a
few years, was another thriving city with a red freestone palace in the
centre of it, where Thasus sat upon a throne, doing justice to the
people, with a purple robe over his shoulders, a sceptre in his hand,
and a crown upon his head. The inhabitants had made him king, not for
the sake of any royal blood (for none was in his veins), but because
Thasus was an upright, true-hearted, and courageous man, and therefore
fit to rule.

But, when the affairs of his kingdom were all settled, King Thasus laid
aside his purple robe, and crown, and sceptre, and bade his worthiest
subject distribute justice to the people in his stead. Then, grasping
the pilgrim's staff that had supported him so long, he set forth again,
hoping still to discover some hoof-mark of the snow-white bull, some
trace of the vanished child. He returned, after a lengthened absence,
and sat down wearily upon his throne. To his latest hour, nevertheless,
King Thasus showed his true-hearted remembrance of Europa, by ordering
that a fire should always be kept burning in his palace, and a bath
steaming hot, and food ready to be served up, and a bed with snow-white
sheets, in case the maiden should arrive, and require immediate
refreshment. And though Europa never came, the good Thasus had the
blessings of many a poor traveller, who profited by the food and lodging
which were meant for the little playmate of the king's boyhood.

Telephassa and Cadmus were now pursuing their weary way, with no
companion but each other. The queen leaned heavily upon her son's arm,
and could walk only a few miles a day. But for all her weakness and
weariness, she would not be persuaded to give up the search. It was
enough to bring tears into the eyes of bearded men to hear the
melancholy tone with which she inquired of every stranger whether he
could tell her any news of the lost child.

"Have you seen a little girl--no, no, I mean a young maiden of full
growth--passing by this way, mounted on a snow-white bull, which gallops
as swiftly as the wind?"

"We have seen no such wondrous sight," the people would reply; and very
often, taking Cadmus aside, they whispered to him, "Is this stately and
sad-looking woman your mother? Surely she is not in her right mind; and
you ought to take her home, and make her comfortable, and do your best
to get this dream out of her fancy."

"It is no dream," said Cadmus. "Everything else is a dream, save that."

But, one day, Telephassa seemed feebler than usual, and leaned almost
her whole weight on the arm of Cadmus, and walked more slowly than ever
before. At last they reached a solitary spot, where she told her son
that she must needs lie down, and take a good, long rest.

"A good, long rest!" she repeated, looking Cadmus tenderly in the
face,"--a good, long rest, thou dearest one!"

"As long as you please, dear mother," answered Cadmus.

Telephassa bade him sit down on the turf beside her, and then she took
his hand.

"My son," said she, fixing her dim eyes most lovingly upon him, "this
rest that I speak of will be very long indeed! You must not wait till it
is finished. Dear Cadmus, you do not comprehend me. You must make a
grave here, and lay your mother's weary frame into it. My pilgrimage is
over."

Cadmus burst into tears, and, for a long time, refused to believe that
his dear mother was now to be taken from him. But Telephassa reasoned
with him, and kissed him, and at length made him discern that it was
better for her spirit to pass away out of the toil, the weariness, the
grief, and disappointment which had burdened her on earth, ever since
the child was lost. He therefore repressed his sorrow and listened to
her last words.

"Dearest Cadmus," said she, "thou hast been the truest son that mother
ever had, and faithful to the last. Who else would have borne with my
infirmities as thou hast! It is owing to thy care, thou tenderest child,
that my grave was not dug long years ago, in some valley, or on some
hill-side, that lies far, far behind us. It is enough. Thou shalt wander
no more on this hopeless search. But when thou hast laid thy mother in
the earth, then go, my son, to Delphi, and inquire of the oracle what
thou shalt do next."

"O mother, mother," cried Cadmus, "couldst thou but have seen my sister
before this hour!"

"It matters little now," answered Telephassa, and there was a smile upon
her face. "I go to the better world, and, sooner or later, shall find my
daughter there."

I will not sadden you, my little hearers, with telling how Telephassa
died and was buried, but will only say, that her dying smile grew
brighter, instead of vanishing from her dead face; so that Cadmus felt
convinced that, at her very first step into the better world, she had
caught Europa in her arms. He planted some flowers on his mother's
grave, and left them to grow there, and make the place beautiful, when
he should be far away.

After performing this last sorrowful duty, he set forth alone, and took
the road towards the famous oracle of Delphi, as Telephassa had advised
him. On his way thither, he still inquired of most people whom he met
whether they had seen Europa; for, to say the truth, Cadmus had grown so
accustomed to ask the question, that it came to his lips as readily as a
remark about the weather. He received various answers. Some told him one
thing, and some another. Among the rest, a mariner affirmed, that, many
years before, in a distant country, he had heard a rumor about a white
bull, which came swimming across the sea with a child on his back,
dressed up in flowers that were blighted by the sea-water. He did not
know what had become of the child or the bull; and Cadmus suspected,
indeed, by a queer twinkle in the mariner's eyes, that he was putting a
joke upon him, and had never really heard anything about the matter.

Poor Cadmus found it more wearisome to travel alone than to bear all his
dear mother's weight while she had kept him company. His heart, you will
understand, was now so heavy that it seemed impossible, sometimes, to
carry it any farther. But his limbs were strong and active, and well
accustomed to exercise. He walked swiftly along, thinking of King Agenor
and Queen Telephassa, and his brothers, and the friendly Thasus, all of
whom he had left behind him, at one point of his pilgrimage or another,
and never expected to see them any more. Full of these remembrances, he
came within sight of a lofty mountain, which the people thereabouts told
him was called Parnassus. On the slope of Mount Parnassus was the famous
Delphi, whither Cadmus was going.

This Delphi was supposed to be the very midmost spot of the whole world.
The place of the oracle was a certain cavity in the mountain-side, over
which, when Cadmus came thither, he found a rude bower of branches. It
reminded him of those which he had helped to build for Phoenix and
Cilix, and afterwards for Thasus. In later times, when multitudes of
people came from great distances to put questions to the oracle, a
spacious temple of marble was erected over the spot. But in the days of
Cadmus, as I have told you, there was only this rustic bower, with its
abundance of green foliage, and a tuft of shrubbery, that ran wild over
the mysterious hole in the hill-side.

When Cadmus had thrust a passage through the tangled boughs, and made
his way into the bower, he did not at first discern the half-hidden
cavity. But soon he felt a cold stream of air rushing out of it, with so
much force that it shook the ringlets on his cheek. Pulling away the
shrubbery which clustered over the hole, he bent forward, and spoke in a
distinct but reverential tone, as if addressing some unseen personage
inside of the mountain.

"Sacred oracle of Delphi," said he, "whither shall I go next in quest of
my dear sister Europa?"

There was at first a deep silence, and then a rushing sound, or a noise
like a long sigh, proceeding out of the interior of the earth. This
cavity, you must know, was looked upon as a sort of fountain of truth,
which sometimes gushed out in audible words; although, for the most
part, these words were such a riddle that they might just as well have
stayed at the bottom of the hole. But Cadmus was more fortunate than
many others who went to Delphi in search of truth. By and by, the
rushing noise began to sound like articulate language. It repeated, over
and over again, the following sentence, which, after all, was so like
the vague whistle of a blast of air, that Cadmus really did not quite
know whether it meant anything or not:--

"Seek her no more! Seek her no more! Seek her no more!"

"What, then, shall I do?" asked Cadmus.

For, ever since he was a child, you know, it had been the great object
of his life to find his sister. From the very hour that he left
following the butterfly in the meadow, near his father's palace, he had
done his best to follow Europa, over land and sea. And now, if he must
give up the search, he seemed to have no more business in the world.

But again the sighing gust of air grew into something like a hoarse
voice.

"Follow the cow!" it said. "Follow the cow! Follow the cow!"

And when these words had been repeated until Cadmus was tired of hearing
them (especially as he could not imagine what cow it was, or why he was
to follow her), the gusty hole gave vent to another sentence.

"Where the stray cow lies down, there is your home."

These words were pronounced but a single time, and died away into a
whisper before Cadmus was fully satisfied that he had caught the
meaning. He put other questions, but received no answer; only the gust
of wind sighed continually out of the cavity, and blew the withered
leaves rustling along the ground before it.

"Did there really come any words out of the hole?" thought Cadmus; "or
have I been dreaming all this while?"

He turned away from the oracle, and thought himself no wiser than when
he came thither. Caring little what might happen to him, he took the
first path that offered itself, and went along at a sluggish pace; for,
having no object in view, nor any reason to go one way more than
another, it would certainly have been foolish to make haste. Whenever he
met anybody, the old question was at his tongue's end:--

"Have you seen a beautiful maiden, dressed like a king's daughter, and
mounted on a snow-white bull, that gallops as swiftly as the wind?"

But, remembering what the oracle had said, he only half uttered the
words, and then mumbled the rest indistinctly; and from his confusion,
people must have imagined that this handsome young man had lost his
wits.

I know not how far Cadmus had gone, nor could he himself have told you,
when, at no great distance before him, he beheld a brindled cow. She was
lying down by the wayside, and quietly chewing her cud; nor did she take
any notice of the young man until he had approached pretty nigh. Then,
getting leisurely upon her feet, and giving her head a gentle toss, she
began to move along at a moderate pace, often pausing just long enough
to crop a mouthful of grass. Cadmus loitered behind, whistling idly to
himself, and scarcely noticing the cow; until the thought occurred to
him, whether this could possibly be the animal which, according to the
oracle's response, was to serve him for a guide. But he smiled at
himself for fancying such a thing. He could not seriously think that
this was the cow, because she went along so quietly, behaving just like
any other cow. Evidently she neither knew nor cared so much as a wisp of
hay about Cadmus, and was only thinking how to get her living along the
wayside, where the herbage was green and fresh. Perhaps she was going
home to be milked.

"Cow, cow, cow!" cried Cadmus. "Hey, Brindle, hey! Stop, my good cow."

He wanted to come up with the cow, so as to examine her, and see if she
would appear to know him, or whether there were any peculiarities to
distinguish her from a thousand other cows, whose only business is to
fill the milk-pail, and sometimes kick it over. But still the brindled
cow trudged on, whisking her tail to keep the flies away, and taking as
little notice of Cadmus as she well could. If he walked slowly, so did
the cow, and seized the opportunity to graze. If he quickened his pace,
the cow went just so much the faster; and once, when Cadmus tried to
catch her by running, she threw out her heels, stuck her tail straight
on end, and set off at a gallop, looking as queerly as cows generally
do, while putting themselves to their speed.

When Cadmus saw that it was impossible to come up with her, he walked on
moderately, as before. The cow, too, went leisurely on, without looking
behind. Wherever the grass was greenest, there she nibbled a mouthful or
two. Where a brook glistened brightly across the path, there the cow
drank, and breathed a comfortable sigh, and drank again, and trudged
onward at the pace that best suited herself and Cadmus.

"I do believe," thought Cadmus, "that this may be the cow that was
foretold me. If it be the one, I suppose she will lie down somewhere
hereabouts."

Whether it were the oracular cow or some other one, it did not seem
reasonable that she should travel a great way farther. So, whenever they
reached a particularly pleasant spot on a breezy hill-side, or in a
sheltered vale, or flowery meadow, on the shore of a calm lake, or along
the bank of a clear stream, Cadmus looked eagerly around to see if the
situation would suit him for a home. But still, whether he liked the
place or no, the brindled cow never offered to lie down. On she went at
the quiet pace of a cow going homeward to the barn-yard; and, every
moment, Cadmus expected to see a milkmaid approaching with a pail, or a
herdsman running to head the stray animal, and turn her back towards the
pasture. But no milkmaid came; no herdsman drove her back; and Cadmus
followed the stray Brindle till he was almost ready to drop down with
fatigue.

"O brindled cow," cried he, in a tone of despair, "do you never mean to
stop?"

He had now grown too intent on following her to think of lagging behind,
however long the way, and whatever might be his fatigue. Indeed, it
seemed as if there were something about the animal that bewitched
people. Several persons who happened to see the brindled cow, and Cadmus
following behind, began to trudge after her, precisely as he did.
Cadmus was glad of somebody to converse with, and therefore talked very
freely to these good people. He told them all his adventures, and how he
had left King Agenor in his palace, and Phoenix at one place, and
Cilix at another, and Thasus at a third, and his dear mother, Queen
Telephassa, under a flowery sod; so that now he was quite alone, both
friendless and homeless. He mentioned, likewise, that the oracle had
bidden him be guided by a cow, and inquired of the strangers whether
they supposed that this brindled animal could be the one.

"Why, 'tis a very wonderful affair," answered one of his new companions.
"I am pretty well acquainted with the ways of cattle, and I never knew a
cow, of her own accord, to go so far without stopping. If my legs will
let me, I'll never leave following the beast till she lies down."

"Nor I!" said a second.

"Nor I!" cried a third. "If she goes a hundred miles farther, I'm
determined to see the end of it."

The secret of it was, you must know, that the cow was an enchanted cow,
and that, without their being conscious of it, she threw some of her
enchantment over everybody that took so much as half a dozen steps
behind her. They could not possibly help following her, though, all the
time, they fancied themselves doing it of their own accord. The cow was
by no means very nice in choosing her path; so that sometimes they had
to scramble over rocks, or wade through mud and mire, and were all in a
terribly bedraggled condition, and tired to death, and very hungry, into
the bargain. What a weary business it was!

But still they kept trudging stoutly forward, and talking as they went.
The strangers grew very fond of Cadmus, and resolved never to leave him,
but to help him build a city wherever the cow might lie down. In the
centre of it there should be a noble palace, in which Cadmus might
dwell, and be their king, with a throne, a crown and sceptre, a purple
robe, and everything else that a king ought to have; for in him there
was the royal blood, and the royal heart, and the head that knew how to
rule.

While they were talking of these schemes, and beguiling the tediousness
of the way with laying out the plan of the new city, one of the company
happened to look at the cow.

"Joy! joy!" cried he, clapping his hands. "Brindle is going to lie
down."

They all looked; and, sure enough, the cow had stopped, and was staring
leisurely about her, as other cows do when on the point of lying down.
And slowly, slowly did she recline herself on the soft grass, first
bending her fore legs, and then crouching her hind ones. When Cadmus and
his companions came up with her, there was the brindled cow taking her
ease, chewing her cud, and looking them quietly in the face; as if this
was just the spot she had been seeking for, and as if it were all a
matter of course.

"This, then," said Cadmus, gazing around him, "this is to be my home."

It was a fertile and lovely plain, with great trees flinging their
sun-speckled shadows over it, and hills fencing it in from the rough
weather. At no great distance, they beheld a river gleaming in the
sunshine. A home feeling stole into the heart of poor Cadmus. He was
very glad to know that here he might awake in the morning, without the
necessity of pulling on his dusty sandals to travel farther and farther.
The days and the years would pass over him, and find him still in this
pleasant spot. If he could have had his brothers with him, and his
friend Thasus, and could have seen his dear mother under a roof of his
own, he might here have been happy, after all their disappointments.
Some day or other, too, his sister Europa might have come quietly to the
door of his home, and smiled round upon the familiar faces. But, indeed,
since there was no hope of regaining the friends of his boyhood, or
ever seeing his dear sister again, Cadmus resolved to make himself happy
with these new companions, who had grown so fond of him while following
the cow.

"Yes, my friends," said he to them, "this is to be our home. Here we
will build our habitations. The brindled cow, which has led us hither,
will supply us with milk. We will cultivate the neighboring soil, and
lead an innocent and happy life."

His companions joyfully assented to this plan; and, in the first place,
being very hungry and thirsty, they looked about them for the means of
providing a comfortable meal. Not far off, they saw a tuft of trees,
which appeared as if there might be a spring of water beneath them. They
went thither to fetch some, leaving Cadmus stretched on the ground along
with the brindled cow; for, now that he had found a place of rest, it
seemed as if all the weariness of his pilgrimage, ever since he left
King Agenor's palace, had fallen upon him at once. But his new friends
had not long been gone, when he was suddenly startled by cries, shouts,
and screams, and the noise of a terrible struggle, and in the midst of
it all, a most awful hissing, which went right through his ears like a
rough saw.

Running towards the tuft of trees, he beheld the head and fiery eyes of
an immense serpent or dragon, with the widest jaws that ever a dragon
had, and a vast many rows of horribly sharp teeth. Before Cadmus could
reach the spot, this pitiless reptile had killed his poor companions,
and was busily devouring them, making but a mouthful of each man.

It appears that the fountain of water was enchanted, and that the dragon
had been set to guard it, so that no mortal might ever quench his thirst
there. As the neighboring inhabitants carefully avoided the spot, it was
now a long time (not less than a hundred years, or thereabouts) since
the monster had broken his fast; and, as was natural enough, his
appetite had grown to be enormous, and was not half satisfied by the
poor people whom he had just eaten up. When he caught sight of Cadmus,
therefore, he set up another abominable hiss, and flung back his immense
jaws, until his mouth looked like a great red cavern, at the farther end
of which were seen the legs of his last victim, whom he had hardly had
time to swallow.

But Cadmus was so enraged at the destruction of his friends, that he
cared neither for the size of the dragon's jaws nor for his hundreds of
sharp teeth. Drawing his sword, he rushed at the monster, and flung
himself right into his cavernous mouth. This bold method of attacking
him took the dragon by surprise; for, in fact, Cadmus had leaped so far
down into his throat, that the rows of terrible teeth could not close
upon him, nor do him the least harm in the world. Thus, though the
struggle was a tremendous one, and though the dragon shattered the tuft
of trees into small splinters by the lashing of his tail, yet, as Cadmus
was all the while slashing and stabbing at his very vitals, it was not
long before the scaly wretch bethought himself of slipping away. He had
not gone his length, however, when the brave Cadmus gave him a
sword-thrust that finished the battle; and, creeping out of the gateway
of the creature's jaws, there he beheld him still wriggling his vast
bulk, although there was no longer life enough in him to harm a little
child.

But do not you suppose that it made Cadmus sorrowful to think of the
melancholy fate which had befallen those poor, friendly people, who had
followed the cow along with him? It seemed as if he were doomed to lose
everybody whom he loved, or to see them perish in one way or another.
And here he was, after all his toils and troubles, in a solitary place,
with not a single human being to help him build a hut.

"What shall I do?" cried he aloud. "It were better for me to have been
devoured by the dragon, as my poor companions were."

"Cadmus," said a voice,--but whether it came from above or below him,
or whether it spoke within his own breast, the young man could not
tell,--"Cadmus, pluck out the dragon's teeth, and plant them in the
earth."

This was a strange thing to do; nor was it very easy, I should imagine,
to dig out all those deep-rooted fangs from the dead dragon's jaws. But
Cadmus toiled and tugged, and after pounding the monstrous head almost
to pieces with a great stone, he at last collected as many teeth as
might have filled a bushel or two. The next thing was to plant them.
This, likewise, was a tedious piece of work, especially as Cadmus was
already exhausted with killing the dragon and knocking his head to
pieces, and had nothing to dig the earth with, that I know of, unless it
were his sword-blade. Finally, however, a sufficiently large tract of
ground was turned up, and sown with this new kind of seed; although half
of the dragon's teeth still remained to be planted some other day.

Cadmus, quite out of breath, stood leaning upon his sword, and wondering
what was to happen next. He had waited but a few moments, when he began
to see a sight, which was as great a marvel as the most marvellous thing
I ever told you about.

The sun was shining slantwise over the field, and showed all the moist,
dark soil just like any other newly planted piece of ground. All at
once, Cadmus fancied he saw something glisten very brightly, first at
one spot, then at another, and then at a hundred and a thousand spots
together. Soon he perceived them to be the steel heads of spears,
sprouting up everywhere like so many stalks of grain, and continually
growing taller and taller. Next appeared a vast number of bright
sword-blades, thrusting themselves up in the same way. A moment
afterwards, the whole surface of the ground was broken up by a multitude
of polished brass helmets, coming up like a crop of enormous beans. So
rapidly did they grow, that Cadmus now discerned the fierce countenance
of a man beneath every one. In short, before he had time to think what a
wonderful affair it was, he beheld an abundant harvest of what looked
like human beings, armed with helmets and breastplates, shields, swords
and spears; and before they were well out of the earth, they brandished
their weapons, and clashed them one against another, seeming to think,
little while as they had yet lived, that they had wasted too much of
life without a battle. Every tooth of the dragon had produced one of
these sons of deadly mischief.

Up sprouted, also, a great many trumpeters; and with the first breath
that they drew, they put their brazen trumpets to their lips, and
sounded a tremendous and ear-shattering blast; so that the whole space,
just now so quiet and solitary, reverberated with the clash and clang of
arms, the bray of warlike music, and the shouts of angry men. So enraged
did they all look, that Cadmus fully expected them to put the whole
world to the sword. How fortunate would it be for a great conqueror, if
he could get a bushel of the dragon's teeth to sow!

"Cadmus," said the same voice which he had before heard, "throw a stone
into the midst of the armed men."

So Cadmus seized a large stone, and, flinging it into the middle of the
earth army, saw it strike the breastplate of a gigantic and
fierce-looking warrior. Immediately on feeling the blow, he seemed to
take it for granted that somebody had struck him; and, uplifting his
weapon, he smote his next neighbor a blow that cleft his helmet asunder,
and stretched him on the ground. In an instant, those nearest the fallen
warrior began to strike at one another with their swords and stab with
their spears. The confusion spread wider and wider. Each man smote down
his brother, and was himself smitten down before he had time to exult in
his victory. The trumpeters, all the while, blew their blasts shriller
and shriller; each soldier shouted a battle-cry and often fell with it
on his lips. It was the strangest spectacle of causeless wrath, and of
mischief for no good end, that had ever been witnessed; but, after all,
it was neither more foolish nor more wicked than a thousand battles
that have since been fought, in which men have slain their brothers with
just as little reason as these children of the dragon's teeth. It ought
to be considered, too, that the dragon people were made for nothing
else; whereas other mortals were born to love and help one another.

Well, this memorable battle continued to rage until the ground was
strewn with helmeted heads that had been cut off. Of all the thousands
that began the fight, there were only five left standing. These now
rushed from different parts of the field, and, meeting in the middle of
it, clashed their swords, and struck at each other's hearts as fiercely
as ever.

"Cadmus," said the voice again, "bid those five warriors sheathe their
swords. They will help you to build the city."

Without hesitating an instant, Cadmus stepped forward, with the aspect
of a king and a leader, and extending his drawn sword amongst them,
spoke to the warriors in a stern and commanding voice.

"Sheathe your weapons!" said he.

And forthwith, feeling themselves bound to obey him, the five remaining
sons of the dragon's teeth made him a military salute with their swords,
returned them to the scabbards, and stood before Cadmus in a rank,
eyeing him as soldiers eye their captain, while awaiting the word of
command.

These five men had probably sprung from the biggest of the dragon's
teeth, and were the boldest and strongest of the whole army. They were
almost giants, indeed, and had good need to be so, else they never could
have lived through so terrible a fight. They still had a very furious
look, and, if Cadmus happened to glance aside, would glare at one
another, with fire flashing out of their eyes. It was strange, too, to
observe how the earth, out of which they had so lately grown, was
incrusted, here and there, on their bright breastplates, and even
begrimed their faces, just as you may have seen it clinging to beets
and carrots when pulled out of their native soil. Cadmus hardly knew
whether to consider them as men, or some odd kind of vegetable;
although, on the whole, he concluded that there was human nature in
them, because they were so fond of trumpets and weapons, and so ready to
shed blood.

They looked him earnestly in the face, waiting for his next order, and
evidently desiring no other employment than to follow him from one
battle-field to another, all over the wide world. But Cadmus was wiser
than these earth-born creatures, with the dragon's fierceness in them,
and knew better how to use their strength and hardihood.

"Come!" said he. "You are sturdy fellows. Make yourselves useful! Quarry
some stones with those great swords of yours, and help me to build a
city."

The five soldiers grumbled a little, and muttered that it was their
business to overthrow cities, not to build them up. But Cadmus looked at
them with a stern eye, and spoke to them in a tone of authority, so that
they knew him for their master, and never again thought of disobeying
his commands. They set to work in good earnest, and toiled so
diligently, that, in a very short time, a city began to make its
appearance. At first, to be sure, the workmen showed a quarrelsome
disposition. Like savage beasts, they would doubtless have done one
another a mischief, if Cadmus had not kept watch over them and quelled
the fierce old serpent that lurked in their hearts, when he saw it
gleaming out of their wild eyes. But, in course of time, they got
accustomed to honest labor, and had sense enough to feel that there was
more true enjoyment in living in peace, and doing good to one's
neighbor, than in striking at him with a two-edged sword. It may not be
too much to hope that the rest of mankind will by and by grow as wise
and peaceable as these five earth-begrimed warriors, who sprang from the
dragon's teeth.

And now the city was built, and there was a home in it for each of the
workmen. But the palace of Cadmus was not yet erected, because they had
left it till the last, meaning to introduce all the new improvements of
architecture, and make it very commodious, as well as stately and
beautiful. After finishing the rest of their labors, they all went to
bed betimes, in order to rise in the gray of the morning, and get at
least the foundation of the edifice laid before nightfall. But, when
Cadmus arose, and took his way toward the site where the palace was to
be built, followed by his five sturdy workmen marching all in a row,
what do you think he saw?

What should it be but the most magnificent palace that had ever been
seen in the world? It was built of marble and other beautiful kinds of
stone, and rose high into the air, with a splendid dome and portico
along the front, and carved pillars, and everything else that befitted
the habitation of a mighty king. It had grown up out of the earth in
almost as short a time as it had taken the armed host to spring from the
dragon's teeth; and what made the matter more strange, no seed of this
stately edifice had ever been planted.

When the five workmen beheld the dome, with the morning sunshine making
it look golden and glorious, they gave a great shout.

"Long live King Cadmus," they cried, "in his beautiful palace."

And the new king, with his five faithful followers at his heels,
shouldering their pickaxes and marching in a rank (for they still had a
soldier-like sort of behavior, as their nature was), ascended the palace
steps. Halting at the entrance, they gazed through a long vista of lofty
pillars that were ranged from end to end of a great hall. At the farther
extremity of this hall, approaching slowly towards him, Cadmus beheld a
female figure, wonderfully beautiful, and adorned with a royal robe, and
a crown of diamonds over her golden ringlets, and the richest necklace
that ever a queen wore. His heart thrilled with delight. He fancied it
his long-lost sister Europa, now grown to womanhood, coming to make him
happy, and to repay him, with her sweet sisterly affection, for all
those weary wanderings in quest of her since he left King Agenor's
palace,--for the tears that he had shed, on parting with Phoenix, and
Cilix, and Thasus,--for the heart-breakings that had made the whole
world seem dismal to him over his dear mother's grave.

But, as Cadmus advanced to meet the beautiful stranger, he saw that her
features were unknown to him, although, in the little time that it
required to tread along the hall, he had already felt a sympathy twixt
himself and her.

"No, Cadmus," said the same voice that had spoken to him in the field of
the armed men, "this is not that dear sister Europa whom you have sought
so faithfully all over the wide world. This is Harmonia, a daughter of
the sky, who is given you instead of sister, and brothers, and friend,
and mother. You will find all those dear ones in her alone."

So King Cadmus dwelt in the palace, with his new friend Harmonia, and
found a great deal of comfort in his magnificent abode, but would
doubtless have found as much, if not more, in the humblest cottage by
the wayside. Before many years went by, there was a group of rosy little
children (but how they came thither has always been a mystery to me)
sporting in the great hall, and on the marble steps of the palace, and
running joyfully to meet King Cadmus when affairs of state left him at
leisure to play with them. They called him father, and Queen Harmonia
mother. The five old soldiers of the dragon's teeth grew very fond of
these small urchins, and were never weary of showing them how to
shoulder sticks, flourish wooden swords, and march in military order,
blowing a penny trumpet, or beating an abominable rub-a-dub upon a
little drum.

But King Cadmus, lest there should be too much of the dragon's tooth in
his children's disposition, used to find time from his kingly duties to
teach them their A B C,--which he invented for their benefit, and for
which many little people, I am afraid, are not half so grateful to him
as they ought to be.



Circe's Palace


Some of you have heard, no doubt, of the wise King Ulysses, and how he
went to the siege of Troy, and how, after that famous city was taken and
burned, he spent ten long years in trying to get back again to his own
little kingdom of Ithaca. At one time in the course of this weary
voyage, he arrived at an island that looked very green and pleasant, but
the name of which was unknown to him. For, only a little while before he
came thither, he had met with a terrible hurricane, or rather a great
many hurricanes at once, which drove his fleet of vessels into a strange
part of the sea, where neither himself nor any of his mariners had ever
sailed. This misfortune was entirely owing to the foolish curiosity of
his shipmates, who, while Ulysses lay asleep, had untied some very bulky
leathern bags, in which they supposed a valuable treasure to be
concealed. But in each of these stout bags, King Æolus, the ruler of the
winds, had tied up a tempest, and had given it to Ulysses to keep, in
order that he might be sure of a favorable passage homeward to Ithaca;
and when the strings were loosened, forth rushed the whistling blasts,
like air out of a blown bladder, whitening the sea with foam, and
scattering the vessels nobody could tell whither.

Immediately after escaping from this peril, a still greater one had
befallen him. Scudding before the hurricane, he reached a place, which,
as he afterwards found, was called Læstrygonia, where some monstrous
giants had eaten up many of his companions, and had sunk every one of
his vessels, except that in which he himself sailed, by flinging great
masses of rock at them, from the cliffs along the shore. After going
through such troubles as these, you cannot wonder that King Ulysses was
glad to moor his tempest-beaten bark in a quiet cove of the green
island, which I began with telling you about. But he had encountered so
many dangers from giants, and one-eyed Cyclopes, and monsters of the sea
and land, that he could not help dreading some mischief, even in this
pleasant and seemingly solitary spot. For two days, therefore, the poor
weather-worn voyagers kept quiet, and either stayed on board of their
vessel, or merely crept along under cliffs that bordered the shore; and
to keep themselves alive, they dug shell-fish out of the sand, and
sought for any little rill of fresh water that might be running towards
the sea.

Before the two days were spent, they grew very weary of this kind of
life; for the followers of King Ulysses, as you will find it important
to remember, were terrible gormandizers, and pretty sure to grumble if
they missed their regular meals, and their irregular ones besides. Their
stock of provisions was quite exhausted, and even the shell-fish began
to get scarce, so that they had now to choose between starving to death
or venturing into the interior of the island, where, perhaps, some huge
three-headed dragon, or other horrible monster, had his den. Such
misshapen creatures were very numerous in those days; and nobody ever
expected to make a voyage, or take a journey, without running more or
less risk of being devoured by them.

But King Ulysses was a bold man as well as a prudent one; and on the
third morning he determined to discover what sort of a place the island
was, and whether it were possible to obtain a supply of food for the
hungry mouths of his companions. So, taking a spear in his hand, he
clambered to the summit of a cliff, and gazed round about him. At a
distance, towards the centre of the island, he beheld the stately towers
of what seemed to be a palace, built of snow-white marble, and rising in
the midst of a grove of lofty trees. The thick branches of these trees
stretched across the front of the edifice, and more than half concealed
it, although, from the portion which he saw, Ulysses judged it to be
spacious and exceedingly beautiful, and probably the residence of some
great nobleman or prince. A blue smoke went curling up from the chimney,
and was almost the pleasantest part of the spectacle to Ulysses. For,
from the abundance of this smoke, it was reasonable to conclude that
there was a good fire in the kitchen, and that, at dinner-time, a
plentiful banquet would be served up to the inhabitants of the palace,
and to whatever guests might happen to drop in.

[Illustration: CIRCE'S PALACE]

With so agreeable a prospect before him, Ulysses fancied that he could
not do better than to go straight to the palace gate, and tell the
master of it that there was a crew of poor shipwrecked mariners, not far
off, who had eaten nothing for a day or two save a few clams and
oysters, and would therefore be thankful for a little food. And the
prince or nobleman must be a very stingy curmudgeon, to be sure, if, at
least, when his own dinner was over, he would not bid them welcome to
the broken victuals from the table.

Pleasing himself with this idea, King Ulysses had made a few steps in
the direction of the palace, when there was a great twittering and
chirping from the branch of a neighboring tree. A moment afterwards, a
bird came flying towards him, and hovered in the air, so as almost to
brush his face with its wings. It was a very pretty little bird, with
purple wings and body, and yellow legs, and a circle of golden feathers
round his neck, and on its head a golden tuft, which looked like a
king's crown in miniature. Ulysses tried to catch the bird. But it
fluttered nimbly out of his reach, still chirping in a piteous tone, as
if it could have told a lamentable story, had it only been gifted with
human language. And when he attempted to drive it away, the bird flew no
farther than the bough of the next tree, and again came fluttering about
his head, with its doleful chirp, as soon as he showed a purpose of
going forward.

"Have you anything to tell me, little bird?" asked Ulysses.

And he was ready to listen attentively to whatever the bird might
communicate; for at the siege of Troy, and elsewhere, he had known such
odd things to happen, that he would not have considered it much out of
the common run had this little feathered creature talked as plainly as
himself.

"Peep!" said the bird, "peep, peep, pe--weep!" And nothing else would it
say, but only, "Peep, peep, pe--weep!" in a melancholy cadence, over and
over and over again. As often as Ulysses moved forward, however, the
bird showed the greatest alarm, and did its best to drive him back, with
the anxious flutter of its purple wings. Its unaccountable behavior made
him conclude, at last, that the bird knew of some danger that awaited
him, and which must needs be very terrible, beyond all question, since
it moved even a little fowl to feel compassion for a human being. So he
resolved, for the present, to return to the vessel, and tell his
companions what he had seen.

This appeared to satisfy the bird. As soon as Ulysses turned back, it
ran up the trunk of a tree, and began to pick insects out of the bark
with its long, sharp bill; for it was a kind of wood-pecker, you must
know, and had to get its living in the same manner as other birds of
that species. But every little while, as it pecked at the bark of the
tree, the purple bird bethought itself of some secret sorrow, and
repeated its plaintive note of "Peep, peep, pe--weep!"

On his way to the shore, Ulysses had the good luck to kill a large stag
by thrusting his spear into its back. Taking it on his shoulders (for he
was a remarkably strong man), he lugged it along with him, and flung it
down before his hungry companions. I have already hinted to you what
gormandizers some of the comrades of King Ulysses were. From what is
related of them, I reckon that their favorite diet was pork, and that
they had lived upon it until a good part of their physical substance was
swine's flesh, and their tempers and dispositions were very much akin
to the hog. A dish of venison, however, was no unacceptable meal to
them, especially after feeding so long on oysters and clams. So,
beholding the dead stag, they felt of its ribs in a knowing way, and
lost no time in kindling a fire, of drift-wood, to cook it. The rest of
the day was spent in feasting; and if these enormous eaters got up from
table at sunset, it was only because they could not scrape another
morsel off the poor animal's bones.

The next morning their appetites were as sharp as ever. They looked at
Ulysses, as if they expected him to clamber up the cliff again, and come
back with another fat deer upon his shoulders. Instead of setting out,
however, he summoned the whole crew together, and told them it was in
vain to hope that he could kill a stag every day for their dinner, and
therefore it was advisable to think of some other mode of satisfying
their hunger.

"Now," said he, "when I was on the cliff yesterday, I discovered that
this island is inhabited. At a considerable distance from the shore
stood a marble palace, which appeared to be very spacious, and had a
great deal of smoke curling out of one of its chimneys."

"Aha!" muttered some of his companions, smacking their lips. "That smoke
must have come from the kitchen fire. There was a good dinner on the
spit; and no doubt there will be as good a one to-day."

"But," continued the wise Ulysses, "you must remember, my good friends,
our misadventure in the cavern of one-eyed Polyphemus, the Cyclops!
Instead of his ordinary milk diet, did he not eat up two of our comrades
for his supper, and a couple more for breakfast, and two at his supper
again? Methinks I see him yet, the hideous monster, scanning us with
that great red eye, in the middle of his forehead, to single out the
fattest. And then again only a few days ago, did we not fall into the
hands of the king of the Læstrygons, and those other horrible giants,
his subjects, who devoured a great many more of us than are now left?
To tell you the truth, if we go to yonder palace, there can be no
question that we shall make our appearance at the dinner-table; but
whether seated as guests, or served up as food, is a point to be
seriously considered."

"Either way," murmured some of the hungriest of the crew, "it will be
better than starvation; particularly if one could be sure of being well
fattened beforehand, and daintily cooked afterwards."

"That is a matter of taste," said King Ulysses, "and, for my own part,
neither the most careful fattening nor the daintiest of cookery would
reconcile me to being dished at last. My proposal is, therefore, that we
divide ourselves into two equal parties, and ascertain, by drawing lots,
which of the two shall go to the palace, and beg for food and
assistance. If these can be obtained, all is well. If not, and if the
inhabitants prove as inhospitable as Polyphemus, or the Læstrygons, then
there will but half of us perish, and the remainder may set sail and
escape."

As nobody objected to this scheme, Ulysses proceeded to count the whole
band, and found that there were forty-six men including himself. He then
numbered off twenty-two of them, and put Eurylochus (who was one of his
chief officers, and second only to himself in sagacity) at their head.
Ulysses took command of the remaining twenty-two men, in person. Then,
taking off his helmet, he put two shells into it, on one of which was
written, "Go," and on the other "Stay." Another person now held the
helmet, while Ulysses and Eurylochus drew out each a shell; and the word
"Go" was found written on that which Eurylochus had drawn. In this
manner, it was decided that Ulysses and his twenty-two men were to
remain at the seaside until the other party should have found out what
sort of treatment they might expect at the mysterious palace. As there
was no help for it, Eurylochus immediately set forth at the head of his
twenty-two followers, who went off in a very melancholy state of mind,
leaving their friends in hardly better spirits than themselves.

No sooner had they clambered up the cliff, than they discerned the tall
marble towers of the palace, ascending, as white as snow, out of the
lovely green shadow of the trees which surrounded it. A gush of smoke
came from a chimney in the rear of the edifice. This vapor rose high in
the air, and, meeting with a breeze, was wafted seaward, and made to
pass over the heads of the hungry mariners. When people's appetites are
keen, they have a very quick scent for anything savory in the wind.

"That smoke comes from the kitchen!" cried one of them, turning up his
nose as high as he could, and snuffing eagerly. "And, as sure as I'm a
half-starved vagabond, I smell roast meat in it."

"Pig, roast pig!" said another. "Ah, the dainty little porker! My mouth
waters for him."

"Let us make haste," cried the others, "or we shall be too late for the
good cheer!"

But scarcely had they made half a dozen steps from the edge of the
cliff, when a bird came fluttering to meet them. It was the same pretty
little bird, with the purple wings and body, the yellow legs, the golden
collar round its neck, and the crown-like tuft upon its head, whose
behavior had so much surprised Ulysses. It hovered about Eurylochus, and
almost brushed his face with its wings.

"Peep, peep, pe--weep!" chirped the bird.

So plaintively intelligent was the sound, that it seemed as if the
little creature were going to break its heart with some mighty secret
that it had to tell, and only this one poor note to tell it with.

"My pretty bird," said Eurylochus,--for he was a wary person, and let no
token of harm escape his notice,--"my pretty bird, who sent you hither?
And what is the message which you bring?"

"Peep, peep, pe--weep!" replied the bird, very sorrowfully.

Then it flew towards the edge of the cliff, and looked round at them, as
if exceedingly anxious that they should return whence they came.
Eurylochus and a few of the others were inclined to turn back. They
could not help suspecting that the purple bird must be aware of
something mischievous that would befall them at the palace, and the
knowledge of which affected its airy spirit with a human sympathy and
sorrow. But the rest of the voyagers, snuffing up the smoke from the
palace kitchen, ridiculed the idea of returning to the vessel. One of
them (more brutal than his fellows, and the most notorious gormandizer
in the whole crew) said such a cruel and wicked thing, that I wonder the
mere thought did not turn him into a wild beast in shape, as he already
was in his nature.

"This troublesome and impertinent little fowl," said he, "would make a
delicate titbit to begin dinner with. Just one plump morsel, melting
away between the teeth. If he comes within my reach, I'll catch him, and
give him to the palace cook to be roasted on a skewer."

The words were hardly out of his mouth, before the purple bird flew
away, crying "Peep, peep, pe--weep," more dolorously than ever.

"That bird," remarked Eurylochus, "knows more than we do about what
awaits us at the palace."

"Come on, then," cried his comrades, "and we'll soon know as much as he
does."

The party, accordingly, went onward through the green and pleasant wood.
Every little while they caught new glimpses of the marble palace, which
looked more and more beautiful the nearer they approached it. They soon
entered a broad pathway, which seemed to be very neatly kept, and which
went winding along with streaks of sunshine falling across it, and
specks of light quivering among the deepest shadows that fell from the
lofty trees. It was bordered, too, with a great many sweet-smelling
flowers, such as the mariners had never seen before. So rich and
beautiful they were, that, if the shrubs grew wild here, and were native
in the soil, then this island was surely the flower-garden of the whole
earth; or, if transplanted from some other clime, it must have been from
the Happy Islands that lay towards the golden sunset.

"There has been a great deal of pains foolishly wasted on these
flowers," observed one of the company; and I tell you what he said, that
you may keep in mind what gormandizers they were. "For my part, if I
were the owner of the palace, I would bid my gardener cultivate nothing
but savory potherbs to make a stuffing for roast meat, or to flavor a
stew with."

"Well said!" cried the others. "But I'll warrant you there's a
kitchen-garden in the rear of the palace."

At one place they came to a crystal spring, and paused to drink at it
for want of liquor which they liked better. Looking into its bosom, they
beheld their own faces dimly reflected, but so extravagantly distorted
by the gush and motion of the water, that each one of them appeared to
be laughing at himself and all his companions. So ridiculous were these
images of themselves, indeed, that they did really laugh aloud, and
could hardly be grave again as soon as they wished. And after they had
drank, they grew still merrier than before.

"It has a twang of the wine-cask in it," said one, smacking his lips.

"Make haste!" cried his fellows; "we'll find the wine-cask itself at the
palace; and that will be better than a hundred crystal fountains."

Then they quickened their pace, and capered for joy at the thought of
the savory banquet at which they hoped to be guests. But Eurylochus told
them that he felt as if he were walking in a dream.

"If I am really awake," continued he, "then, in my opinion, we are on
the point of meeting with some stranger adventure than any that befell
us in the cave of Polyphemus, or among the gigantic man-eating
Læstrygons, or in the windy palace of King Æolus, which stands on a
brazen-walled island. This kind of dreamy feeling always comes over me
before any wonderful occurrence. If you take my advice, you will turn
back."

"No, no," answered his comrades, snuffing the air, in which the scent
from the palace kitchen was now very perceptible. "We would not turn
back, though we were certain that the king of the Læstrygons, as big as
a mountain, would sit at the head of the table, and huge Polyphemus, the
one-eyed Cyclops, at its foot."

At length they came within full sight of the palace, which proved to be
very large and lofty, with a great number of airy pinnacles upon its
roof. Though it was now midday, and the sun shone brightly over the
marble front, yet its snowy whiteness, and its fantastic style of
architecture, made it look unreal, like the frostwork on a window-pane,
or like the shapes of castles which one sees among the clouds by
moonlight. But, just then, a puff of wind brought down the smoke of the
kitchen chimney among them, and caused each man to smell the odor of the
dish that he liked best; and, after scenting it, they thought everything
else moonshine, and nothing real save this palace, and save the banquet
that was evidently ready to be served up in it.

So they hastened their steps towards the portal, but had not got
half-way across the wide lawn, when a pack of lions, tigers, and wolves
came bounding to meet them. The terrified mariners started back,
expecting no better fate than to be torn to pieces and devoured. To
their surprise and joy, however, these wild beasts merely capered around
them, wagging their tails, offering their heads to be stroked and
patted, and behaving just like so many well-bred house-dogs, when they
wish to express their delight at meeting their master, or their master's
friends. The biggest lion licked the feet of Eurylochus; and every other
lion, and every wolf and tiger, singled out one of his two-and-twenty
followers, whom the beast fondled as if he loved him better than a
beef-bone.

But, for all that, Eurylochus imagined that he saw something fierce and
savage in their eyes; nor would he have been surprised, at any moment,
to feel the big lion's terrible claws, or to see each of the tigers make
a deadly spring, or each wolf leap at the throat of the man whom he had
fondled. Their mildness seemed unreal, and a mere freak; but their
savage nature was as true as their teeth and claws.

Nevertheless, the men went safely across the lawn with the wild beasts
frisking about them, and doing no manner of harm; although, as they
mounted the steps of the palace, you might possibly have heard a low
growl, particularly from the wolves; as if they thought it a pity, after
all, to let the strangers pass without so much as tasting what they were
made of.

Eurylochus and his followers now passed under a lofty portal, and looked
through the open doorway into the interior of the palace. The first
thing that they saw was a spacious hall, and a fountain in the middle of
it, gushing up towards the ceiling out of a marble basin, and falling
back into it with a continual plash. The water of this fountain, as it
spouted upward, was constantly taking new shapes, not very distinctly,
but plainly enough for a nimble fancy to recognize what they were. Now
it was the shape of a man in a long robe, the fleecy whiteness of which
was made out of the fountain's spray; now it was a lion, or a tiger, or
a wolf, or an ass, or, as often as anything else, a hog, wallowing in
the marble basin as if it were his sty. It was either magic or some very
curious machinery that caused the gushing waterspout to assume all
these forms. But, before the strangers had time to look closely at this
wonderful sight, their attention was drawn off by a very sweet and
agreeable sound. A woman's voice was singing melodiously in another room
of the palace, and with her voice was mingled the noise of a loom, at
which she was probably seated, weaving a rich texture of cloth, and
intertwining the high and low sweetness of her voice into a rich tissue
of harmony.

By and by, the song came to an end; and then, all at once, there were
several feminine voices, talking airily and cheerfully, with now and
then a merry burst of laughter, such as you may always hear when three
or four young women sit at work together.

"What a sweet song that was!" exclaimed one of the voyagers.

"Too sweet, indeed," answered Eurylochus, shaking his head. "Yet it was
not so sweet as the song of the Sirens, those birdlike damsels who
wanted to tempt us on the rocks, so that our vessel might be wrecked,
and our bones left whitening along the shore."

"But just listen to the pleasant voices of those maidens, and that buzz
of the loom, as the shuttle passes to and fro," said another comrade.
"What a domestic, household, homelike sound it is! Ah, before that weary
siege of Troy, I used to hear the buzzing loom and the women's voices
under my own roof. Shall I never hear them again? nor taste those nice
little savory dishes which my dearest wife knew how to serve up?"

"Tush! we shall fare better here," said another. "But how innocently
those women are babbling together, without guessing that we overhear
them! And mark that richest voice of all, so pleasant and familiar, but
which yet seems to have the authority of a mistress among them. Let us
show ourselves at once. What harm can the lady of the palace and her
maidens do to mariners and warriors like us?"

"Remember," said Eurylochus, "that it was a young maiden who beguiled
three of our friends into the palace of the king of the Læstrygons, who
ate up one of them in the twinkling of an eye."

No warning or persuasion, however, had any effect on his companions.
They went up to a pair of folding-doors at the farther end of the hall,
and, throwing them wide open, passed into the next room. Eurylochus,
meanwhile, had stepped behind a pillar. In the short moment while the
folding-doors opened and closed again, he caught a glimpse of a very
beautiful woman rising from the loom, and coming to meet the poor
weather-beaten wanderers, with a hospitable smile, and her hand
stretched out in welcome. There were four other young women, who joined
their hands and danced merrily forward, making gestures of obeisance to
the strangers. They were only less beautiful than the lady who seemed to
be their mistress. Yet Eurylochus fancied that one of them had sea-green
hair, and that the close-fitting bodice of a second looked like the bark
of a tree, and that both the others had something odd in their aspect,
although he could not quite determine what it was, in the little while
that he had to examine them.

The folding-doors swung quickly back, and left him standing behind the
pillar, in the solitude of the outer hall. There Eurylochus waited until
he was quite weary, and listened eagerly to every sound, but without
hearing anything that could help him to guess what had become of his
friends. Footsteps, it is true, seemed to be passing and repassing in
other parts of the palace. Then there was a clatter of silver dishes, or
golden ones, which made him imagine a rich feast in a splendid
banqueting-hall. But by and by he heard a tremendous grunting and
squealing, and then a sudden scampering, like that of small, hard hoofs
over a marble floor, while the voices of the mistress and her four
handmaidens were screaming all together, in tones of anger and derision.
Eurylochus could not conceive what had happened, unless a drove of swine
had broken into the palace, attracted by the smell of the feast.
Chancing to cast his eyes at the fountain, he saw that it did not shift
its shape, as formerly, nor looked either like a long-robed man, or a
lion, a tiger, a wolf, or an ass. It looked like nothing but a hog,
which lay wallowing in the marble basin, and filled it from brim to
brim.

But we must leave the prudent Eurylochus waiting in the outer hall, and
follow his friends into the inner secrecy of the palace. As soon as the
beautiful woman saw them, she arose from the loom, as I have told you,
and came forward, smiling, and stretching out her hand. She took the
hand of the foremost among them, and bade him and the whole party
welcome.

"You have been long expected, my good friends," said she. "I and my
maidens are well acquainted with you, although you do not appear to
recognize us. Look at this piece of tapestry, and judge if your faces
must not have been familiar to us."

So the voyagers examined the web of cloth which the beautiful woman had
been weaving in her loom; and, to their vast astonishment they saw their
own figures perfectly represented in different colored threads. It was a
lifelike picture of their recent adventures, showing them in the cave of
Polyphemus, and how they had put out his one great moony eye; while in
another part of the tapestry they were untying the leathern bags, puffed
out with contrary winds; and farther on, they beheld themselves
scampering away from the gigantic king of the Læstrygons, who had caught
one of them by the leg. Lastly, there they were, sitting on the desolate
shore of this very island, hungry and downcast, and looking ruefully at
the bare bones of the stag which they devoured yesterday. This was as
far as the work had yet proceeded; but when the beautiful woman should
again sit down at her loom, she would probably make a picture of what
had since happened to the strangers, and of what was now going to
happen.

"You see," she said, "that I know all about your troubles; and you
cannot doubt that I desire to make you happy for as long a time as you
may remain with me. For this purpose, my honored guests, I have ordered
a banquet to be prepared. Fish, fowl, and flesh, roasted, and in
luscious stews, and seasoned, I trust, to all your tastes, are ready to
be served up. If your appetites tell you it is dinner-time, then come
with me to the festal saloon."

At this kind invitation, the hungry mariners were quite overjoyed; and
one of them, taking upon himself to be spokesman, assured their
hospitable hostess that any hour of the day was dinner-time with them,
whenever they could get flesh to put in the pot, and fire to boil it
with. So the beautiful woman led the way; and the four maidens (one of
them had sea-green hair, another a bodice of oak bark, a third sprinkled
a shower of water-drops from her fingers' ends, and the fourth had some
other oddity, which I have forgotten), all these followed behind, and
hurried the guests along, until they entered a magnificent saloon. It
was built in a perfect oval, and lighted from a crystal dome above.
Around the walls were ranged two-and-twenty thrones, overhung by
canopies of crimson and gold, and provided with the softest of cushions,
which were tasselled and fringed with gold cord. Each of the strangers
was invited to sit down; and there they were, two-and-twenty
storm-beaten mariners, in worn and tattered garb, sitting on
two-and-twenty canopied thrones, so rich and gorgeous that the proudest
monarch had nothing more splendid in his stateliest hall.

Then you might have seen the guests nodding, winking with one eye, and
leaning from one throne to another, to communicate their satisfaction in
hoarse whispers.

"Our good hostess has made kings of us all," said one. "Ha! do you smell
the feast? I'll engage it will be fit to set before two-and-twenty
kings."

"I hope," said another, "it will be, mainly, good substantial joints,
sirloins, spareribs, and hinder quarters, without too many kickshaws.
If I thought the good lady would not take it amiss, I should call for a
fat slice of fried bacon to begin with."

Ah, the gluttons and gormandizers! You see how it was with them. In the
loftiest seats of dignity, on royal thrones, they could think of nothing
but their greedy appetite, which was the portion of their nature that
they shared with wolves and swine; so that they resembled those vilest
of animals far more than they did kings,--if, indeed, kings were what
they ought to be.

But the beautiful woman now clapped her hands; and immediately there
entered a train of two-and-twenty serving-men, bringing dishes of the
richest food, all hot from the kitchen fire, and sending up such a steam
that it hung like a cloud below the crystal dome of the saloon. An equal
number of attendants brought great flagons of wine, of various kinds,
some of which sparkled as it was poured out, and went bubbling down the
throat; while, of other sorts, the purple liquor was so clear that you
could see the wrought figures at the bottom of the goblet. While the
servants supplied the two-and-twenty guests with food and drink, the
hostess and her four maidens went from one throne to another, exhorting
them to eat their fill, and to quaff wine abundantly, and thus to
recompense themselves, at this one banquet, for the many days when they
had gone without a dinner. But, whenever the mariners were not looking
at them (which was pretty often, as they looked chiefly into the basins
and platters), the beautiful woman and her damsels turned aside and
laughed. Even the servants, as they knelt down to present the dishes,
might be seen to grin and sneer, while the guests were helping
themselves to the offered dainties.

And, once in a while, the strangers seemed to taste something that they
did not like.

"Here is an odd kind of a spice in this dish," said one. "I can't say it
quite suits my palate. Down it goes, however."

"Send a good draught of wine down your throat," said his comrade on the
next throne. "That is the stuff to make this sort of cookery relish
well. Though I must needs say, the wine has a queer taste too. But the
more I drink of it the better I like the flavor."

Whatever little fault they might find with the dishes, they sat at
dinner a prodigiously long while; and it would really have made you
ashamed to see how they swilled down the liquor and gobbled up the food.
They sat on golden thrones, to be sure; but they behaved like pigs in a
sty; and, if they had had their wits about them, they might have guessed
that this was the opinion of their beautiful hostess and her maidens. It
brings a blush into my face to reckon up, in my own mind, what mountains
of meat and pudding, and what gallons of wine, these two-and-twenty
guzzlers and gormandizers ate and drank. They forgot all about their
homes, and their wives and children, and all about Ulysses, and
everything else, except this banquet, at which they wanted to keep
feasting forever. But at length they began to give over, from mere
incapacity to hold any more.

"That last bit of fat is too much for me," said one.

"And I have not room for another morsel," said his next neighbor,
heaving a sigh. "What a pity! My appetite is as sharp as ever."

In short, they all left off eating, and leaned back on their thrones,
with such a stupid and helpless aspect as made them ridiculous to
behold. When their hostess saw this, she laughed aloud; so did her four
damsels; so did the two-and-twenty serving men that bore the dishes, and
their two-and-twenty fellows that poured out the wine. And the louder
they all laughed, the more stupid and helpless did the two-and-twenty
gormandizers look. Then the beautiful woman took her stand in the middle
of the saloon, and stretching out a slender rod (it had been all the
while in her hand, although they never noticed it till this moment), she
turned it from one guest to another, until each had felt it pointed at
himself. Beautiful as her face was, and though there was a smile on it,
it looked just as wicked and mischievous as the ugliest serpent that
ever was seen; and fat-witted as the voyagers had made themselves, they
began to suspect that they had fallen into the power of an evil-minded
enchantress.

"Wretches," cried she, "you have abused a lady's hospitality; and in
this princely saloon your behavior has been suited to a hogpen. You are
already swine in everything but the human form, which you disgrace, and
which I myself should be ashamed to keep a moment longer, were you to
share it with me. But it will require only the slightest exercise of
magic to make the exterior conform to the hoggish disposition. Assume
your proper shapes, gormandizers, and begone to the sty!"

Uttering these last words, she waved her wand; and stamping her foot
imperiously, each of the guests was struck aghast at beholding, instead
of his comrades in human shape, one-and-twenty hogs sitting on the same
number of golden thrones. Each man (as he still supposed himself to be)
essayed to give a cry of surprise, but found that he could merely grunt,
and that, in a word, he was just such another beast as his companions.
It looked so intolerably absurd to see hogs on cushioned thrones, that
they made haste to wallow down upon all fours, like other swine. They
tried to groan and beg for mercy, but forthwith emitted the most awful
grunting and squealing that ever came out of swinish throats. They would
have wrung their hands in despair, but, attempting to do so, grew all
the more desperate for seeing themselves squatted on their hams, and
pawing the air with their fore trotters. Dear me! what pendulous ears
they had! what little red eyes, half buried in fat! and what long
snouts, instead of Grecian noses!

But brutes as they certainly were, they yet had enough of human nature
in them to be shocked at their own hideousness; and, still intending to
groan, they uttered a viler grunt and squeal than before. So harsh and
ear-piercing it was, that you would have fancied a butcher was sticking
his knife into each of their throats, or, at the very least, that
somebody was pulling every hog by his funny little twist of a tail.

"Begone to your sty!" cried the enchantress, giving them some smart
strokes with her wand; and then she turned to the serving-men, "Drive
out these swine, and throw down some acorns for them to eat."

The door of the saloon being flung open, the drove of hogs ran in all
directions save the right one, in accordance with their hoggish
perversity, but were finally driven into the back yard of the palace. It
was a sight to bring tears into one's eyes (and I hope none of you will
be cruel enough to laugh at it), to see the poor creatures go snuffing
along, picking up here a cabbage leaf and there a turnip-top, and
rooting their noses in the earth for whatever they could find. In their
sty, moreover, they behaved more piggishly than the pigs that had been
born so; for they bit and snorted at one another, put their feet in the
trough, and gobbled up their victuals in a ridiculous hurry; and, when
there was nothing more to be had, they made a great pile of themselves
among some unclean straw, and fell fast asleep. If they had any human
reason left, it was just enough to keep them wondering when they should
be slaughtered, and what quality of bacon they should make.

Meantime, as I told you before, Eurylochus had waited, and waited, and
waited, in the entrance-hall of the palace, without being able to
comprehend what had befallen his friends. At last, when the swinish
uproar resounded through the palace, and when he saw the image of a hog
in the marble basin, he thought it best to hasten back to the vessel,
and inform the wise Ulysses of these marvellous occurrences. So he ran
as fast as he could down the steps, and never stopped to draw breath
till he reached the shore.

"Why do you come alone?" asked King Ulysses, as soon as he saw him.
"Where are your two-and-twenty comrades?"

At these questions, Eurylochus burst into tears.

"Alas!" cried he, "I greatly fear that we shall never see one of their
faces again."

Then he told Ulysses all that had happened, as far as he knew it, and
added that he suspected the beautiful woman to be a vile enchantress,
and the marble palace, magnificent as it looked, to be only a dismal
cavern in reality. As for his companions, he could not imagine what had
become of them, unless they had been given to the swine to be devoured
alive. At this intelligence all the voyagers were greatly affrighted.
But Ulysses lost no time in girding on his sword, and hanging his bow
and quiver over his shoulders, and taking his spear in his right hand.
When his followers saw their wise leader making these preparations, they
inquired whither he was going, and earnestly besought him not to leave
them.

"You are our king," cried they; "and what is more, you are the wisest
man in the whole world, and nothing but your wisdom and courage can get
us out of this danger. If you desert us, and go to the enchanted palace,
you will suffer the same fate as our poor companions, and not a soul of
us will ever see our dear Ithaca again."

"As I am your king," answered Ulysses, "and wiser than any of you, it is
therefore the more my duty to see what has befallen our comrades, and
whether anything can yet be done to rescue them. Wait for me here until
to-morrow. If I do not then return, you must hoist sail, and endeavor to
find your way to our native land. For my part, I am answerable for the
fate of these poor mariners, who have stood by my side in battle, and
been so often drenched to the skin, along with me, by the same
tempestuous surges. I will either bring them back with me or perish."

Had his followers dared, they would have detained him by force. But King
Ulysses frowned sternly on them, and shook his spear, and bade them stop
him at their peril. Seeing him so determined, they let him go, and sat
down on the sand, as disconsolate a set of people as could be, waiting
and praying for his return.

It happened to Ulysses, just as before, that, when he had gone a few
steps from the edge of the cliff, the purple bird came fluttering
towards him, crying, "Peep, peep, pe--weep!" and using all the art it
could to persuade him to go no farther.

"What mean you, little bird?" cried Ulysses. "You are arrayed like a
king in purple and gold, and wear a golden crown upon your head. Is it
because I too am a king, that you desire so earnestly to speak with me?
If you can talk in human language, say what you would have me do."

"Peep!" answered the purple bird, very dolorously. "Peep, peep,
pe--we--ep!"

Certainly there lay some heavy anguish at the little bird's heart; and
it was a sorrowful predicament that he could not, at least, have the
consolation of telling what it was. But Ulysses had no time to waste in
trying to get at the mystery. He therefore quickened his pace, and had
gone a good way along the pleasant wood-path, when there met him a young
man of very brisk and intelligent aspect, and clad in a rather singular
garb. He wore a short cloak, and a sort of cap that seemed to be
furnished with a pair of wings; and from the lightness of his step, you
would have supposed that there might likewise be wings on his feet. To
enable him to walk still better (for he was always on one journey or
another), he carried a winged staff, around which two serpents were
wriggling and twisting. In short, I have said enough to make you guess
that it was Quicksilver; and Ulysses (who knew him of old, and had
learned a great deal of his wisdom from him) recognized him in a moment.

"Whither are you going in such a hurry, wise Ulysses?" asked
Quicksilver. "Do you not know that this island is enchanted? The wicked
enchantress (whose name is Circe, the sister of King Æetes) dwells in
the marble palace which you see yonder among the trees. By her magic
arts, she changes every human being into the brute, beast, or fowl whom
he happens most to resemble."

"That little bird, which met me at the edge of the cliff," exclaimed
Ulysses; "was he a human being once?"

"Yes," answered Quicksilver. "He was once a king, named Picus, and a
pretty good sort of a king too, only rather too proud of his purple
robe, and his crown, and the golden chain about his neck; so he was
forced to take the shape of a gaudy-feathered bird. The lions, and
wolves, and tigers, who will come running to meet you, in front of the
palace, were formerly fierce and cruel men, resembling in their
dispositions the wild beasts whose forms they now rightfully wear."

"And my poor companions," said Ulysses. "Have they undergone a similar
change, through the arts of this wicked Circe?"

"You well know what gormandizers they were," replied Quicksilver; and,
rogue that he was, he could not help laughing at the joke. "So you will
not be surprised to hear that they have all taken the shapes of swine!
If Circe had never done anything worse, I really should not think her so
very much to blame."

"But can I do nothing to help them?" inquired Ulysses.

"It will require all your wisdom," said Quicksilver, "and a little of my
own into the bargain, to keep your royal and sagacious self from being
transformed into a fox. But do as I bid you; and the matter may end
better than it has begun."

While he was speaking, Quicksilver seemed to be in search of something;
he went stooping along the ground, and soon laid his hand on a little
plant with a snow-white flower, which he plucked and smelt of. Ulysses
had been looking at that very spot only just before; and it appeared to
him that the plant had burst into full flower the instant when
Quicksilver touched it with his fingers.

"Take this flower, King Ulysses," said he. "Guard it as you do your
eyesight; for I can assure you it is exceedingly rare and precious, and
you might seek the whole earth over without ever finding another like
it. Keep it in your hand, and smell of it frequently after you enter the
palace, and while you are talking with the enchantress. Especially when
she offers you food, or a draught of wine out of her goblet, be careful
to fill your nostrils with the flower's fragrance. Follow these
directions, and you may defy her magic arts to change you into a fox."

Quicksilver then gave him some further advice how to behave, and,
bidding him be bold and prudent, again assured him that, powerful as
Circe was, he would have a fair prospect of coming safely out of her
enchanted palace. After listening attentively, Ulysses thanked his good
friend, and resumed his way. But he had taken only a few steps, when,
recollecting some other questions which he wished to ask, he turned
round again, and beheld nobody on the spot where Quicksilver had stood;
for that winged cap of his, and those winged shoes, with the help of the
winged staff, had carried him quickly out of sight.

When Ulysses reached the lawn, in front of the palace, the lions and
other savage animals came bounding to meet him, and would have fawned
upon him and licked his feet. But the wise king struck at them with his
long spear, and sternly bade them begone out of his path; for he knew
that they had once been bloodthirsty men, and would now tear him limb
from limb, instead of fawning upon him, could they do the mischief that
was in their hearts. The wild beasts yelped and glared at him, and stood
at a distance while he ascended the palace steps.

On entering the hall, Ulysses saw the magic fountain in the centre of
it. The up-gushing water had now again taken the shape of a man in a
long, white, fleecy robe, who appeared to be making gestures of welcome.
The king likewise heard the noise of the shuttle in the loom, and the
sweet melody of the beautiful woman's song, and then the pleasant
voices of herself and the four maidens talking together, with peals of
merry laughter intermixed. But Ulysses did not waste much time in
listening to the laughter or the song. He leaned his spear against one
of the pillars of the hall, and then, after loosening his sword in the
scabbard, stepped boldly forward, and threw the folding-doors wide open.
The moment she beheld his stately figure standing in the doorway, the
beautiful woman rose from the loom, and ran to meet him with a glad
smile throwing its sunshine over her face, and both her hands extended.

"Welcome, brave stranger!" cried she. "We were expecting you."

And the nymph with the sea-green hair made a courtesy down to the
ground, and likewise bade him welcome; so did her sister with the bodice
of oaken bark, and she that sprinkled dew-drops from her fingers' ends,
and the fourth one with some oddity which I cannot remember. And Circe,
as the beautiful enchantress was called (who had deluded so many persons
that she did not doubt of being able to delude Ulysses, not imagining
how wise he was), again addressed him.

"Your companions," said she, "have already been received into my palace,
and have enjoyed the hospitable treatment to which the propriety of
their behavior so well entitles them. If such be your pleasure, you
shall first take some refreshment, and then join them in the elegant
apartment which they now occupy. See, I and my maidens have been weaving
their figures into this piece of tapestry."

She pointed to the web of beautifully woven cloth in the loom. Circe and
the four nymphs must have been very diligently at work since the arrival
of the mariners: for a great many yards of tapestry had now been
wrought, in addition to what I before described. In this new part,
Ulysses saw his two-and-twenty friends represented as sitting on
cushioned and canopied thrones, greedily devouring dainties and
quaffing deep draughts of wine. The work had not yet gone any further.
Oh no, indeed. The enchantress was far too cunning to let Ulysses see
the mischief which her magic arts had since brought upon the
gormandizers.

"As for yourself, valiant sir," said Circe, "judging by the dignity of
your aspect, I take you to be nothing less than a king. Deign to follow
me, and you shall be treated as befits your rank."

So Ulysses followed her into the oval saloon, where his two-and-twenty
comrades had devoured the banquet, which ended so disastrously for
themselves. But, all this while, he had held the snow-white flower in
his hand, and had constantly smelt of it while Circe was speaking; and
as he crossed the threshold of the saloon, he took good care to inhale
several long and deep snuffs of its fragrance. Instead of two-and-twenty
thrones, which had before been ranged around the wall, there was now
only a single throne, in the centre of the apartment. But this was
surely the most magnificent seat that ever a king or an emperor reposed
himself upon, all made of chased gold, studded with precious stones,
with a cushion that looked like a soft heap of living roses, and
overhung by a canopy of sunlight which Circe knew how to weave into
drapery. The enchantress took Ulysses by the hand, and made him sit down
upon this dazzling throne. Then, clapping her hands, she summoned the
chief butler.

"Bring hither," said she, "the goblet that is set apart for kings to
drink out of. And fill it with the same delicious wine which my royal
brother, King Æetes, praised so highly, when he last visited me with my
fair daughter Medea. That good and amiable child! Were she now here, it
would delight her to see me offering this wine to my honored guest."

But Ulysses, while the butler was gone for the wine, held the snow-white
flower to his nose.

"Is it a wholesome wine?" he asked.

At this the four maidens tittered; whereupon the enchantress looked
round at them, with an aspect of severity.

"It is the wholesomest juice that ever was squeezed out of the grape,"
said she; "for, instead of disguising a man, as other liquor is apt to
do, it brings him to his true self, and shows him as he ought to be."

The chief butler liked nothing better than to see people turned into
swine, or making any kind of a beast of themselves; so he made haste to
bring the royal goblet, filled with a liquid as bright as gold, and
which kept sparkling upward, and throwing a sunny spray over the brim.
But, delightfully as the wine looked, it was mingled with the most
potent enchantments that Circe knew how to concoct. For every drop of
the pure grape-juice there were two drops of the pure mischief; and the
danger of the thing was, that the mischief made it taste all the better.
The mere smell of the bubbles, which effervesced at the brim, was enough
to turn a man's beard into pig's bristles, or make a lion's claws grow
out of his fingers, or a fox's brush behind him.

"Drink, my noble guest," said Circe, smiling as she presented him with
the goblet. "You will find in this draught a solace for all your
troubles."

King Ulysses took the goblet with his right hand, while with his left he
held the snow-white flower to his nostrils, and drew in so long a breath
that his lungs were quite filled with its pure and simple fragrance.
Then, drinking off all the wine, he looked the enchantress calmly in the
face.

"Wretch," cried Circe, giving him a smart stroke with her wand, "how
dare you keep your human shape a moment longer? Take the form of the
brute whom you most resemble. If a hog, go join your fellow-swine in the
sty; if a lion, a wolf, a tiger, go howl with the wild beasts on the
lawn; if a fox, go exercise your craft in stealing poultry. Thou hast
quaffed off my wine, and canst be man no longer."

But, such was the virtue of the snow-white flower, instead of wallowing
down from his throne in swinish shape, or taking any other brutal form,
Ulysses looked even more manly and king-like than before. He gave the
magic goblet a toss, and sent it clashing over the marble floor, to the
farthest end of the saloon. Then, drawing his sword, he seized the
enchantress by her beautiful ringlets, and made a gesture as if he meant
to strike off her head at one blow.

"Wicked Circe," cried he, in a terrible voice, "this sword shall put an
end to thy enchantments. Thou shalt die, vile wretch, and do no more
mischief in the world, by tempting human beings into the vices which
make beasts of them."

The tone and countenance of Ulysses were so awful, and his sword gleamed
so brightly, and seemed to have so intolerably keen an edge, that Circe
was almost killed by the mere fright, without waiting for a blow. The
chief butler scrambled out of the saloon, picking up the golden goblet
as he went; and the enchantress and the four maidens fell on their
knees, wringing their hands, and screaming for mercy.

"Spare me!" cried Circe,--"spare me, royal and wise Ulysses. For now I
know that thou art he of whom Quicksilver forewarned me, the most
prudent of mortals, against whom no enchantments can prevail. Thou only
couldst have conquered Circe. Spare me, wisest of men. I will show thee
true hospitality, and even give myself to be thy slave, and this
magnificent palace to be henceforth thy home."

The four nymphs, meanwhile, were making a most piteous ado; and
especially the ocean-nymph, with the sea-green hair, wept a great deal
of salt water, and the fountain-nymph, besides scattering dew-drops from
her fingers' ends, nearly melted away into tears. But Ulysses would not
be pacified until Circe had taken a solemn oath to change back his
companions, and as many others as he should direct, from their present
forms of beast or bird into their former shapes of men.

"On these conditions," said he, "I consent to spare your life. Otherwise
you must die upon the spot."

With a drawn sword hanging over her, the enchantress would readily have
consented to do as much good as she had hitherto done mischief, however
little she might like such employment. She therefore led Ulysses out of
the back entrance of the palace, and showed him the swine in their sty.
There were about fifty of these unclean beasts in the whole herd; and
though the greater part were hogs by birth and education, there was
wonderfully little difference to be seen betwixt them and their new
brethren who had so recently worn the human shape. To speak critically,
indeed, the latter rather carried the thing to excess, and seemed to
make it a point to wallow in the miriest part of the sty, and otherwise
to outdo the original swine in their own natural vocation. When men once
turn to brutes, the trifle of man's wit that remains in them adds
tenfold to their brutality.

The comrades of Ulysses, however, had not quite lost the remembrance of
having formerly stood erect. When he approached the sty, two-and-twenty
enormous swine separated themselves from the herd, and scampered towards
him, with such a chorus of horrible squealing as made him clap both
hands to his ears. And yet they did not seem to know what they wanted,
nor whether they were merely hungry, or miserable from some other cause.
It was curious, in the midst of their distress, to observe them
thrusting their noses into the mire, in quest of something to eat. The
nymph with the bodice of oaken bark (she was the hamadryad of an oak)
threw a handful of acorns among them; and the two-and-twenty hogs
scrambled and fought for the prize, as if they had tasted not so much as
a noggin of sour milk for a twelvemonth.

"These must certainly be my comrades," said Ulysses. "I recognize their
dispositions. They are hardly worth the trouble of changing them into
the human form again. Nevertheless, we will have it done, lest their bad
example should corrupt the other hogs. Let them take their original
shapes, therefore, Dame Circe, if your skill is equal to the task. It
will require greater magic, I trow, than it did to make swine of them."

So Circe waved her wand again, and repeated a few magic words, at the
sound of which the two-and-twenty hogs pricked up their pendulous ears.
It was a wonder to behold how their snouts grew shorter and shorter, and
their mouths (which they seemed to be sorry for, because they could not
gobble so expeditiously) smaller and smaller, and how one and another
began to stand upon his hind legs, and scratch his nose with his fore
trotters. At first the spectators hardly knew whether to call them hogs
or men, but by and by came to the conclusion that they rather resembled
the latter. Finally, there stood the twenty-two comrades of Ulysses,
looking pretty much the same as when they left the vessel.

You must not imagine, however, that the swinish quality had entirely
gone out of them. When once it fastens itself into a person's character,
it is very difficult getting rid of it. This was proved by the
hamadryad, who, being exceedingly fond of mischief, threw another
handful of acorns before the twenty-two newly restored people; whereupon
down they wallowed, in a moment, and gobbled them up in a very shameful
way. Then, recollecting themselves, they scrambled to their feet, and
looked more than commonly foolish.

"Thanks, noble Ulysses!" they cried. "From brute beasts you have
restored us to the condition of men again."

"Do not put yourselves to the trouble of thanking me," said the wise
king. "I fear I have done but little for you."

To say the truth, there was a suspicious kind of a grunt in their
voices, and for a long time afterwards they spoke gruffly, and were apt
to set up a squeal.

"It must depend on your own future behavior," added Ulysses, "whether
you do not find your way back to the sty."

At this moment, the note of a bird sounded from the branch of a
neighboring tree.

"Peep, peep, pe--wee--ep!"

It was the purple bird, who, all this while, had been sitting over their
heads, watching what was going forward, and hoping that Ulysses would
remember how he had done his utmost to keep him and his followers out of
harm's way. Ulysses ordered Circe instantly to make a king of this good
little fowl, and leave him exactly as she found him. Hardly were the
words spoken, and before the bird had time to utter another "Pe--weep,"
King Picus leaped down from the bough of the tree, as majestic a
sovereign as any in the world, dressed in a long purple robe and
gorgeous yellow stockings, with a splendidly wrought collar about his
neck, and a golden crown upon his head. He and King Ulysses exchanged
with one another the courtesies which belong to their elevated rank. But
from that time forth, King Picus was no longer proud of his crown and
his trappings of royalty, nor of the fact of his being a king; he felt
himself merely the upper servant of his people, and that it must be his
lifelong labor to make them better and happier.

As for the lions, tigers, and wolves (though Circe would have restored
them to their former shapes at his slightest word), Ulysses thought it
advisable that they should remain as they now were, and thus give
warning of their cruel dispositions, instead of going about under the
guise of men, and pretending to human sympathies, while their hearts had
the blood-thirstiness of wild beasts. So he let them howl as much as
they liked, but never troubled his head about them. And, when everything
was settled according to his pleasure, he sent to summon the remainder
of his comrades, whom he had left at the sea-shore. These being
arrived, with the prudent Eurylochus at their head, they all made
themselves comfortable in Circe's enchanted palace, until quite rested
and refreshed from the toils and hardships of their voyage.



The Pomegranate Seeds


Mother Ceres was exceedingly fond of her daughter Proserpina, and seldom
let her go alone into the fields. But, just at the time when my story
begins, the good lady was very busy, because she had the care of the
wheat, and the Indian corn, and the rye and barley, and, in short, of
the crops of every kind, all over the earth; and as the season had thus
far been uncommonly backward, it was necessary to make the harvest ripen
more speedily than usual. So she put on her turban, made of poppies (a
kind of flower which she was always noted for wearing), and got into her
car drawn by a pair of winged dragons, and was just ready to set off.

"Dear mother," said Proserpina, "I shall be very lonely while you are
away. May I not run down to the shore, and ask some of the sea-nymphs to
come up out of the waves and play with me?"

"Yes, child," answered Mother Ceres. "The sea-nymphs are good creatures,
and will never lead you into any harm. But you must take care not to
stray away from them, nor go wandering about the fields by yourself.
Young girls, without their mothers to take care of them, are very apt to
get into mischief."

The child promised to be as prudent as if she were a grown-up woman,
and, by the time the winged dragons had whirled the car out of sight,
she was already on the shore, calling to the sea-nymphs to come and play
with her. They knew Proserpina's voice, and were not long in showing
their glistening faces and sea-green hair above the water, at the bottom
of which was their home. They brought along with them a great many
beautiful shells; and, sitting down on the moist sand, where the surf
wave broke over them, they busied themselves in making a necklace, which
they hung round Proserpina's neck. By way of showing her gratitude, the
child besought them to go with her a little way into the fields, so that
they might gather abundance of flowers, with which she would make each
of her kind playmates a wreath.

[Illustration: PROSERPINA

(From the original in the collection of Mrs. William B. Dinsmore
Staatsburg, New York)]

"Oh no, dear Proserpina," cried the sea-nymphs; "we dare not go with you
upon the dry land. We are apt to grow faint, unless at every breath we
can snuff up the salt breeze of the ocean. And don't you see how careful
we are to let the surf wave break over us every moment or two, so as to
keep ourselves comfortably moist? If it were not for that, we should
soon look like bunches of uprooted sea-weed dried in the sun."

"It is a great pity," said Proserpina. "But do you wait for me here, and
I will run and gather my apron full of flowers, and be back again before
the surf wave has broken ten times over you. I long to make you some
wreaths that shall be as lovely as this necklace of many-colored
shells."

"We will wait, then," answered the sea-nymphs. "But while you are gone,
we may as well lie down on a bank of soft sponge, under the water. The
air to-day is a little too dry for our comfort. But we will pop up our
heads every few minutes to see if you are coming."

The young Proserpina ran quickly to a spot where, only the day before,
she had seen a great many flowers. These, however, were now a little
past their bloom; and wishing to give her friends the freshest and
loveliest blossoms, she strayed farther into the fields, and found some
that made her scream with delight. Never had she met with such exquisite
flowers before,--violets, so large and fragrant,--roses, with so rich
and delicate a blush,--such superb hyacinths and such aromatic
pinks,--and many others, some of which seemed to be of new shapes and
colors. Two or three times, moreover, she could not help thinking that
a tuft of most splendid flowers had suddenly sprouted out of the earth
before her very eyes, as if on purpose to tempt her a few steps farther.
Proserpina's apron was soon filled and brimming over with delightful
blossoms. She was on the point of turning back in order to rejoin the
sea-nymphs, and sit with them on the moist sands, all twining wreaths
together. But, a little farther on, what should she behold? It was a
large shrub, completely covered with the most magnificent flowers in the
world.

"The darlings!" cried Proserpina; and then she thought to herself, "I
was looking at that spot only a moment ago. How strange it is that I did
not see the flowers!"

The nearer she approached the shrub, the more attractive it looked,
until she came quite close to it; and then, although its beauty was
richer than words can tell, she hardly knew whether to like it or not.
It bore above a hundred flowers of the most brilliant hues, and each
different from the others, but all having a kind of resemblance among
themselves, which showed them to be sister blossoms. But there was a
deep, glossy lustre on the leaves of the shrub, and on the petals of the
flowers, that made Proserpina doubt whether they might not be poisonous.
To tell you the truth, foolish as it may seem, she was half inclined to
turn round and run away.

"What a silly child I am!" thought she, taking courage. "It is really
the most beautiful shrub that ever sprang out of the earth. I will pull
it up by the roots, and carry it home, and plant it in my mother's
garden."

Holding up her apron full of flowers with her left hand, Proserpina
seized the large shrub with the other, and pulled and pulled, but was
hardly able to loosen the soil about its roots. What a deep-rooted plant
it was! Again the girl pulled with all her might, and observed that the
earth began to stir and crack to some distance around the stem. She gave
another pull, but relaxed her hold, fancying that there was a rumbling
sound right beneath her feet. Did the roots extend down into some
enchanted cavern? Then, laughing at herself for so childish a notion,
she made another effort; up came the shrub, and Proserpina staggered
back, holding the stem triumphantly in her hand, and gazing at the deep
hole which its roots had left in the soil.

Much to her astonishment, this hole kept spreading wider and wider, and
growing deeper and deeper, until it really seemed to have no bottom; and
all the while, there came a rumbling noise out of its depths, louder and
louder, and nearer and nearer, and sounding like the tramp of horses'
hoofs and the rattling of wheels. Too much frightened to run away, she
stood straining her eyes into this wonderful cavity, and soon saw a team
of four sable horses, snorting smoke out of their nostrils, and tearing
their way out of the earth with a splendid golden chariot whirling at
their heels. They leaped out of the bottomless hole, chariot and all;
and there they were, tossing their black manes, flourishing their black
tails, and curvetting with every one of their hoofs off the ground at
once, close by the spot where Proserpina stood. In the chariot sat the
figure of a man, richly dressed, with a crown on his head, all flaming
with diamonds. He was of a noble aspect, and rather handsome, but looked
sullen and discontented; and he kept rubbing his eyes and shading them
with his hand, as if he did not live enough in the sunshine to be very
fond of its light.

As soon as this personage saw the affrighted Proserpina, he beckoned her
to come a little nearer.

"Do not be afraid," said he, with as cheerful a smile as he knew how to
put on. "Come! Will not you like to ride a little way with me, in my
beautiful chariot?"

But Proserpina was so alarmed, that she wished for nothing but to get
out of his reach. And no wonder. The stranger did not look remarkably
good-natured, in spite of his smile; and as for his voice, its tones
were deep and stern, and sounded as much like the rumbling of an
earthquake under ground as anything else. As is always the case with
children in trouble, Proserpina's first thought was to call for her
mother.

"Mother, Mother Ceres!" cried she, all in a tremble. "Come quickly and
save me."

But her voice was too faint for her mother to hear. Indeed, it is most
probable that Ceres was then a thousand miles off, making the corn grow
in some far-distant country. Nor could it have availed her poor
daughter, even had she been within hearing; for no sooner did Proserpina
begin to cry out, than the stranger leaped to the ground, caught the
child in his arms, and again mounting the chariot, shook the reins, and
shouted to the four black horses to set off. They immediately broke into
so swift a gallop that it seemed rather like flying through the air than
running along the earth. In a moment, Proserpina lost sight of the
pleasant vale of Enna, in which she had always dwelt. Another instant,
and even the summit of Mount Ætna had become so blue in the distance,
that she could scarcely distinguish it from the smoke that gushed out of
its crater. But still the poor child screamed, and scattered her apron
full of flowers along the way, and left a long cry trailing behind the
chariot; and many mothers, to whose ears it came, ran quickly to see if
any mischief had befallen their children. But Mother Ceres was a great
way off, and could not hear the cry.

As they rode on, the stranger did his best to soothe her.

"Why should you be so frightened, my pretty child?" said he, trying to
soften his rough voice. "I promise not to do you any harm. What! You
have been gathering flowers? Wait till we come to my palace, and I will
give you a garden full of prettier flowers than those, all made of
pearls, and diamonds, and rubies. Can you guess who I am? They call my
name Pluto, and I am the king of diamonds and all other precious stones.
Every atom of the gold and silver that lies under the earth belongs to
me, to say nothing of the copper and iron, and of the coal-mines, which
supply me with abundance of fuel. Do you see this splendid crown upon my
head? You may have it for a plaything. Oh, we shall be very good
friends, and you will find me more agreeable than you expect, when once
we get out of this troublesome sunshine."

"Let me go home!" cried Proserpina,--"let me go home!"

"My home is better than your mother's," answered King Pluto. "It is a
palace, all made of gold, with crystal windows; and because there is
little or no sunshine thereabouts, the apartments are illuminated with
diamond lamps. You never saw anything half so magnificent as my throne.
If you like, you may sit down on it, and be my little queen, and I will
sit on the footstool."

"I don't care for golden palaces and thrones," sobbed Proserpina. "Oh,
my mother, my mother! Carry me back to my mother!"

But King Pluto, as he called himself, only shouted to his steeds to go
faster.

"Pray do not be foolish, Proserpina," said he, in rather a sullen tone.
"I offer you my palace and my crown, and all the riches that are under
the earth; and you treat me as if I were doing you an injury. The one
thing which my palace needs is a merry little maid, to run up stairs and
down, and cheer up the rooms with her smile. And this is what you must
do for King Pluto."

"Never!" answered Proserpina, looking as miserable as she could. "I
shall never smile again till you set me down at my mother's door."

But she might just as well have talked to the wind that whistled past
them; for Pluto urged on his horses, and went faster than ever.
Proserpina continued to cry out, and screamed so long and so loudly,
that her poor little voice was almost screamed away; and when it was
nothing but a whisper, she happened to cast her eyes over a great,
broad field of waving grain--and whom do you think she saw? Who, but
Mother Ceres, making the corn grow, and too busy to notice the golden
chariot as it went rattling along. The child mustered all her strength,
and gave one more scream, but was out of sight before Ceres had time to
turn her head.

King Pluto had taken a road which now began to grow excessively gloomy.
It was bordered on each side with rocks and precipices, between which
the rumbling of the chariot-wheels was reverberated with a noise like
rolling thunder. The trees and bushes that grew in the crevices of the
rocks had very dismal foliage; and by and by, although it was hardly
noon, the air became obscured with a gray twilight. The black horses had
rushed along so swiftly, that they were already beyond the limits of the
sunshine. But the duskier it grew, the more did Pluto's visage assume an
air of satisfaction. After all, he was not an ill-looking person,
especially when he left off twisting his features into a smile that did
not belong to them. Proserpina peeped at his face through the gathering
dusk, and hoped that he might not be so very wicked as she at first
thought him.

"Ah, this twilight is truly refreshing," said King Pluto, "after being
so tormented with that ugly and impertinent glare of the sun. How much
more agreeable is lamplight or torchlight, more particularly when
reflected from diamonds! It will be a magnificent sight when we get to
my palace."

"Is it much farther?" asked Proserpina. "And will you carry me back when
I have seen it?"

"We will talk of that by and by," answered Pluto. "We are just entering
my dominions. Do you see that tall gateway before us? When we pass those
gates, we are at home. And there lies my faithful mastiff at the
threshold. Cerberus! Cerberus! Come hither, my good dog!"

So saying, Pluto pulled at the reins, and stopped the charriot right
between the tall, massive pillars of the gateway. The mastiff of which
he had spoken got up from the threshold, and stood on his hinder legs,
so as to put his fore paws on the chariot-wheel. But, my stars, what a
strange dog it was! Why, he was a big, rough, ugly-looking monster, with
three separate heads, and each of them fiercer than the two others; but,
fierce as they were, King Pluto patted them all. He seemed as fond of
his three-headed dog as if it had been a sweet little spaniel, with
silken ears and curly hair. Cerberus, on the other hand, was evidently
rejoiced to see his master, and expressed his attachment, as other dogs
do, by wagging his tail at a great rate. Proserpina's eyes being drawn
to it by its brisk motion, she saw that this tail was neither more nor
less than a live dragon, with fiery eyes, and fangs that had a very
poisonous aspect. And while the three-headed Cerberus was fawning so
lovingly on King Pluto, there was the dragon tail wagging against its
will, and looking as cross and ill-natured as you can imagine, on its
own separate account.

"Will the dog bite me?" asked Proserpina, shrinking closer to Pluto.
"What an ugly creature he is!"

"Oh, never fear," answered her companion. "He never harms people, unless
they try to enter my dominions without being sent for, or to get away
when I wish to keep them here. Down, Cerberus! Now, my pretty
Proserpina, we will drive on."

On went the chariot, and King Pluto seemed greatly pleased to find
himself once more in his own kingdom. He drew Proserpina's attention to
the rich veins of gold that were to be seen among the rocks, and pointed
to several places where one stroke of a pickaxe would loosen a bushel of
diamonds. All along the road, indeed, there were sparkling gems, which
would have been of inestimable value above ground, but which were here
reckoned of the meaner sort, and hardly worth a beggar's stooping for.

Not far from the gateway, they came to a bridge, which seemed to be
built of iron. Pluto stopped the chariot, and bade Proserpina look at
the stream which was gliding so lazily beneath it. Never in her life had
she beheld so torpid, so black, so muddy-looking a stream: its waters
reflected no images of anything that was on the banks, and it moved as
sluggishly as if it had quite forgotten which way it ought to flow, and
had rather stagnate than flow either one way or the other.

"This is the river Lethe," observed King Pluto. "Is it not a very
pleasant stream?"

"I think it is a very dismal one," said Proserpina.

"It suits my taste, however," answered Pluto, who was apt to be sullen
when anybody disagreed with him. "At all events, its water has one very
excellent quality; for a single draught of it makes people forget every
care and sorrow that has hitherto tormented them. Only sip a little of
it, my dear Proserpina, and you will instantly cease to grieve for your
mother, and will have nothing in your memory that can prevent your being
perfectly happy in my palace. I will send for some, in a golden goblet,
the moment we arrive."

"Oh no, no, no!" cried Proserpina, weeping afresh. "I had a thousand
times rather be miserable with remembering my mother, than be happy in
forgetting her. That dear, dear mother! I never, never will forget her."

"We shall see," said King Pluto. "You do not know what fine times we
will have in my palace. Here we are just at the portal. These pillars
are solid gold, I assure you."

He alighted from the chariot, and taking Proserpina in his arms, carried
her up a lofty flight of steps into the great hall of the palace. It was
splendidly illuminated by means of large precious stones, of various
hues, which seemed to burn like so many lamps, and glowed with a
hundred-fold radiance all through the vast apartment. And yet there was
a kind of gloom in the midst of this enchanted light; nor was there a
single object in the hall that was really agreeable to behold, except
the little Proserpina herself, a lovely child, with one earthly flower
which she had not let fall from her hand. It is my opinion that even
King Pluto had never been happy in his palace, and that this was the
true reason why he had stolen away Proserpina, in order that he might
have something to love, instead of cheating his heart any longer with
this tiresome magnificence. And, though he pretended to dislike the
sunshine of the upper world, yet the effect of the child's presence,
bedimmed as she was by her tears, was as if a faint and watery sunbeam
had somehow or other found its way into the enchanted hall.

Pluto now summoned his domestics, and bade them lose no time in
preparing a most sumptuous banquet, and above all things, not to fail of
setting a golden beaker of the water of Lethe by Proserpina's plate.

"I will neither drink that nor anything else," said Proserpina. "Nor
will I taste a morsel of food, even if you keep me forever in your
palace."

"I should be sorry for that," replied King Pluto, patting her cheek; for
he really wished to be kind, if he had only known how. "You are a
spoiled child, I perceive, my little Proserpina; but when you see the
nice things which my cook will make for you, your appetite will quickly
come again."

Then, sending for the head cook, he gave strict orders that all sorts of
delicacies, such as young people are usually fond of, should be set
before Proserpina. He had a secret motive in this; for, you are to
understand, it is a fixed law, that, when persons are carried off to the
land of magic, if they once taste any food there, they can never get
back to their friends. Now, if King Pluto had been cunning enough to
offer Proserpina some fruit, or bread and milk (which was the simple
fare to which the child had always been accustomed), it is very probable
that she would soon have been tempted to eat it. But he left the matter
entirely to his cook, who, like all other cooks, considered nothing fit
to eat unless it were rich pastry, or highly seasoned meat, or spiced
sweet cakes,--things which Proserpina's mother had never given her, and
the smell of which quite took away her appetite, instead of sharpening
it.

But my story must now clamber out of King Pluto's dominions, and see
what Mother Ceres has been about, since she was bereft of her daughter.
We had a glimpse of her, as you remember, half hidden among the waving
grain, while the four black steeds were swiftly whirling along the
chariot in which her beloved Proserpina was so unwillingly borne away.
You recollect, too, the loud scream which Proserpina gave, just when the
chariot was out of sight.

Of all the child's outcries, this last shriek was the only one that
reached the ears of Mother Ceres. She had mistaken the rumbling of the
chariot-wheels for a peal of thunder, and imagined that a shower was
coming up, and that it would assist her in making the corn grow. But, at
the sound of Proserpina's shriek, she started, and looked about in every
direction, not knowing whence it came, but feeling almost certain that
it was her daughter's voice. It seemed so unaccountable, however, that
the girl should have strayed over so many lands and seas (which she
herself could not have traversed without the aid of her winged dragons),
that the good Ceres tried to believe that it must be the child of some
other parent, and not her own darling Proserpina, who had uttered this
lamentable cry. Nevertheless, it troubled her with a vast many tender
fears, such as are ready to bestir themselves in every mother's heart,
when she finds it necessary to go away from her dear children without
leaving them under the care of some maiden aunt, or other such faithful
guardian. So she quickly left the field in which she had been so busy;
and, as her work was not half done, the grain looked, next day, as if it
needed both sun and rain, and as if it were blighted in the ear, and
had something the matter with its roots.

The pair of dragons must have had very nimble wings; for, in less than
an hour, Mother Ceres had alighted at the door of her home, and found it
empty. Knowing, however, that the child was fond of sporting on the
sea-shore, she hastened thither as fast as she could, and there beheld
the wet faces of the poor sea-nymphs peeping over a wave. All this
while, the good creatures had been waiting on the bank of sponge, and,
once every half-minute or so, had popped up their four heads above
water, to see if their playmate were yet coming back. When they saw
Mother Ceres, they sat down on the crest of the surf wave, and let it
toss them ashore at her feet.

"Where is Proserpina?" cried Ceres. "Where is my child? Tell me, you
naughty sea-nymphs, have you enticed her under the sea?"

"Oh no, good Mother Ceres," said the innocent sea-nymphs, tossing back
their green ringlets, and looking her in the face. "We never should
dream of such a thing. Proserpina has been at play with us, it is true;
but she left us a long while ago, meaning only to run a little way upon
the dry land, and gather some flowers for a wreath. This was early in
the day, and we have seen nothing of her since."

Ceres scarcely waited to hear what the nymphs had to say, before she
hurried off to make inquiries all through the neighborhood. But nobody
told her anything that could enable the poor mother to guess what had
become of Proserpina. A fisherman, it is true, had noticed her little
footprints in the sand, as he went homeward along the beach with a
basket of fish; a rustic had seen the child stooping to gather flowers;
several persons had heard either the rattling of chariot-wheels, or the
rumbling of distant thunder; and one old woman, while plucking vervain
and catnip, had heard a scream, but supposed it to be some childish
nonsense, and therefore did not take the trouble to look up. The stupid
people! It took them such a tedious while to tell the nothing that they
knew, that it was dark night before Mother Ceres found out that she must
seek her daughter elsewhere. So she lighted a torch, and set forth
resolving never to come back until Proserpina was discovered.

In her haste and trouble of mind, she quite forgot her car and the
winged dragons; or, it may be, she thought that she could follow up the
search more thoroughly on foot. At all events, this was the way in which
she began her sorrowful journey, holding her torch before her, and
looking carefully at every object along the path. And as it happened,
she had not gone far before she found one of the magnificent flowers
which grew on the shrub that Proserpina had pulled up.

"Ha!" thought Mother Ceres, examining it by torchlight. "Here is
mischief in this flower! The earth did not produce it by any help of
mine, nor of its own accord. It is the work of enchantment, and is
therefore poisonous; and perhaps it has poisoned my poor child."

But she put the poisonous flower in her bosom, not knowing whether she
might ever find any other memorial of Proserpina.

All night long, at the door of every cottage and farm-house, Ceres
knocked, and called up the weary laborers to inquire if they had seen
her child; and they stood, gaping and half asleep, at the threshold, and
answered her pityingly, and besought her to come in and rest. At the
portal of every palace, too, she made so loud a summons that the menials
hurried to throw open the gate, thinking that it must be some great king
or queen, who would demand a banquet for supper and a stately chamber to
repose in. And when they saw only a sad and anxious woman, with a torch
in her hand and a wreath of withered poppies on her head, they spoke
rudely, and sometimes threatened to set the dogs upon her. But nobody
had seen Proserpina, nor could give Mother Ceres the least hint which
way to seek her. Thus passed the night; and still she continued her
search without sitting down to rest, or stopping to take food, or even
remembering to put out the torch; although first the rosy dawn, and then
the glad light of the morning sun, made its red flame look thin and
pale. But I wonder what sort of stuff this torch was made of; for it
burned dimly through the day, and, at night, was as bright as ever, and
never was extinguished by the rain or wind, in all the weary days and
nights while Ceres was seeking for Proserpina.

It was not merely of human beings that she asked tidings of her
daughter. In the woods and by the streams, she met creatures of another
nature, who used, in those old times, to haunt the pleasant and solitary
places, and were very sociable with persons who understood their
language and customs, as Mother Ceres did. Sometimes, for instance, she
tapped with her finger against the knotted trunk of a majestic oak; and
immediately its rude bark would cleave asunder, and forth would step a
beautiful maiden, who was the hamadryad of the oak, dwelling inside of
it, and sharing its long life, and rejoicing when its green leaves
sported with the breeze. But not one of these leafy damsels had seen
Proserpina. Then, going a little farther, Ceres would, perhaps, come to
a fountain, gushing out of a pebbly hollow in the earth, and would
dabble with her hand in the water. Behold, up through its sandy and
pebbly bed, along with the fountain's gush, a young woman with dripping
hair would arise, and stand gazing at Mother Ceres, half out of the
water, and undulating up and down with its ever-restless motion. But
when the mother asked whether her poor lost child had stopped to drink
out of the fountain, the naiad, with weeping eyes (for these
water-nymphs had tears to spare for everybody's grief), would answer,
"No!" in a murmuring voice, which was just like the murmur of the
stream.

Often, likewise, she encountered fauns, who looked like sunburnt country
people, except that they had hairy ears, and little horns upon their
foreheads, and the hinder legs of goats, on which they gambolled merrily
about the woods and fields. They were a frolicsome kind of creature, but
grew as sad as their cheerful dispositions would allow when Ceres
inquired for her daughter, and they had no good news to tell. But
sometimes she came suddenly upon a rude gang of satyrs, who had faces
like monkeys and horses' tails behind them, and who were generally
dancing in a very boisterous manner, with shouts of noisy laughter. When
she stopped to question them, they would only laugh the louder, and make
new merriment out of the lone woman's distress. How unkind of those ugly
satyrs! And once, while crossing a solitary sheep-pasture, she saw a
personage named Pan, seated at the foot of a tall rock, and making music
on a shepherd's flute. He, too, had horns, and hairy ears, and goat's
feet; but, being acquainted with Mother Ceres, he answered her question
as civilly as he knew how, and invited her to taste some milk and honey
out of a wooden bowl. But neither could Pan tell her what had become of
Proserpina, any better than the rest of these wild people.

And thus Mother Ceres went wandering about for nine long days and
nights, finding no trace of Proserpina, unless it were now and then a
withered flower; and these she picked up and put in her bosom, because
she fancied that they might have fallen from her poor child's hand. All
day she travelled onward through the hot sun; and at night, again, the
flame of the torch would redden and gleam along the pathway, and she
continued her search by its light, without ever sitting down to rest.

On the tenth day, she chanced to espy the mouth of a cavern, within
which (though it was bright noon everywhere else) there would have been
only a dusky twilight; but it so happened that a torch was burning
there. It flickered, and struggled with the duskiness, but could not
half light up the gloomy cavern with all its melancholy glimmer. Ceres
was resolved to leave no spot without a search; so she peeped into the
entrance of the cave, and lighted it up a little more, by holding her
own torch before her. In so doing, she caught a glimpse of what seemed
to be a woman, sitting on the brown leaves of the last autumn, a great
heap of which had been swept into the cave by the wind. This woman (if
woman it were) was by no means so beautiful as many of her sex; for her
head, they tell me, was shaped very much like a dog's, and, by way of
ornament, she wore a wreath of snakes around it. But Mother Ceres, the
moment she saw her, knew that this was an odd kind of a person, who put
all her enjoyment in being miserable, and never would have a word to say
to other people, unless they were as melancholy and wretched as she
herself delighted to be.

"I am wretched enough now," thought poor Ceres, "to talk with this
melancholy Hecate, were she ten times sadder than ever she was yet."

So she stepped into the cave, and sat down on the withered leaves by the
dog-headed woman's side. In all the world, since her daughter's loss,
she had found no other companion.

"O Hecate," said she, "if ever you lose a daughter, you will know what
sorrow is. Tell me, for pity's sake, have you seen my poor child
Proserpina pass by the mouth of your cavern?"

"No," answered Hecate, in a cracked voice, and sighing betwixt every
word or two,--"no, Mother Ceres, I have seen nothing of your daughter.
But my ears, you must know, are made in such a way that all cries of
distress and affright, all over the world, are pretty sure to find their
way to them; and nine days ago, as I sat in my cave, making myself very
miserable, I heard the voice of a young girl, shrieking as if in great
distress. Something terrible has happened to the child, you may rest
assured. As well as I could judge, a dragon, or some other cruel
monster, was carrying her away."

"You kill me by saying so," cried Ceres, almost ready to faint. "Where
was the sound, and which way did it seem to go?"

"It passed very swiftly along," said Hecate, "and, at the same time,
there was a heavy rumbling of wheels towards the eastward. I can tell
you nothing more, except that, in my honest opinion, you will never see
your daughter again. The best advice I can give you is, to take up your
abode in this cavern, where we will be the two most wretched women in
the world."

"Not yet, dark Hecate," replied Ceres. "But do you first come with your
torch, and help me to seek for my lost child. And when there shall be no
more hope of finding her (if that black day is ordained to come) then,
if you will give me room to fling myself down, either on these withered
leaves or on the naked rock, I will show you what it is to be miserable.
But, until I know that she has perished from the face of the earth, I
will not allow myself space even to grieve."

The dismal Hecate did not much like the idea of going abroad into the
sunny world. But then she reflected that the sorrow of the disconsolate
Ceres would be like a gloomy twilight round about them both, let the sun
shine ever so brightly, and that therefore she might enjoy her bad
spirits quite as well as if she were to stay in the cave. So she finally
consented to go, and they set out together, both carrying torches,
although it was broad daylight and clear sunshine. The torchlight seemed
to make a gloom; so that the people whom they met along the road could
not very distinctly see their figures; and, indeed, if they once caught
a glimpse of Hecate, with the wreath of snakes round her forehead, they
generally thought it prudent to run away, without waiting for a second
glance.

As the pair travelled along in this woe-begone manner, a thought struck
Ceres.

"There is one person," she exclaimed, "who must have seen my poor
child, and can doubtless tell what has become of her. Why did not I
think of him before? It is Phoebus."

"What," said Hecate, "the young man that always sits in the sunshine?
Oh, pray do not think of going near him. He is a gay, light, frivolous
young fellow, and will only smile in your face. And besides, there is
such a glare of the sun about him, that he will quite blind my poor
eyes, which I have almost wept away already."

"You have promised to be my companion," answered Ceres. "Come, let us
make haste, or the sunshine will be gone, and Phoebus along with it."

Accordingly, they went along in quest of Phoebus, both of them sighing
grievously, and Hecate, to say the truth, making a great deal worse
lamentation than Ceres; for all the pleasure she had, you know, lay in
being miserable, and therefore she made the most of it. By and by, after
a pretty long journey, they arrived at the sunniest spot in the whole
world. There they beheld a beautiful young man, with long, curling
ringlets, which seemed to be made of golden sunbeams; his garments were
like light summer clouds; and the expression of his face was so
exceedingly vivid, that Hecate held her hands before her eyes, muttering
that he ought to wear a black veil. Phoebus (for this was the very
person whom they were seeking) had a lyre in his hands, and was making
its chords tremble with sweet music; at the same time singing a most
exquisite song, which he had recently composed. For, besides a great
many other accomplishments, this young man was renowned for his
admirable poetry.

As Ceres and her dismal companion approached him, Phoebus smiled on
them so cheerfully that Hecate's wreath of snakes gave a spiteful hiss,
and Hecate heartily wished herself back in her cave. But as for Ceres,
she was too earnest in her grief either to know or care whether
Phoebus smiled or frowned.

"Phoebus!" exclaimed she, "I am in great trouble, and have come to
you for assistance. Can you tell me what has become of my dear child
Proserpina?"

"Proserpina! Proserpina, did you call her name?" answered Phoebus,
endeavoring to recollect; for there was such a continual flow of
pleasant ideas in his mind that he was apt to forget what had happened
no longer ago than yesterday. "Ah, yes, I remember her now. A very
lovely child, indeed. I am happy to tell you, my dear madam, that I did
see the little Proserpina not many days ago. You may make yourself
perfectly easy about her. She is safe, and in excellent hands."

"Oh, where is my dear child?" cried Ceres, clasping her hands and
flinging herself at his feet.

"Why," said Phoebus,--and as he spoke, he kept touching his lyre so as
to make a thread of music run in and out among his words,--"as the
little damsel was gathering flowers (and she has really a very exquisite
taste for flowers) she was suddenly snatched up by King Pluto, and
carried off to his dominions. I have never been in that part of the
universe; but the royal palace, I am told, is built in a very noble
style of architecture, and of the most splendid and costly materials.
Gold, diamonds, pearls, and all manner of precious stones will be your
daughter's ordinary playthings. I recommend to you, my dear lady, to
give yourself no uneasiness. Proserpina's sense of beauty will be duly
gratified, and, even in spite of the lack of sunshine, she will lead a
very enviable life."

"Hush! Say not such a word!" answered Ceres, indignantly. "What is there
to gratify her heart? What are all the splendors you speak of, without
affection? I must have her back again. Will you go with me, Phoebus,
to demand my daughter of this wicked Pluto?"

"Pray excuse me," replied Phoebus, with an elegant obeisance. "I
certainly wish you success, and regret that my own affairs are so
immediately pressing that I cannot have the pleasure of attending you.
Besides, I am not upon the best of terms with King Pluto. To tell you
the truth, his three-headed mastiff would never let me pass the gateway;
for I should be compelled to take a sheaf of sunbeams along with me, and
those, you know, are forbidden things in Pluto's kingdom."

"Ah, Phoebus," said Ceres, with bitter meaning in her words, "you have
a harp instead of a heart. Farewell."

"Will not you stay a moment," asked Phoebus, "and hear me turn the
pretty and touching story of Proserpina into extemporary verses?"

But Ceres shook her head, and hastened away, along with Hecate.
Phoebus (who, as I have told you, was an exquisite poet) forthwith
began to make an ode about the poor mother's grief; and, if we were to
judge of his sensibility by this beautiful production, he must have been
endowed with a very tender heart. But when a poet gets into the habit of
using his heart-strings to make chords for his lyre, he may thrum upon
them as much as he will, without any great pain to himself. Accordingly,
though Phoebus sang a very sad song, he was as merry all the while as
were the sunbeams amid which he dwelt.

Poor Mother Ceres had now found out what had become of her daughter, but
was not a whit happier than before. Her case, on the contrary, looked
more desperate than ever. As long as Proserpina was above ground there
might have been hopes of regaining her. But now that the poor child was
shut up within the iron gates of the king of the mines, at the threshold
of which lay the three-headed Cerberus, there seemed no possibility of
her ever making her escape. The dismal Hecate, who loved to take the
darkest view of things, told Ceres that she had better come with her to
the cavern, and spend the rest of her life in being miserable. Ceres
answered that Hecate was welcome to go back thither herself, but that,
for her part, she would wander about the earth in quest of the entrance
to King Pluto's dominions. And Hecate took her at her word, and hurried
back to her beloved cave, frightening a great many little children with
a glimpse of her dog's face, as she went.

Poor Mother Ceres! It is melancholy to think of her, pursuing her
toilsome way all alone, and holding up that never-dying torch, the flame
of which seemed an emblem of the grief and hope that burned together in
her heart. So much did she suffer, that, though her aspect had been
quite youthful when her troubles began, she grew to look like an elderly
person in a very brief time. She cared not how she was dressed, nor had
she ever thought of flinging away the wreath of withered poppies, which
she put on the very morning of Proserpina's disappearance. She roamed
about in so wild a way, and with her hair so dishevelled, that people
took her for some distracted creature, and never dreamed that this was
Mother Ceres, who had the oversight of every seed which the husbandman
planted. Nowadays, however, she gave herself no trouble about seed-time
nor harvest, but left the farmers to take care of their own affairs, and
the crops to fade or flourish, as the case might be. There was nothing,
now, in which Ceres seemed to feel an interest, unless when she saw
children at play, or gathering flowers along the wayside. Then, indeed,
she would stand and gaze at them with tears in her eyes. The children,
too, appeared to have a sympathy with her grief, and would cluster
themselves in a little group about her knees, and look up wistfully in
her face; and Ceres, after giving them a kiss all round, would lead them
to their homes, and advise their mothers never to let them stray out of
sight.

"For if they do," said she, "it may happen to you, as it has to me, that
the iron-hearted King Pluto will take a liking to your darlings, and
snatch them up in his chariot, and carry them away."

One day, during her pilgrimage in quest of the entrance to Pluto's
kingdom, she came to the palace of King Celeus, who reigned at Eleusis.
Ascending a lofty flight of steps, she entered the portal, and found the
royal household in very great alarm about the queen's baby. The infant,
it seems, was sickly (being troubled with its teeth, I suppose), and
would take no food, and was all the time moaning with pain. The
queen--her name was Metanira--was desirous of finding a nurse; and when
she beheld a woman of matronly aspect coming up the palace steps, she
thought, in her own mind, that here was the very person whom she needed.
So Queen Metanira ran to the door, with the poor wailing baby in her
arms, and besought Ceres to take charge of it, or, at least, to tell her
what would do it good.

"Will you trust the child entirely to me?" asked Ceres.

"Yes, and gladly too," answered the queen, "if you will devote all your
time to him. For I can see that you have been a mother."

"You are right," said Ceres. "I once had a child of my own. Well; I will
be the nurse of this poor, sickly boy. But beware, I warn you, that you
do not interfere with any kind of treatment which I may judge proper for
him. If you do so, the poor infant must suffer for his mother's folly."

Then she kissed the child, and it seemed to do him good; for he smiled
and nestled closely into her bosom.

So Mother Ceres set her torch in a corner (where it kept burning all the
while), and took up her abode in the palace of King Celeus, as nurse to
the little Prince Demophoön. She treated him as if he were her own
child, and allowed neither the king nor the queen to say whether he
should be bathed in warm or cold water, or what he should eat, or how
often he should take the air, or when he should be put to bed. You would
hardly believe me, if I were to tell how quickly the baby prince got rid
of his ailments, and grew fat, and rosy, and strong, and how he had two
rows of ivory teeth in less time than any other little fellow, before or
since. Instead of the palest, and wretchedest, and puniest imp in the
world (as his own mother confessed him to be when Ceres first took him
in charge), he was now a strapping baby, crowing, laughing, kicking up
his heels, and rolling from one end of the room to the other. All the
good women of the neighborhood crowded to the palace, and held up their
hands, in unutterable amazement, at the beauty and wholesomeness of this
darling little prince. Their wonder was the greater, because he was
never seen to taste any food; not even so much as a cup of milk.

"Pray, nurse," the queen kept saying, "how is it that you make the child
thrive so?"

"I was a mother once," Ceres always replied; "and having nursed my own
child, I know what other children need."

But Queen Metanira, as was very natural, had a great curiosity to know
precisely what the nurse did to her child. One night, therefore, she hid
herself in the chamber where Ceres and the little prince were accustomed
to sleep. There was a fire in the chimney, and it had now crumbled into
great coals and embers, which lay glowing on the hearth, with a blaze
flickering up now and then, and flinging a warm and ruddy light upon the
walls. Ceres sat before the hearth with the child in her lap, and the
fire-light making her shadow dance upon the ceiling overhead. She
undressed the little prince, and bathed him all over with some fragrant
liquid out of a vase. The next thing she did was to rake back the red
embers, and make a hollow place among them, just where the backlog had
been. At last, while the baby was crowing, and clapping its fat little
hands, and laughing in the nurse's face (just as you may have seen your
little brother or sister do before going into its warm bath), Ceres
suddenly laid him, all naked as he was, in the hollow among the red-hot
embers. She then raked the ashes over him, and turned quietly away.

You may imagine, if you can, how Queen Metanira shrieked, thinking
nothing less than that her dear child would be burned to a cinder. She
burst forth from her hiding-place, and running to the hearth, raked
open the fire, and snatched up poor little Prince Demophoön out of his
bed of live coals, one of which he was gripping in each of his fists. He
immediately set up a grievous cry, as babies are apt to do when rudely
startled out of a sound sleep. To the queen's astonishment and joy, she
could perceive no token of the child's being injured by the hot fire in
which he had lain. She now turned to Mother Ceres, and asked her to
explain the mystery.

"Foolish woman," answered Ceres, "did you not promise to intrust this
poor infant entirely to me? You little know the mischief you have done
him. Had you left him to my care, he would have grown up like a child of
celestial birth, endowed with super-human strength and intelligence, and
would have lived forever. Do you imagine that earthly children are to
become immortal without being tempered to it in the fiercest heat of the
fire? But you have ruined your own son. For though he will be a strong
man and a hero in his day, yet, on account of your folly, he will grow
old, and finally die, like the sons of other women. The weak tenderness
of his mother has cost the poor boy an immortality. Farewell."

Saying these words, she kissed the little prince Demophoön, and sighed
to think what he had lost, and took her departure without heeding Queen
Metanira, who entreated her to remain, and cover up the child among the
hot embers as often as she pleased. Poor baby! He never slept so warmly
again.

While she dwelt in the king's palace, Mother Ceres had been so
continually occupied with taking care of the young prince, that her
heart was a little lightened of its grief for Proserpina. But now,
having nothing else to busy herself about, she became just as wretched
as before. At length, in her despair, she came to the dreadful
resolution that not a stalk of grain, nor a blade of grass, not a
potato, nor a turnip, nor any other vegetable that was good for man or
beast to eat, should be suffered to grow until her daughter were
restored. She even forbade the flowers to bloom, lest somebody's heart
should be cheered by their beauty.

Now, as not so much as a head of asparagus ever presumed to poke itself
out of the ground, without the especial permission of Ceres, you may
conceive what a terrible calamity had here fallen upon the earth. The
husbandmen ploughed and planted as usual; but there lay the rich black
furrows, all as barren as a desert of sand. The pastures looked as brown
in the sweet month of June as ever they did in chill November. The rich
man's broad acres and the cottager's small garden-patch were equally
blighted. Every little girl's flower-bed showed nothing but dry stalks.
The old people shook their white heads, and said that the earth had
grown aged like themselves, and was no longer capable of wearing the
warm smile of summer on its face. It was really piteous to see the poor,
starving cattle and sheep, how they followed behind Ceres, lowing and
bleating, as if their instinct taught them to expect help from her; and
everybody that was acquainted with her power besought her to have mercy
on the human race, and, at all events, to let the grass grow. But Mother
Ceres, though naturally of an affectionate disposition, was now
inexorable.

"Never," said she. "If the earth is ever again to see any verdure, it
must first grow along the path which my daughter will tread in coming
back to me."

Finally, as there seemed to be no other remedy, our old friend
Quicksilver was sent post haste to King Pluto, in hopes that he might be
persuaded to undo the mischief he had done, and to set everything right
again, by giving up Proserpina. Quicksilver accordingly made the best of
his way to the great gate, took a flying leap right over the
three-headed mastiff, and stood at the door of the palace in an
inconceivably short time. The servants knew him both by his face and
garb; for his short cloak, and his winged cap and shoes, and his snaky
staff had often been seen thereabouts in times gone by. He requested to
be shown immediately into the king's presence; and Pluto, who heard his
voice from the top of the stairs, and who loved to recreate himself with
Quicksilver's merry talk, called out to him to come up. And while they
settle their business together, we must inquire what Proserpina has been
doing ever since we saw her last.

The child had declared, as you may remember, that she would not taste a
mouthful of food as long as she should be compelled to remain in King
Pluto's palace. How she contrived to maintain her resolution, and at the
same time to keep herself tolerably plump and rosy, is more than I can
explain; but some young ladies, I am given to understand, possess the
faculty of living on air, and Proserpina seems to have possessed it too.
At any rate, it was now six months since she left the outside of the
earth; and not a morsel, so far as the attendants were able to testify,
had yet passed between her teeth. This was the more creditable to
Proserpina, inasmuch as King Pluto had caused her to be tempted day
after day, with all manner of sweetmeats, and richly preserved fruits,
and delicacies of every sort, such as young people are generally most
fond of. But her good mother had often told her of the hurtfulness of
these things; and for that reason alone, if there had been no other, she
would have resolutely refused to taste them.

All this time, being of a cheerful and active disposition, the little
damsel was not quite so unhappy as you may have supposed. The immense
palace had a thousand rooms, and was full of beautiful and wonderful
objects. There was a never-ceasing gloom, it is true, which half hid
itself among the innumerable pillars, gliding before the child as she
wandered among them, and treading stealthily behind her in the echo of
her footsteps. Neither was all the dazzle of the precious stones, which
flamed with their own light, worth one gleam of natural sunshine; nor
could the most brilliant of the many-colored gems, which Proserpina had
for playthings, vie with the simple beauty of the flowers she used to
gather. But still, wherever the girl went, among those gilded halls and
chambers, it seemed as if she carried nature and sunshine along with
her, and as if she scattered dewy blossoms on her right hand and on her
left. After Proserpina came, the palace was no longer the same abode of
stately artifice and dismal magnificence that it had before been. The
inhabitants all felt this, and King Pluto more than any of them.

"My own little Proserpina," he used to say, "I wish you could like me a
little better. We gloomy and cloudy-natured persons have often as warm
hearts at bottom, as those of a more cheerful character. If you would
only stay with me of your own accord, it would make me happier than the
possession of a hundred such palaces as this."

"Ah," said Proserpina, "you should have tried to make me like you before
carrying me off. And the best thing you can do now is, to let me go
again. Then I might remember you sometimes, and think that you were as
kind as you knew how to be. Perhaps, too, one day or other, I might come
back, and pay you a visit."

"No, no," answered Pluto, with his gloomy smile, "I will not trust you
for that. You are too fond of living in the broad daylight, and
gathering flowers. What an idle and childish taste that is! Are not
these gems, which I have ordered to be dug for you, and which are richer
than any in my crown,--are they not prettier than a violet?"

"Not half so pretty," said Proserpina, snatching the gems from Pluto's
hand, and flinging them to the other end of the hall. "Oh, my sweet
violets, shall I never see you again?"

And then she burst into tears. But young people's tears have very little
saltness or acidity in them, and do not inflame the eyes so much as
those of grown persons; so that it is not to be wondered at if, a few
moments afterwards, Proserpina was sporting through the hall almost as
merrily as she and the four sea-nymphs had sported along the edge of the
surf wave. King Pluto gazed after her, and wished that he, too, was a
child. And little Proserpina, when she turned about, and beheld this
great king standing in his splendid hall, and looking so grand, and so
melancholy, and so lonesome, was smitten with a kind of pity. She ran
back to him, and, for the first time in all her life, put her small soft
hand in his.

"I love you a little," whispered she, looking up in his face.

"Do you, indeed, my dear child?" cried Pluto, bending his dark face down
to kiss her; but Proserpina shrank away from the kiss, for though his
features were noble, they were very dusky and grim. "Well, I have not
deserved it of you, after keeping you a prisoner for so many months, and
starving you, besides. Are you not terribly hungry? Is there nothing
which I can get you to eat?"

In asking this question, the king of the mines had a very cunning
purpose; for, you will recollect, if Proserpina tasted a morsel of food
in his dominions, she would never afterwards be at liberty to quit them.

"No, indeed," said Proserpina. "Your head cook is always baking, and
stewing, and roasting, and rolling out paste, and contriving one dish or
another, which he imagines may be to my liking. But he might just as
well save himself the trouble, poor, fat little man that he is. I have
no appetite for anything in the world, unless it were a slice of bread
of my mother's own baking, or a little fruit out of her garden."

When Pluto heard this, he began to see that he had mistaken the best
method of tempting Proserpina to eat. The cook's made dishes and
artificial dainties were not half so delicious, in the good child's
opinion, as the simple fare to which Mother Ceres had accustomed her.
Wondering that he had never thought of it before, the king now sent one
of his trusty attendants, with a large basket, to get some of the finest
and juiciest pears, peaches, and plums which could anywhere be found in
the upper world. Unfortunately, however, this was during the time when
Ceres had forbidden any fruits or vegetables to grow; and, after seeking
all over the earth, King Pluto's servant found only a single
pomegranate, and that so dried up as to be not worth eating.
Nevertheless, since there was no better to be had, he brought this dry,
old, withered pomegranate home to the palace, put it on a magnificent
golden salver, and carried it up to Proserpina. Now it happened,
curiously enough, that, just as the servant was bringing the pomegranate
into the back door of the palace, our friend Quicksilver had gone up the
front steps, on his errand to get Proserpina away from King Pluto.

As soon as Proserpina saw the pomegranate on the golden salver, she told
the servant he had better take it away again.

"I shall not touch it, I assure you," said she. "If I were ever so
hungry, I should never think of eating such a miserable, dry pomegranate
as that."

"It is the only one in the world," said the servant.

He set down the golden salver, with the wizened pomegranate upon it, and
left the room. When he was gone, Proserpina could not help coming close
to the table, and looking at this poor specimen of dried fruit with a
great deal of eagerness; for, to say the truth, on seeing something that
suited her taste, she felt all the six months' appetite taking
possession of her at once. To be sure, it was a very wretched-looking
pomegranate, and seemed to have no more juice in it than an
oyster-shell. But there was no choice of such things in King Pluto's
palace. This was the first fruit she had seen there, and the last she
was ever likely to see; and unless she ate it up immediately, it would
grow drier than it already was, and be wholly unfit to eat.

"At least, I may smell it," thought Proserpina.

So she took up the pomegranate, and applied it to her nose; and, somehow
or other, being in such close neighborhood to her mouth, the fruit found
its way into that little red cave. Dear me! what an everlasting pity!
Before Proserpina knew what she was about, her teeth had actually bitten
it, of their own accord. Just as this fatal deed was done, the door of
the apartment opened, and in came King Pluto, followed by Quicksilver,
who had been urging him to let his little prisoner go. At the first
noise of their entrance, Proserpina withdrew the pomegranate from her
mouth. But Quicksilver (whose eyes were very keen, and his wits the
sharpest that ever anybody had) perceived that the child was a little
confused; and seeing the empty salver, he suspected that she had been
taking a sly nibble of something or other. As for honest Pluto, he never
guessed at the secret.

"My little Proserpina," said the king, sitting down, and affectionately
drawing her between his knees, "here is Quicksilver, who tells me that a
great many misfortunes have befallen innocent people on account of my
detaining you in my dominions. To confess the truth, I myself had
already reflected that it was an unjustifiable act to take you away from
your good mother. But, then, you must consider, my dear child, that this
vast palace is apt to be gloomy (although the precious stones certainly
shine very bright), and that I am not of the most cheerful disposition,
and that therefore it was a natural thing enough to seek for the society
of some merrier creature than myself. I hoped you would take my crown
for a plaything, and me--ah, you laugh, naughty Proserpina--me, grim as
I am, for a playmate. It was a silly expectation."

"Not so extremely silly," whispered Proserpina. "You have really amused
me very much, sometimes."

"Thank you," said King Pluto, rather dryly. "But I can see, plainly
enough, that you think my palace a dusky prison, and me the iron-hearted
keeper of it. And an iron heart I should surely have, if I could detain
you here any longer, my poor child, when it is now six months since you
tasted food. I give you your liberty. Go with Quicksilver. Hasten home
to your dear mother."

Now, although you may not have supposed it, Proserpina found it
impossible to take leave of poor King Pluto without some regrets, and a
good deal of compunction for not telling him about the pomegranate. She
even shed a tear or two, thinking how lonely and cheerless the great
palace would seem to him, with all its ugly glare of artificial light,
after she herself,--his one little ray of natural sunshine, whom he had
stolen, to be sure, but only because he valued her so much,--after she
should have departed. I know not how many kind things she might have
said to the disconsolate king of the mines, had not Quicksilver hurried
her away.

"Come along quickly," whispered he in her ear, "or his Majesty may
change his royal mind. And take care, above all things, that you say
nothing of what was brought you on the golden salver."

In a very short time, they had passed the great gateway (leaving the
three-headed Cerberus, barking, and yelping, and growling, with
threefold din, behind them), and emerged upon the surface of the earth.
It was delightful to behold, as Proserpina hastened along, how the path
grew verdant behind and on either side of her. Wherever she set her
blessed foot, there was at once a dewy flower. The violets gushed up
along the wayside. The grass and the grain began to sprout with tenfold
vigor and luxuriance, to make up for the dreary months that had been
wasted in barrenness. The starved cattle immediately set to work
grazing, after their long fast, and ate enormously all day, and got up
at midnight to eat more. But I can assure you it was a busy time of year
with the farmers, when they found the summer coming upon them with such
a rush. Nor must I forget to say that all the birds in the whole world
hopped about upon the newly blossoming trees, and sang together in a
prodigious ecstasy of joy.

Mother Ceres had returned to her deserted home, and was sitting
disconsolately on the doorstep, with her torch burning in her hand. She
had been idly watching the flame for some moments past, when, all at
once, it flickered and went out.

"What does this mean?" thought she. "It was an enchanted torch, and
should have kept burning till my child came back."

Lifting her eyes, she was surprised to see a sudden verdure flashing
over the brown and barren fields, exactly as you may have observed a
golden hue gleaming far and wide across the landscape, from the just
risen sun.

"Does the earth disobey me?" exclaimed Mother Ceres, indignantly. "Does
it presume to be green, when I have bidden it be barren, until my
daughter shall be restored to my arms?"

"Then open your arms, dear mother," cried a well-known voice, "and take
your little daughter into them."

And Proserpina came running, and flung herself upon her mother's bosom.
Their mutual transport is not to be described. The grief of their
separation had caused both of them to shed a great many tears; and now
they shed a great many more, because their joy could not so well express
itself in any other way.

When their hearts had grown a little more quiet, Mother Ceres looked
anxiously at Proserpina.

"My child," said she, "did you taste any food while you were in King
Pluto's palace?"

"Dearest mother," answered Proserpina, "I will tell you the whole truth.
Until this very morning, not a morsel of food had passed my lips. But
to-day, they brought me a pomegranate (a very dry one it was, and all
shrivelled up, till there was little left of it but seeds and skin), and
having seen no fruit for so long a time, and being faint with hunger, I
was tempted just to bite it. The instant I tasted it, King Pluto and
Quicksilver came into the room. I had not swallowed a morsel; but--dear
mother, I hope it was no harm--but six of the pomegranate seeds, I am
afraid, remained in my mouth."

"Ah, unfortunate child, and miserable me!" exclaimed Ceres. "For each of
those six pomegranate seeds you must spend one month of every year in
King Pluto's palace. You are but half restored to your mother. Only six
months with me, and six with that good-for-nothing King of Darkness!"

"Do not speak so harshly of poor King Pluto," said Proserpina, kissing
her mother. "He has some very good qualities; and I really think I can
bear to spend six months in his palace, if he will only let me spend the
other six with you. He certainly did very wrong to carry me off; but
then, as he says, it was but a dismal sort of life for him, to live in
that great gloomy place, all alone; and it has made a wonderful change
in his spirits to have a little girl to run up stairs and down. There is
some comfort in making him so happy; and so, upon the whole, dearest
mother, let us be thankful that he is not to keep me the whole year
round."



The Golden Fleece


When Jason, the son of the dethroned King of Iolchos, was a little boy,
he was sent away from his parents, and placed under the queerest
schoolmaster that ever you heard of. This learned person was one of the
people, or quadrupeds, called Centaurs. He lived in a cavern, and had
the body and legs of a white horse, with the head and shoulders of a
man. His name was Chiron; and, in spite of his odd appearance, he was a
very excellent teacher, and had several scholars, who afterwards did him
credit by making a great figure in the world. The famous Hercules was
one, and so was Achilles, and Philoctetes, likewise, and Æsculapius, who
acquired immense repute as a doctor. The good Chiron taught his pupils
how to play upon the harp, and how to cure diseases, and how to use the
sword and shield, together with various other branches of education, in
which the lads of those days used to be instructed, instead of writing
and arithmetic.

I have sometimes suspected that Master Chiron was not really very
different from other people, but that, being a kind-hearted and merry
old fellow, he was in the habit of making believe that he was a horse,
and scrambling about the school-room on all fours, and letting the
little boys ride upon his back. And so, when his scholars had grown up,
and grown old, and were trotting their grandchildren on their knees,
they told them about the sports of their school-days; and these young
folks took the idea that their grandfathers had been taught their
letters by a Centaur, half man and half horse. Little children, not
quite understanding what is said to them, often get such absurd notions
into their heads, you know.

Be that as it may, it has always been told for a fact (and always will
be told, as long as the world lasts), that Chiron, with the head of a
schoolmaster, had the body and legs of a horse. Just imagine the grave
old gentleman clattering and stamping into the school-room on his four
hoofs, perhaps treading on some little fellow's toes, flourishing his
switch tail instead of a rod, and, now and then, trotting out of doors
to eat a mouthful of grass! I wonder what the blacksmith charged him for
a set of iron shoes.

So Jason dwelt in the cave, with this four-footed Chiron, from the time
that he was an infant, only a few months old, until he had grown to the
full height of a man. He became a very good harper, I suppose, and
skilful in the use of weapons, and tolerably acquainted with herbs and
other doctor's stuff, and, above all, an admirable horseman; for, in
teaching young people to ride, the good Chiron must have been without a
rival among schoolmasters. At length, being now a tall and athletic
youth, Jason resolved to seek his fortune in the world, without asking
Chiron's advice, or telling him anything about the matter. This was very
unwise, to be sure; and I hope none of you, my little hearers, will ever
follow Jason's example. But, you are to understand, he had heard how
that he himself was a prince royal, and how his father, King Æson, had
been deprived of the kingdom of Iolchos by a certain Pelias who would
also have killed Jason, had he not been hidden in the Centaur's cave.
And, being come to the strength of a man, Jason determined to set all
this business to rights, and to punish the wicked Pelias for wronging
his dear father, and to cast him down from the throne, and seat himself
there instead.

With this intention, he took a spear in each hand, and threw a leopard's
skin over his shoulders, to keep off the rain, and set forth on his
travels, with his long yellow ringlets waving in the wind. The part of
his dress on which he most prided himself was a pair of sandals, that
had been his father's. They were handsomely embroidered, and were tied
upon his feet with strings of gold. But his whole attire was such as
people did not very often see; and as he passed along, the women and
children ran to the doors and windows, wondering whither this beautiful
youth was journeying, with his leopard's skin and his golden-tied
sandals, and what heroic deeds he meant to perform, with a spear in his
right hand and another in his left.

[Illustration: JASON AND HIS TEACHER]

I know not how far Jason had travelled, when he came to a turbulent
river, which rushed right across his pathway, with specks of white foam
among its black eddies, hurrying tumultuously onward, and roaring
angrily as it went. Though not a very broad river in the dry seasons of
the year, it was now swollen by heavy rains and by the melting of the
snow on the sides of Mount Olympus; and it thundered so loudly, and
looked so wild and dangerous, that Jason, bold as he was, thought it
prudent to pause upon the brink. The bed of the stream seemed to be
strewn with sharp and rugged rocks, some of which thrust themselves
above the water. By and by, an uprooted tree, with shattered branches,
came drifting along the current, and got entangled among the rocks. Now
and then, a drowned sheep, and once the carcass of a cow, floated past.

In short, the swollen river had already done a great deal of mischief.
It was evidently too deep for Jason to wade, and too boisterous for him
to swim; he could see no bridge; and as for a boat, had there been any,
the rocks would have broken it to pieces in an instant.

"See the poor lad," said a cracked voice close to his side. "He must
have had but a poor education, since he does not know how to cross a
little stream like this. Or is he afraid of wetting his fine
golden-stringed sandals? It is a pity his four-footed schoolmaster is
not here to carry him safely across on his back!"

Jason looked round greatly surprised, for he did not know that anybody
was near. But beside him stood an old woman, with a ragged mantle over
her head, leaning on a staff, the top of which was carved into the shape
of a cuckoo. She looked very aged, and wrinkled, and infirm; and yet her
eyes, which were as brown as those of an ox, were so extremely large and
beautiful, that, when they were fixed on Jason's eyes, he could see
nothing else but them. The old woman had a pomegranate in her hand,
although the fruit was then quite out of season.

"Whither are you going, Jason?" she now asked.

She seemed to know his name, you will observe; and, indeed, those great
brown eyes looked as if they had a knowledge of everything, whether past
or to come. While Jason was gazing at her, a peacock strutted forward
and took his stand at the old woman's side.

"I am going to Iolchos," answered the young man, "to bid the wicked King
Pelias come down from my father's throne, and let me reign in his
stead."

"Ah, well, then," said the old woman, still with the same cracked voice,
"if that is all your business, you need not be in a very great hurry.
Just take me on your back, there's a good youth, and carry me across the
river. I and my peacock have something to do on the other side, as well
as yourself."

"Good mother," replied Jason, "your business can hardly be so important
as the pulling down a king from his throne. Besides, as you may see for
yourself, the river is very boisterous; and if I should chance to
stumble, it would sweep both of us away more easily than it has carried
off yonder uprooted tree. I would gladly help you if I could; but I
doubt whether I am strong enough to carry you across."

"Then," said she, very scornfully, "neither are you strong enough to
pull King Pelias off his throne. And, Jason, unless you will help an old
woman at her need, you ought not to be a king. What are kings made for,
save to succor the feeble and distressed? But do as you please. Either
take me on your back, or with my poor old limbs I shall try my best to
struggle across the stream."

Saying this, the old woman poked with her staff in the river, as if to
find the safest place in its rocky bed where she might make the first
step. But Jason, by this time, had grown ashamed of his reluctance to
help her. He felt that he could never forgive himself, if this poor
feeble creature should come to any harm in attempting to wrestle against
the headlong current. The good Chiron, whether half horse or no, had
taught him that the noblest use of his strength was to assist the weak;
and also that he must treat every young woman as if she were his sister,
and every old one like a mother. Remembering these maxims, the vigorous
and beautiful young man knelt down, and requested the good dame to mount
upon his back.

"The passage seems to me not very safe," he remarked. "But as your
business is so urgent, I will try to carry you across. If the river
sweeps you away, it shall take me too."

"That, no doubt, will be a great comfort to both of us," quoth the old
woman. "But never fear. We shall get safely across."

So she threw her arms around Jason's neck; and lifting her from the
ground, he stepped boldly into the raging and foamy current, and began
to stagger away from the shore. As for the peacock, it alighted on the
old dame's shoulder. Jason's two spears, one in each hand, kept him from
stumbling, and enabled him to feel his way among the hidden rocks;
although, every instant, he expected that his companion and himself
would go down the stream, together with the drift-wood of shattered
trees, and the carcasses of the sheep and cow. Down came the cold, snowy
torrent from the steep side of Olympus, raging and thundering as if it
had a real spite against Jason, or, at all events, were determined to
snatch off his living burden from his shoulders. When he was half-way
across, the uprooted tree (which I have already told you about) broke
loose from among the rocks, and bore down upon him, with all its
splintered branches sticking out like the hundred arms of the giant
Briareus. It rushed past, however, without touching him. But the next
moment, his foot was caught in a crevice between two rocks, and stuck
there so fast, that, in the effort to get free, he lost one of his
golden-stringed sandals.

At this accident Jason could not help uttering a cry of vexation.

"What is the matter, Jason?" asked the old woman.

"Matter enough," said the young man. "I have lost a sandal here among
the rocks. And what sort of a figure shall I cut at the court of King
Pelias, with a golden-stringed sandal on one foot, and the other foot
bare!"

"Do not take it to heart," answered his companion, cheerily. "You never
met with better fortune than in losing that sandal. It satisfies me that
you are the very person whom the Speaking Oak has been talking about."

There was no time, just then, to inquire what the Speaking Oak had said.
But the briskness of her tone encouraged the young man; and besides, he
had never in his life felt so vigorous and mighty as since taking this
old woman on his back. Instead of being exhausted, he gathered strength
as he went on; and, struggling up against the torrent, he at last gained
the opposite shore, clambered up the bank, and set down the old dame and
her peacock safely on the grass. As soon as this was done, however, he
could not help looking rather despondently at his bare foot, with only a
remnant of the golden string of the sandal clinging round his ankle.

"You will get a handsomer pair of sandals by and by," said the old
woman, with a kindly look out of her beautiful brown eyes. "Only let
King Pelias get a glimpse of that bare foot, and you shall see him turn
as pale as ashes, I promise you. There is your path. Go along, my good
Jason, and my blessing go with you. And when you sit on your throne,
remember the old woman whom you helped over the river."

With these words, she hobbled away, giving him a smile over her shoulder
as she departed. Whether the light of her beautiful brown eyes threw a
glory round about her, or whatever the cause might be, Jason fancied
that there was something very noble and majestic in her figure, after
all, and that, though her gait seemed to be a rheumatic hobble, yet she
moved with as much grace and dignity as any queen on earth. Her peacock,
which had now fluttered down from her shoulder, strutted behind her in
prodigious pomp, and spread out its magnificent tail on purpose for
Jason to admire it.

When the old dame and her peacock were out of sight, Jason set forward
on his journey. After travelling a pretty long distance, he came to a
town situated at the foot of a mountain, and not a great way from the
shore of the sea. On the outside of the town there was an immense crowd
of people, not only men and women, but children, too, all in their best
clothes, and evidently enjoying a holiday. The crowd was thickest
towards the sea-shore; and in that direction, over the people's heads,
Jason saw a wreath of smoke curling upward to the blue sky. He inquired
of one of the multitude what town it was, near by, and why so many
persons were here assembled together.

"This is the kingdom of Iolchos," answered the man, "and we are the
subjects of King Pelias. Our monarch has summoned us together, that we
may see him sacrifice a black bull to Neptune, who, they say, is his
Majesty's father. Yonder is the king, where you see the smoke going up
from the altar."

While the man spoke he eyed Jason with great curiosity; for his garb was
quite unlike that of the Iolchians, and it looked very odd to see a
youth with a leopard's skin over his shoulders, and each hand grasping a
spear. Jason perceived, too, that the man stared particularly at his
feet, one of which, you remember, was bare, while the other was
decorated with his father's golden-stringed sandal.

"Look at him! only look at him!" said the man to his next neighbor. "Do
you see? He wears but one sandal!"

Upon this, first one person, and then another, began to stare at Jason,
and everybody seemed to be greatly struck with something in his aspect;
though they turned their eyes much oftener towards his feet than to any
other part of his figure. Besides, he could hear them whispering to one
another.

"One sandal! One sandal!" they kept saying. "The man with one sandal!
Here he is at last! Whence has he come? What does he mean to do? What
will the king say to the one-sandalled man?"

Poor Jason was greatly abashed, and made up his mind that the people of
Iolchos were exceedingly ill bred, to take such public notice of an
accidental deficiency in his dress. Meanwhile, whether it were that they
hustled him forward, or that Jason, of his own accord, thrust a passage
through the crowd, it so happened that he soon found himself close to
the smoking altar, where King Pelias was sacrificing the black bull. The
murmur and hum of the multitude, in their surprise at the spectacle of
Jason with his one bare foot, grew so loud that it disturbed the
ceremonies; and the king, holding the great knife with which he was just
going to cut the bull's throat, turned angrily about, and fixed his eyes
on Jason. The people had now withdrawn from around him, so that the
youth stood in an open space near the smoking altar, front to front with
the angry King Pelias.

"Who are you?" cried the king, with a terrible frown. "And how dare you
make this disturbance, while I am sacrificing a black bull to my father
Neptune?"

"It is no fault of mine," answered Jason. "Your Majesty must blame the
rudeness of your subjects, who have raised all this tumult because one
of my feet happens to be bare."

When Jason said this, the king gave a quick, startled glance down at his
feet.

"Ha!" muttered he, "here is the one-sandalled fellow, sure enough! What
can I do with him?"

And he clutched more closely the great knife in his hand, as if he were
half a mind to slay Jason instead of the black bull. The people round
about caught up the king's words indistinctly as they were uttered; and
first there was a murmur among them, and then a loud shout.

"The one-sandalled man has come! The prophecy must be fulfilled!"

For you are to know that, many years before, King Pelias had been told
by the Speaking Oak of Dodona, that a man with one sandal should cast
him down from his throne. On this account, he had given strict orders
that nobody should ever come into his presence, unless both sandals were
securely tied upon his feet; and he kept an officer in his palace, whose
sole business it was to examine people's sandals, and to supply them
with a new pair, at the expense of the royal treasury, as soon as the
old ones began to wear out. In the whole course of the king's reign, he
had never been thrown into such a fright and agitation as by the
spectacle of poor Jason's bare foot. But, as he was naturally a bold and
hard-hearted man, he soon took courage, and began to consider in what
way he might rid himself of this terrible one-sandalled stranger.

"My good young man," said King Pelias, taking the softest tone
imaginable, in order to throw Jason off his guard, "you are excessively
welcome to my kingdom. Judging by your dress, you must have travelled a
long distance; for it is not the fashion to wear leopard-skins in this
part of the world. Pray, what may I call your name? and where did you
receive your education?"

"My name is Jason," answered the young stranger. "Ever since my infancy,
I have dwelt in the cave of Chiron the Centaur. He was my instructor,
and taught me music, and horsemanship, and how to cure wounds, and
likewise how to inflict wounds with my weapons!"

"I have heard of Chiron the schoolmaster," replied King Pelias, "and how
that there is an immense deal of learning and wisdom in his head,
although it happens to be set on a horse's body. It gives me great
delight to see one of his scholars at my court. But, to test how much
you have profited under so excellent a teacher, will you allow me to ask
you a single question?"

"I do not pretend to be very wise," said Jason. "But ask me what you
please, and I will answer to the best of my ability."

Now King Pelias meant cunningly to entrap the young man, and to make him
say something that should be the cause of mischief and destruction to
himself. So with a crafty and evil smile upon his face, he spoke as
follows:--

"What would you do, brave Jason," asked he, "if there were a man in the
world, by whom, as you had reason to believe, you were doomed to be
ruined and slain,--what would you do, I say, if that man stood before
you, and in your power?"

When Jason saw the malice and wickedness which King Pelias could not
prevent from gleaming out of his eyes, he probably guessed that the king
had discovered what he came for, and that he intended to turn his own
words against himself. Still he scorned to tell a falsehood. Like an
upright and honorable prince, as he was, he determined to speak out the
real truth. Since the king had chosen to ask him the question, and since
Jason had promised him an answer, there was no right way, save to tell
him precisely what would be the most prudent thing to do, if he had his
worst enemy in his power.

Therefore, after a moment's consideration, he spoke up, with a firm and
manly voice.

"I would send such a man," said he, "in quest of the Golden Fleece!"

This enterprise, you will understand, was, of all others, the most
difficult and dangerous in the world. In the first place, it would be
necessary to make a long voyage through unknown seas. There was hardly a
hope, or a possibility, that any young man who should undertake this
voyage would either succeed in obtaining the Golden Fleece, or would
survive to return home, and tell of the perils he had run. The eyes of
King Pelias sparkled with joy, therefore, when he heard Jason's reply.

"Well said, wise man with the one sandal!" cried he. "Go, then, and, at
the peril of your life, bring me back the Golden Fleece."

"I go," answered Jason, composedly. "If I fail, you need not fear that I
will ever come back to trouble you again. But if I return to Iolchos
with the prize, then, King Pelias, you must hasten down from your lofty
throne, and give me your crown and sceptre."

"That I will," said the king, with a sneer. "Meantime, I will keep them
very safely for you."

The first thing that Jason thought of doing, after he left the king's
presence, was to go to Dodona, and inquire of the Talking Oak what
course it was best to pursue. This wonderful tree stood in the centre of
an ancient wood. Its stately trunk rose up a hundred feet into the air,
and threw a broad and dense shadow over more than an acre of ground.
Standing beneath it, Jason looked up among the knotted branches and
green leaves, and into the mysterious heart of the old tree, and spoke
aloud, as if he were addressing some person who was hidden in the depths
of the foliage.

"What shall I do," said he, "in order to win the Golden Fleece?"

At first there was a deep silence, not only within the shadow of the
Talking Oak, but all through the solitary wood. In a moment or two,
however, the leaves of the oak began to stir and rustle, as if a gentle
breeze were wandering amongst them, although the other trees of the wood
were perfectly still. The sound grew louder, and became like the roar of
a high wind. By and by, Jason imagined that he could distinguish words,
but very confusedly, because each separate leaf of the tree seemed to be
a tongue, and the whole myriad of tongues were babbling at once. But the
noise waxed broader and deeper, until it resembled a tornado sweeping
through the oak, and making one great utterance out of the thousand and
thousand of little murmurs which each leafy tongue had caused by its
rustling. And now, though it still had the tone of mighty wind roaring
among the branches, it was also like a deep bass voice, speaking, as
distinctly as a tree could be expected to speak, the following words:--

"Go to Argus, the ship-builder, and bid him build a galley with fifty
oars."

Then the voice melted again into the indistinct murmur of the rustling
leaves, and died gradually away. When it was quite gone, Jason felt
inclined to doubt whether he had actually heard the words, or whether
his fancy had not shaped them out of the ordinary sound made by a
breeze, while passing through the thick foliage of the tree.

But on inquiry among the people of Iolchos, he found that there was
really a man in the city, by the name of Argus, who was a very skilful
builder of vessels. This showed some intelligence in the oak; else how
should it have known that any such person existed? At Jason's request,
Argus readily consented to build him a galley so big that it should
require fifty strong men to row it; although no vessel of such a size
and burden had heretofore been seen in the world. So the head carpenter,
and all his journeymen and apprentices, began their work; and for a good
while afterwards, there they were, busily employed, hewing out the
timbers, and making a great clatter with their hammers; until the new
ship, which was called the Argo, seemed to be quite ready for sea. And,
as the Talking Oak had already given him such good advice, Jason thought
that it would not be amiss to ask for a little more. He visited it
again, therefore, and standing beside its huge, rough trunk, inquired
what he should do next.

This time, there was no such universal quivering of the leaves,
throughout the whole tree, as there had been before. But after a while,
Jason observed that the foliage of a great branch which stretched above
his head had begun to rustle, as if the wind were stirring that one
bough, while all the other boughs of the oak were at rest.

"Cut me off!" said the branch, as soon as it could speak
distinctly,--"cut me off! cut me off! and carve me into a figure-head
for your galley."

Accordingly, Jason took the branch at its word, and lopped it off the
tree. A carver in the neighborhood engaged to make the figure-head. He
was a tolerably good workman, and had already carved several
figure-heads, in what he intended for feminine shapes, and looking
pretty much like those which we see nowadays stuck up under a vessel's
bowsprit, with great staring eyes, that never wink at the dash of the
spray. But (what was very strange) the carver found that his hand was
guided by some unseen power, and by a skill beyond his own, and that his
tools shaped out an image which he had never dreamed of. When the work
was finished, it turned out to be the figure of a beautiful woman with a
helmet on her head, from beneath which the long ringlets fell down upon
her shoulders. On the left arm was a shield, and in its centre appeared
a lifelike representation of the head of Medusa with the snaky locks.
The right arm was extended, as if pointing onward. The face of this
wonderful statue, though not angry or forbidding, was so grave and
majestic, that perhaps you might call it severe; and as for the mouth,
it seemed just ready to unclose its lips, and utter words of the deepest
wisdom.

Jason was delighted with the oaken image, and gave the carver no rest
until it was completed, and set up where a figure-head has always stood,
from that time to this, in the vessel's prow.

"And now," cried he, as he stood gazing at the calm, majestic face of
the statue, "I must go to the Talking Oak, and inquire what next to do."

"There is no need of that, Jason," said a voice which, though it was far
lower, reminded him of the mighty tones of the great oak. "When you
desire good advice, you can seek it of me."

Jason had been looking straight into the face of the image when these
words were spoken. But he could hardly believe either his ears or his
eyes. The truth was, however, that the oaken lips had moved, and, to all
appearance, the voice had proceeded from the statue's mouth. Recovering
a little from his surprise, Jason bethought himself that the image had
been carved out of the wood of the Talking Oak, and that, therefore, it
was really no great wonder, but on the contrary, the most natural thing
in the world, that it should possess the faculty of speech. It would
have been very odd, indeed, if it had not. But certainly it was a great
piece of good fortune that he should be able to carry so wise a block of
wood along with him in his perilous voyage.

"Tell me, wondrous image," exclaimed Jason,--"since you inherit the
wisdom of the Speaking Oak of Dodona, whose daughter you are,--tell me,
where shall I find fifty bold youths, who will take each of them an oar
of my galley? They must have sturdy arms to row, and brave hearts to
encounter perils, or we shall never win the Golden Fleece."

"Go," replied the oaken image,--"go, summon all the heroes of Greece."

And, in fact, considering what a great deed was to be done, could any
advice be wiser than this which Jason received from the figure-head of
his vessel? He lost no time in sending messengers to all the cities, and
making known to the whole people of Greece, that Prince Jason, the son
of King Æson, was going in quest of the Fleece of Gold, and that he
desired the help of forty-nine of the bravest and strongest young men
alive, to row his vessel and share his dangers. And Jason himself would
be the fiftieth.

At this news, the adventurous youths, all over the country, began to
bestir themselves. Some of them had already fought with giants, and
slain dragons; and the younger ones, who had not yet met with such good
fortune, thought it a shame to have lived so long without getting
astride of a flying serpent, or sticking their spears into a Chimæra,
or, at least, thrusting their right arms down a monstrous lion's throat.
There was a fair prospect that they would meet with plenty of such
adventures before finding the Golden Fleece. As soon as they could
furbish up their helmets and shields, therefore, and gird on their
trusty swords, they came thronging to Iolchos, and clambered on board
the new galley. Shaking hands with Jason, they assured him that they did
not care a pin for their lives, but would help row the vessel to the
remotest edge of the world, and as much farther as he might think it
best to go.

Many of these brave fellows had been educated by Chiron, the four-footed
pedagogue, and were therefore old schoolmates of Jason, and knew him to
be a lad of spirit. The mighty Hercules, whose shoulders afterwards held
up the sky, was one of them. And there were Castor and Pollux, the twin
brothers, who were never accused of being chicken-hearted, although they
had been hatched out of an egg; and Theseus, who was so renowned for
killing the Minotaur; and Lynceus, with his wonderfully sharp eyes,
which could see through a millstone, or look right down into the depths
of the earth, and discover the treasures that were there; and Orpheus,
the very best of harpers, who sang and played upon his lyre so sweetly,
that the brute beasts stood upon their hind legs, and capered merrily to
the music. Yes, and at some of his more moving tunes, the rocks
bestirred their moss-grown bulk out of the ground, and a grove of
forest trees uprooted themselves, and, nodding their tops to one
another, performed a country dance.

One of the rowers was a beautiful young woman, named Atalanta, who had
been nursed among the mountains by a bear. So light of foot was this
fair damsel that she could step from one foamy crest of a wave to the
foamy crest of another, without wetting more than the sole of her
sandal. She had grown up in a very wild way, and talked much about the
rights of women, and loved hunting and war far better than her needle.
But, in my opinion, the most remarkable of this famous company were two
sons of the North Wind (airy youngsters, and of rather a blustering
disposition), who had wings on their shoulders, and, in case of a calm,
could puff out their cheeks, and blow almost as fresh a breeze as their
father. I ought not to forget the prophets and conjurers, of whom there
were several in the crew, and who could foretell what would happen
to-morrow, or the next day, or a hundred years hence, but were generally
quite unconscious of what was passing at the moment.

Jason appointed Tiphys to be helmsman, because he was a star-gazer, and
knew the points of the compass. Lynceus, on account of his sharp sight,
was stationed as a lookout in the prow, where he saw a whole day's sail
ahead, but was rather apt to overlook things that lay directly under his
nose. If the sea only happened to be deep enough, however, Lynceus could
tell you exactly what kind of rocks or sands were at the bottom of it;
and he often cried out to his companions, that they were sailing over
heaps of sunken treasure, which yet he was none the richer for
beholding. To confess the truth, few people believed him when he said
it.

Well! But when the Argonauts, as these fifty brave adventurers were
called, had prepared everything for the voyage, an unforeseen difficulty
threatened to end it before it was begun. The vessel, you must
understand, was so long, and broad, and ponderous, that the united force
of all the fifty was insufficient to shove her into the water. Hercules,
I suppose, had not grown to his full strength, else he might have set
her afloat as easily as a little boy launches his boat upon a puddle.
But here were these fifty heroes pushing, and straining, and growing red
in the face, without making the Argo start an inch. At last, quite
wearied out, they sat themselves down on the shore, exceedingly
disconsolate, and thinking that the vessel must be left to rot and fall
in pieces, and that they must either swim across the sea or lose the
Golden Fleece.

All at once, Jason bethought himself of the galley's miraculous
figure-head.

"O daughter of the Talking Oak," cried he, "how shall we set to work to
get our vessel into the water?"

"Seat yourselves," answered the image (for it had known what ought to be
done from the very first, and was only waiting for the question to be
put),--"seat yourselves, and handle your oars, and let Orpheus play upon
his harp."

Immediately the fifty heroes got on board, and seizing their oars, held
them perpendicularly in the air, while Orpheus (who liked such a task
far better than rowing) swept his fingers across the harp. At the first
ringing note of the music, they felt the vessel stir. Orpheus thrummed
away briskly, and the galley slid at once into the sea, dipping her prow
so deeply that the figure-head drank the wave with its marvellous lips,
and rose again as buoyant as a swan. The rowers plied their fifty oars;
the white foam boiled up before the prow; the water gurgled and bubbled
in their wake; while Orpheus continued to play so lively a strain of
music, that the vessel seemed to dance over the billows by way of
keeping time to it. Thus triumphantly did the Argo sail out of the
harbor, amidst the huzzas and good wishes of everybody except the wicked
old Pelias, who stood on a promontory, scowling at her, and wishing that
he could blow out of his lungs the tempest of wrath that was in his
heart, and so sink the galley with all on board. When they had sailed
above fifty miles over the sea, Lynceus happened to cast his sharp eyes
behind, and said that there was this bad-hearted king, still perched
upon the promontory, and scowling so gloomily that it looked like a
black thunder-cloud in that quarter of the horizon.

In order to make the time pass away more pleasantly during the voyage,
the heroes talked about the Golden Fleece. It originally belonged, it
appears, to a Boeotian ram, who had taken on his back two children,
when in danger of their lives, and fled with them over land and sea, as
far as Colchis. One of the children, whose name was Helle, fell into the
sea and was drowned. But the other (a little boy, named Phrixus) was
brought safe ashore by the faithful ram, who, however, was so exhausted
that he immediately lay down and died. In memory of this good deed, and
as a token of his true heart, the fleece of the poor dead ram was
miraculously changed to gold, and became one of the most beautiful
objects ever seen on earth. It was hung upon a tree in a sacred grove,
where it had now been kept I know not how many years, and was the envy
of mighty kings, who had nothing so magnificent in any of their palaces.

If I were to tell you all the adventures of the Argonauts, it would take
me till nightfall, and perhaps a great deal longer. There was no lack of
wonderful events, as you may judge from what you may have already heard.
At a certain island they were hospitably received by King Cyzicus, its
sovereign, who made a feast for them, and treated them like brothers.
But the Argonauts saw that this good king looked downcast and very much
troubled, and they therefore inquired of him what was the matter. King
Cyzicus hereupon informed them that he and his subjects were greatly
abused and incommoded by the inhabitants of a neighboring mountain, who
made war upon them, and killed many people, and ravaged the country. And
while they were talking about it, Cyzicus pointed to the mountain, and
asked Jason and his companions what they saw there.

"I see some very tall objects," answered Jason; "but they are at such a
distance that I cannot distinctly make out what they are. To tell your
Majesty the truth, they look so very strangely that I am inclined to
think them clouds, which have chanced to take something like human
shapes."

"I see them very plainly," remarked Lynceus, whose eyes, you know, were
as far-sighted as a telescope. "They are a band of enormous giants, all
of whom have six arms apiece, and a club, a sword, or some other weapon
in each of their hands."

"You have excellent eyes," said King Cyzicus. "Yes; they are six-armed
giants, as you say, and these are the enemies whom I and my subjects
have to contend with."

The next day, when the Argonauts were about setting sail, down came
these terrible giants, stepping a hundred yards at a stride, brandishing
their six arms apiece, and looking very formidable, so far aloft in the
air. Each of these monsters was able to carry on a whole war by himself,
for with one of his arms he could fling immense stones, and wield a club
with another, and a sword with a third, while the fourth was poking a
long spear at the enemy, and the fifth and sixth were shooting him with
a bow and arrow. But, luckily, though the giants were so huge, and had
so many arms, they had each but one heart, and that no bigger nor braver
than the heart of an ordinary man. Besides, if they had been like the
hundred-armed Briareus, the brave Argonauts would have given them their
hands full of fight. Jason and his friends went boldly to meet them,
slew a great many, and made the rest take to their heels, so that, if
the giants had had six legs apiece instead of six arms, it would have
served them better to run away with.

Another strange adventure happened when the voyagers came to Thrace,
where they found a poor blind king, named Phineus, deserted by his
subjects, and living in a very sorrowful way, all by himself. On Jason's
inquiring whether they could do him any service, the king answered that
he was terribly tormented by three great winged creatures, called
Harpies, which had the faces of women, and the wings, bodies, and claws
of vultures. These ugly wretches were in the habit of snatching away his
dinner, and allowing him no peace of his life. Upon hearing this, the
Argonauts spread a plentiful feast on the sea-shore, well knowing, from
what the blind king said of their greediness, that the Harpies would
snuff up the scent of the victuals, and quickly come to steal them away.
And so it turned out; for, hardly was the table set, before the three
hideous vulture women came flapping their wings, seized the food in
their talons, and flew off as fast as they could. But the two sons of
the North Wind drew their swords, spread their pinions, and set off
through the air in pursuit of the thieves, whom they at last overtook
among some islands, after a chase of hundreds of miles. The two winged
youths blustered terribly at the Harpies (for they had the rough temper
of their father), and so frightened them with their drawn swords, that
they solemnly promised never to trouble King Phineus again.

Then the Argonauts sailed onward, and met with many other marvellous
incidents any one of which would make a story by itself. At one time,
they landed on an island, and were reposing on the grass, when they
suddenly found themselves assailed by what seemed a shower of
steel-headed arrows. Some of them stuck in the ground, while others hit
against their shields, and several penetrated their flesh. The fifty
heroes started up, and looked about them for the hidden enemy, but could
find none, nor see any spot, on the whole island, where even a single
archer could lie concealed. Still, however, the steel-headed arrows came
whizzing among them; and, at last, happening to look upward, they beheld
a large flock of birds, hovering and wheeling aloft, and shooting their
feathers down upon the Argonauts. These feathers were the steel-headed
arrows that had so tormented them. There was no possibility of making
any resistance; and the fifty heroic Argonauts might all have been
killed or wounded by a flock of troublesome birds, without ever setting
eyes on the Golden Fleece, if Jason had not thought of asking the advice
of the oaken image.

[Illustration: THE ARGONAUTS IN QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE

(From the original in the collection of Harry Payne Whitney Esq're, New
York)]

So he ran to the galley as fast as his legs would carry him.

"O daughter of the Speaking Oak," cried he, all out of breath, "we need
your wisdom more than ever before! We are in great peril from a flock of
birds, who are shooting us with their steel-pointed feathers. What can
we do to drive them away?"

"Make a clatter on your shields," said the image.

On receiving this excellent counsel, Jason hurried back to his
companions (who were far more dismayed than when they fought with the
six-armed giants), and bade them strike with their swords upon their
brazen shields. Forthwith the fifty heroes set heartily to work, banging
with might and main, and raised such a terrible clatter that the birds
made what haste they could to get away; and though they had shot half
the feathers out of their wings, they were soon seen skimming among the
clouds, a long distance off, and looking like a flock of wild geese.
Orpheus celebrated this victory by playing a triumphant anthem on his
harp, and sang so melodiously that Jason begged him to desist, lest, as
the steel-feathered birds had been driven away by an ugly sound, they
might be enticed back again by a sweet one.

While the Argonauts remained on this island, they saw a small vessel
approaching the shore, in which were two young men of princely demeanor,
and exceedingly handsome, as young princes generally were in those days.
Now, who do you imagine these two voyagers turned out to be? Why, if you
will believe me, they were the sons of that very Phrixus, who, in his
childhood, had been carried to Colchis on the back of the golden-fleeced
ram. Since that time, Phrixus had married the king's daughter; and the
two young princes had been born and brought up at Colchis, and had spent
their play-days in the outskirts of the grove, in the centre of which
the Golden Fleece was hanging upon a tree. They were now on their way to
Greece, in hopes of getting back a kingdom that had been wrongfully
taken from their father.

When the princes understood whither the Argonauts were going, they
offered to turn back and guide them to Colchis. At the same time,
however, they spoke as if it were very doubtful whether Jason would
succeed in getting the Golden Fleece. According to their account, the
tree on which it hung was guarded by a terrible dragon, who never failed
to devour, at one mouthful, every person who might venture within his
reach.

"There are other difficulties in the way," continued the young princes.
"But is not this enough? Ah, brave Jason, turn back before it is too
late. It would grieve us to the heart, if you and your nine-and-forty
brave companions should be eaten up, at fifty mouthfuls, by this
execrable dragon."

"My young friends," quietly replied Jason, "I do not wonder that you
think the dragon very terrible. You have grown up from infancy in the
fear of this monster, and therefore still regard him with the awe that
children feel for the bugbears and hobgoblins which their nurses have
talked to them about. But, in my view of the matter, the dragon is
merely a pretty large serpent, who is not half so likely to snap me up
at one mouthful as I am to cut off his ugly head, and strip the skin
from his body. At all events, turn back who may, I will never see Greece
again unless I carry with me the Golden Fleece."

"We will none of us turn back!" cried his nine-and-forty brave comrades.
"Let us get on board the galley this instant; and if the dragon is to
make a breakfast of us, much good may it do him."

And Orpheus (whose custom it was to set everything to music) began to
harp and sing most gloriously, and made every mother's son of them feel
as if nothing in this world were so delectable as to fight dragons, and
nothing so truly honorable as to be eaten up at one mouthful, in case of
the worst.

After this (being now under the guidance of the two princes, who were
well acquainted with the way), they quickly sailed to Colchis. When the
king of the country, whose name was Æetes, heard of their arrival, he
instantly summoned Jason to court. The king was a stern and
cruel-looking potentate; and though he put on as polite and hospitable
an expression as he could, Jason did not like his face a whit better
than that of the wicked King Pelias, who dethroned his father.

"You are welcome, brave Jason," said King Æetes. "Pray, are you on a
pleasure voyage?--or do you meditate the discovery of unknown
islands?--or what other cause has procured me the happiness of seeing
you at my court?"

"Great sir," replied Jason, with an obeisance,--for Chiron had taught
him how to behave with propriety, whether to kings or beggars,--"I have
come hither with a purpose which I now beg your Majesty's permission to
execute. King Pelias, who sits on my father's throne (to which he has no
more right than to the one on which your excellent Majesty is now
seated), has engaged to come down from it, and to give me his crown and
sceptre, provided I bring him the Golden Fleece. This, as your Majesty
is aware, is now hanging on a tree here at Colchis; and I humbly solicit
your gracious leave to take it away."

In spite of himself, the king's face twisted itself into an angry frown;
for, above all things else in the world, he prized the Golden Fleece,
and was even suspected of having done a very wicked act, in order to get
it into his own possession. It put him into the worst possible humor,
therefore, to hear that the gallant Prince Jason, and forty-nine of the
bravest young warriors of Greece, had come to Colchis with the sole
purpose of taking away his chief treasure.

"Do you know," asked King Æetes, eying Jason very sternly, "what are the
conditions which you must fulfil before getting possession of the Golden
Fleece?"

"I have heard," rejoined the youth, "that a dragon lies beneath the tree
on which the prize hangs, and that whoever approaches him runs the risk
of being devoured at a mouthful."

"True," said the king, with a smile that did not look particularly
good-natured. "Very true, young man. But there are other things as hard,
or perhaps a little harder, to be done, before you can even have the
privilege of being devoured by the dragon. For example, you must first
tame my two brazen-footed and brazen-lunged bulls, which Vulcan, the
wonderful blacksmith, made for me. There is a furnace in each of their
stomachs; and they breathe such hot fire out of their mouths and
nostrils, that nobody has hitherto gone nigh them without being
instantly burned to a small, black cinder. What do you think of this, my
brave Jason?"

"I must encounter the peril," answered Jason, composedly, "since it
stands in the way of my purpose."

"After taming the fiery bulls," continued King Æetes, who was determined
to scare Jason if possible, "you must yoke them to a plough, and must
plough the sacred earth in the grove of Mars, and sow some of the same
dragon's teeth from which Cadmus raised a crop of armed men. They are an
unruly set of reprobates, those sons of the dragon's teeth; and unless
you treat them suitably, they will fall upon you sword in hand. You and
your nine-and-forty Argonauts, my bold Jason, are hardly numerous or
strong enough to fight with such a host as will spring up."

"My master Chiron," replied Jason, "taught me, long ago, the story of
Cadmus. Perhaps I can manage the quarrelsome sons of the dragon's teeth
as well as Cadmus did."

"I wish the dragon had him," muttered King Æetes to himself, "and the
four-footed pedant, his schoolmaster, into the bargain. Why, what a
foolhardy, self-conceited coxcomb he is! We'll see what my
fire-breathing bulls will do for him. Well, Prince Jason," he continued,
aloud, and as complaisantly as he could, "make yourself comfortable for
to-day, and to-morrow morning, since you insist upon it, you shall try
your skill at the plough."

While the king talked with Jason, a beautiful young woman was standing
behind the throne. She fixed her eyes earnestly upon the youthful
stranger, and listened attentively to every word that was spoken; and
when Jason withdrew from the king's presence, this young woman followed
him out of the room.

"I am the king's daughter," she said to him, "and my name is Medea. I
know a great deal of which other young princesses are ignorant, and can
do many things which they would be afraid so much as to dream of. If you
will trust to me, I can instruct you how to tame the fiery bulls, and
sow the dragon's teeth, and get the Golden Fleece."

"Indeed, beautiful princess," answered Jason, "if you will do me this
service, I promise to be grateful to you my whole life long."

Gazing at Medea, he beheld a wonderful intelligence in her face. She was
one of those persons whose eyes are full of mystery; so that, while
looking into them, you seem to see a very great way, as into a deep
well, yet can never be certain whether you see into the farthest depths,
or whether there be not something else hidden at the bottom. If Jason
had been capable of fearing anything, he would have been afraid of
making this young princess his enemy; for, beautiful as she now looked,
she might, the very next instant, become as terrible as the dragon that
kept watch over the Golden Fleece.

"Princess," he exclaimed, "you seem indeed very wise and very powerful.
But how can you help me to do the things of which you speak? Are you an
enchantress?"

"Yes, Prince Jason," answered Medea, with a smile, "you have hit upon
the truth. I am an enchantress. Circe, my father's sister, taught me to
be one, and I could tell you, if I pleased, who was the old woman with
the peacock, the pomegranate, and the cuckoo staff, whom you carried
over the river; and, likewise, who it is that speaks through the lips of
the oaken image, that stands in the prow of your galley. I am acquainted
with some of your secrets, you perceive. It is well for you that I am
favorably inclined; for, otherwise, you would hardly escape being
snapped up by the dragon."

"I should not so much care for the dragon," replied Jason, "if I only
knew how to manage the brazen-footed and fiery-lunged bulls."

"If you are as brave as I think you, and as you have need to be," said
Medea, "your own bold heart will teach you that there is but one way of
dealing with a mad bull. What it is I leave you to find out in the
moment of peril. As for the fiery breath of these animals, I have a
charmed ointment here, which will prevent you from being burned up, and
cure you if you chance to be a little scorched."

So she put a golden box into his hand, and directed him how to apply the
perfumed unguent which it contained, and where to meet her at midnight.

"Only be brave," added she, "and before daybreak the brazen bulls shall
be tamed."

The young man assured her that his heart would not fail him. He then
rejoined his comrades, and told them what had passed between the
princess and himself, and warned them to be in readiness in case there
might be need of their help.

At the appointed hour he met the beautiful Medea on the marble steps of
the king's palace. She gave him a basket, in which were the dragon's
teeth, just as they had been pulled out of the monster's jaws by Cadmus,
long ago. Medea then led Jason down the palace steps, and through the
silent streets of the city, and into the royal pasture-ground, where the
two brazen-footed bulls were kept. It was a starry night, with a bright
gleam along the eastern edge of the sky, where the moon was soon going
to show herself. After entering the pasture, the princess paused and
looked around.

"There they are," said she, "reposing themselves and chewing their fiery
cuds in that farthest corner of the field. It will be excellent sport, I
assure you, when they catch a glimpse of your figure. My father and all
his court delight in nothing so much as to see a stranger trying to yoke
them, in order to come at the Golden Fleece. It makes a holiday in
Colchis whenever such a thing happens. For my part, I enjoy it
immensely. You cannot imagine in what a mere twinkling of an eye their
hot breath shrivels a young man into a black cinder."

"Are you sure, beautiful Medea," asked Jason, "quite sure, that the
unguent in the gold box will prove a remedy against those terrible
burns?"

"If you doubt it, if you are in the least afraid," said the princess,
looking him in the face by the dim starlight, "you had better never have
been born than go a step nigher to the bulls."

But Jason had set his heart steadfastly on getting the Golden Fleece;
and I positively doubt whether he would have gone back without it, even
had he been certain of finding himself turned into a red-hot cinder, or
a handful of white ashes, the instant he made a step farther. He
therefore let go Medea's hand, and walked boldly forward in the
direction whither she had pointed. At some distance before him he
perceived four streams of fiery vapor, regularly appearing, and again
vanishing, after dimly lighting up the surrounding obscurity. These, you
will understand, were caused by the breath of the brazen bulls, which
was quietly stealing out of their four nostrils, as they lay chewing
their cuds.

At the first two or three steps which Jason made, the four fiery streams
appeared to gush out somewhat more plentifully; for the two brazen bulls
had heard his foot-tramp, and were lifting up their hot noses to snuff
the air. He went a little farther, and by the way in which the red vapor
now spouted forth, he judged that the creatures had got upon their feet.
Now he could see glowing sparks, and vivid jets of flame. At the next
step, each of the bulls made the pasture echo with a terrible roar,
while the burning breath, which they thus belched forth, lit up the
whole field with a momentary flash. One other stride did bold Jason
make; and, suddenly, as a streak of lightning, on came these fiery
animals, roaring like thunder, and sending out sheets of white flame,
which so kindled up the scene that the young man could discern every
object more distinctly than by daylight. Most distinctly of all he saw
the two horrible creatures galloping right down upon him, their brazen
hoofs rattling and ringing over the ground, and their tails sticking up
stiffly into the air, as has always been the fashion with angry bulls.
Their breath scorched the herbage before them. So intensely hot it was,
indeed, that it caught a dry tree, under which Jason was now standing,
and set it all in a light blaze. But as for Jason himself (thanks to
Medea's enchanted ointment), the white flame curled around his body,
without injuring him a jot more than if he had been made of asbestos.

Greatly encouraged at finding himself not yet turned into a cinder, the
young man awaited the attack of the bulls. Just as the brazen brutes
fancied themselves sure of tossing him into the air, he caught one of
them by the horn, and the other by his screwed-up tail, and held them in
a gripe like that of an iron vise, one with his right hand, the other
with his left. Well, he must have been wonderfully strong in his arms,
to be sure. But the secret of the matter was, that the brazen bulls were
enchanted creatures, and that Jason had broken the spell of their fiery
fierceness by his bold way of handling them. And, ever since that time,
it has been the favorite method of brave men, when danger assails them,
to do what they call "taking the bull by the horns"; and to gripe him by
the tail is pretty much the same thing,--that is, to throw aside fear,
and overcome the peril by despising it.

It was now easy to yoke the bulls, and to harness them to the plough,
which had lain rusting on the ground for a great many years gone by; so
long was it before anybody could be found capable of ploughing that
piece of land. Jason, I suppose, had been taught how to draw a furrow by
the good old Chiron, who, perhaps, used to allow himself to be harnessed
to the plough. At any rate, our hero succeeded perfectly well in
breaking up the greensward; and, by the time that the moon was a quarter
of her journey up the sky, the ploughed field lay before him, a large
tract of black earth, ready to be sown with the dragon's teeth. So Jason
scattered them broadcast, and harrowed them into the soil with a
brush-harrow, and took his stand on the edge of the field, anxious to
see what would happen next.

"Must we wait long for harvest-time?" he inquired of Medea, who was now
standing by his side.

"Whether sooner or later, it will be sure to come," answered the
princess. "A crop of armed men never fails to spring up, when the
dragon's teeth have been sown."

The moon was now high aloft in the heavens, and threw its bright beams
over the ploughed field, where as yet there was nothing to be seen. Any
farmer, on viewing it, would have said that Jason must wait weeks before
the green blades would peep from among the clods, and whole months
before the yellow grain would be ripened for the sickle. But by and by,
all over the field, there was something that glistened in the moonbeams,
like sparkling drops of dew. These bright objects sprouted higher, and
proved to be the steel heads of spears. Then there was a dazzling gleam
from a vast number of polished brass helmets, beneath which, as they
grew farther out of the soil, appeared the dark and bearded visages of
warriors, struggling to free themselves from the imprisoning earth. The
first look that they gave at the upper world was a glare of wrath and
defiance. Next were seen their bright breastplates; in every right hand
there was a sword or a spear, and on each left arm a shield; and when
this strange crop of warriors had but half grown out of the earth, they
struggled,--such was their impatience of restraint,--and, as it were,
tore themselves up by the roots. Wherever a dragon's tooth had fallen,
there stood a man armed for battle. They made a clangor with their
swords against their shields, and eyed one another fiercely; for they
had come into this beautiful world, and into the peaceful moonlight,
full of rage and stormy passions, and ready to take the life of every
human brother, in recompense of the boon of their own existence.

There have been many other armies in the world that seemed to possess
the same fierce nature with the one which had now sprouted from the
dragon's teeth; but these, in the moonlit field, were the more
excusable, because they never had women for their mothers. And how it
would have rejoiced any great captain, who was bent on conquering the
world, like Alexander or Napoleon, to raise a crop of armed soldiers as
easily as Jason did.

For a while, the warriors stood flourishing their weapons, clashing
their swords against their shields, and boiling over with the red-hot
thirst for battle. Then they began to shout, "Show us the enemy! Lead us
to the charge! Death or victory! Come on, brave comrades! Conquer or
die!" and a hundred other outcries, such as men always bellow forth on a
battle-field, and which these dragon people seemed to have at their
tongues' ends. At last, the front rank caught sight of Jason, who,
beholding the flash of so many weapons in the moonlight, had thought it
best to draw his sword. In a moment all the sons of the dragon's teeth
appeared to take Jason for an enemy; and crying with one voice, "Guard
the Golden Fleece!" they ran at him with uplifted swords and protruded
spears. Jason knew that it would be impossible to withstand this
bloodthirsty battalion with his single arm, but determined, since there
was nothing better to be done, to die as valiantly as if he himself had
sprung from a dragon's tooth.

Medea, however, bade him snatch up a stone from the ground.

"Throw it among them quickly!" cried she. "It is the only way to save
yourself."

The armed men were now so nigh that Jason could discern the fire
flashing out of their enraged eyes, when he let fly the stone, and saw
it strike the helmet of a tall warrior, who was rushing upon him with
his blade aloft. The stone glanced from this man's helmet to the shield
of his nearest comrade, and thence flew right into the angry face of
another, hitting him smartly between the eyes. Each of the three who had
been struck by the stone took it for granted that his next neighbor had
given him a blow; and instead of running any farther towards Jason, they
began a fight among themselves. The confusion spread through the host,
so that it seemed scarcely a moment before they were all hacking,
hewing, and stabbing at one another, lopping off arms, heads, and legs,
and doing such memorable deeds that Jason was filled with immense
admiration; although, at the same time, he could not help laughing to
behold these mighty men punishing each other for an offence which he
himself had committed. In an incredibly short space of time (almost as
short, indeed, as it had taken them to grow up), all but one of the
heroes of the dragon's teeth were stretched lifeless on the field. The
last survivor, the bravest and strongest of the whole, had just force
enough to wave his crimson sword over his head, and give a shout of
exultation, crying, "Victory! Victory! Immortal fame!" when he himself
fell down, and lay quietly among his slain brethren.

And there was the end of the army that had sprouted from the dragons
teeth. That fierce and feverish fight was the only enjoyment which they
had tasted on this beautiful earth.

"Let them sleep in the bed of honor," said the Princess Medea, with a
sly smile at Jason. "The world will always have simpletons enough, just
like them, fighting and dying for they know not what, and fancying that
posterity will take the trouble to put laurel wreaths on their rusty and
battered helmets. Could you help smiling, Prince Jason, to see the
self-conceit of that last fellow, just as he tumbled down?"

"It made me very sad," answered Jason, gravely. "And, to tell you the
truth, princess, the Golden Fleece does not appear so well worth the
winning, after what I have here beheld."

"You will think differently in the morning," said Medea. "True, the
Golden Fleece may not be so valuable as you have thought it; but then
there is nothing better in the world; and one must needs have an object,
you know. Come! Your night's work has been well performed; and to-morrow
you can inform King Æetes that the first part of your allotted task is
fulfilled."

Agreeably to Medea's advice, Jason went betimes in the morning to the
palace of King Æetes. Entering the presence-chamber, he stood at the
foot of the throne, and made a low obeisance.

"Your eyes look heavy, Prince Jason," observed the king; "you appear to
have spent a sleepless night. I hope you have been considering the
matter a little more wisely, and have concluded not to get yourself
scorched to a cinder, in attempting to tame my brazen-lunged bulls."

"That is already accomplished, may it please your Majesty," replied
Jason. "The bulls have been tamed and yoked; the field has been
ploughed; the dragon's teeth have been sown broadcast, and harrowed into
the soil; the crop of armed warriors has sprung up, and they have slain
one another, to the last man. And now I solicit your Majesty's
permission to encounter the dragon, that I may take down the Golden
Fleece from the tree, and depart, with my nine-and-forty comrades."

King Æetes scowled, and looked very angry and excessively disturbed; for
he knew that, in accordance with his kingly promise, he ought now to
permit Jason to win the fleece, if his courage and skill should enable
him to do so. But, since the young man had met with such good luck in
the matter of the brazen bulls and the dragon's teeth, the king feared
that he would be equally successful in slaying the dragon. And
therefore, though he would gladly have seen Jason snapped up at a
mouthful, he was resolved (and it was a very wrong thing of this wicked
potentate) not to run any further risk of losing his beloved fleece.

"You never would have succeeded in this business, young man," said he,
"if my undutiful daughter Medea had not helped you with her
enchantments. Had you acted fairly, you would have been, at this
instant, a black cinder, or a handful of white ashes. I forbid you, on
pain of death, to make any more attempts to get the Golden Fleece. To
speak my mind plainly, you shall never set eyes on so much as one of its
glistening locks."

Jason left the king's presence in great sorrow and anger. He could think
of nothing better to be done than to summon together his forty-nine
brave Argonauts, march at once to the grove of Mars, slay the dragon,
take possession of the Golden Fleece, get on board the Argo, and spread
all sail for Iolchos. The success of the scheme depended, it is true, on
the doubtful point whether all the fifty heroes might not be snapped up,
at so many mouthfuls, by the dragon. But, as Jason was hastening down
the palace steps, the Princess Medea called after him, and beckoned him
to return. Her black eyes shone upon him with such a keen intelligence,
that he felt as if there were a serpent peeping out of them; and
although she had done him so much service only the night before, he was
by no means very certain that she would not do him an equally great
mischief before sunset. These enchantresses, you must know, are never to
be depended upon.

"What says King Æetes, my royal and upright father?" inquired Medea,
slightly smiling. "Will he give you the Golden Fleece, without any
further risk or trouble?"

"On the contrary," answered Jason, "he is very angry with me for taming
the brazen bulls and sowing the dragon's teeth. And he forbids me to
make any more attempts, and positively refuses to give up the Golden
Fleece, whether I slay the dragon or no."

"Yes, Jason," said the princess, "and I can tell you more. Unless you
set sail from Colchis before to-morrow's sunrise, the king means to burn
your fifty-oared galley, and put yourself and your forty-nine brave
comrades to the sword. But be of good courage. The Golden Fleece you
shall have, if it lies within the power of my enchantments to get it for
you. Wait for me here an hour before midnight."

At the appointed hour, you might again have seen Prince Jason and the
Princess Medea, side by side, stealing through the streets of Colchis,
on their way to the sacred grove, in the centre of which the Golden
Fleece was suspended to a tree. While they were crossing the
pasture-ground, the brazen bulls came towards Jason, lowing, nodding
their heads, and thrusting forth their snouts, which, as other cattle
do, they loved to have rubbed and caressed by a friendly hand. Their
fierce nature was thoroughly tamed; and, with their fierceness, the two
furnaces in their stomachs had likewise been extinguished, insomuch that
they probably enjoyed far more comfort in grazing and chewing their cuds
than ever before. Indeed, it had heretofore been a great inconvenience
to these poor animals, that, whenever they wished to eat a mouthful of
grass, the fire out of their nostrils had shrivelled it up, before they
could manage to crop it. How they contrived to keep themselves alive is
more than I can imagine. But now, instead of emitting jets of flame and
streams of sulphurous vapor, they breathed the very sweetest of cow
breath.

After kindly patting the bulls, Jason followed Medea's guidance into the
grove of Mars, where the great oak-trees, that had been growing for
centuries, threw so thick a shade that the moonbeams struggled vainly to
find their way through it. Only here and there a glimmer fell upon the
leaf-strewn earth, or now and then a breeze stirred the boughs aside,
and gave Jason a glimpse of the sky, lest, in that deep obscurity, he
might forget that there was one, overhead. At length, when they had gone
farther and farther into the heart of the duskiness, Medea squeezed
Jason's hand.

"Look yonder," she whispered. "Do you see it?"

Gleaming among the venerable oaks, there was a radiance, not like the
moonbeams, but rather resembling the golden glory of the setting sun. It
proceeded from an object, which appeared to be suspended at about a
man's height from the ground, a little farther within the wood.

"What is it?" asked Jason.

"Have you come so far to seek it," exclaimed Medea, "and do you not
recognize the meed of all your toils and perils, when it glitters before
your eyes? It is the Golden Fleece."

Jason went onward a few steps farther, and then stopped to gaze. Oh, how
beautiful it looked, shining with a marvellous light of its own, that
inestimable prize, which so many heroes had longed to behold, but had
perished in the quest of it, either by the perils of their voyage, or by
the fiery breath of the brazen-lunged bulls.

"How gloriously it shines!" cried Jason, in a rapture. "It has surely
been dipped in the richest gold of sunset. Let me hasten onward, and
take it to my bosom."

"Stay," said Medea, holding him back. "Have you forgotten what guards
it?"

To say the truth, in the joy of beholding the object of his desires, the
terrible dragon had quite slipped out of Jason's memory. Soon, however,
something came to pass that reminded him what perils were still to be
encountered. An antelope, that probably mistook the yellow radiance for
sunrise, came bounding fleetly through the grove. He was rushing
straight towards the Golden Fleece, when suddenly there was a frightful
hiss, and the immense head and half of the scaly body of the dragon was
thrust forth (for he was twisted round the trunk of the tree on which
the fleece hung), and seizing the poor antelope, swallowed him with one
snap of his jaws.

After this feat, the dragon seemed sensible that some other living
creature was within reach on which he felt inclined to finish his meal.
In various directions he kept poking his ugly snout among the trees,
stretching out his neck a terrible long way, now here, now there, and
now close to the spot where Jason and the princess were hiding behind an
oak. Upon my word, as the head came waving and undulating through the
air, and reaching almost within arm's-length of Prince Jason, it was a
very hideous and uncomfortable sight. The gape of his enormous jaws was
nearly as wide as the gateway of the king's palace.

"Well, Jason," whispered Medea (for she was ill-natured, as all
enchantresses are, and wanted to make the bold youth tremble), "what do
you think now of your prospect of winning the Golden Fleece?"

Jason answered only by drawing his sword and making a step forward.

"Stay, foolish youth," said Medea, grasping his arm. "Do not you see you
are lost, without me as your good angel? In this gold box I have a magic
potion, which will do the dragon's business far more effectually than
your sword."

The dragon had probably heard the voices; for, swift as lightning, his
black head and forked tongue came hissing among the trees again, darting
full forty feet at a stretch. As it approached, Medea tossed the
contents of the gold box right down the monster's wide open throat.
Immediately, with an outrageous hiss and a tremendous wriggle,--flinging
his tail up to the tip-top of the tallest tree, and shattering all its
branches as it crashed heavily down again,--the dragon fell at full
length upon the ground, and lay quite motionless.

"It is only a sleeping potion," said the enchantress to Prince Jason.
"One always finds a use for these mischievous creatures, sooner or
later; so I did not wish to kill him outright. Quick! Snatch the prize,
and let us begone. You have won the Golden Fleece."

Jason caught the fleece from the tree, and hurried through the grove,
the deep shadows of which were illuminated as he passed by the golden
glory of the precious object that he bore along. A little way before
him, he beheld the old woman whom he had helped over the stream, with
her peacock beside her. She clapped her hands for joy, and beckoning him
to make haste, disappeared among the duskiness of the trees. Espying the
two winged sons of the North Wind (who were disporting themselves in the
moonlight, a few hundred feet aloft), Jason bade them tell the rest of
the Argonauts to embark as speedily as possible. But Lynceus, with his
sharp eyes, had already caught a glimpse of him, bringing the Golden
Fleece, although several stone-walls, a hill, and the black shadows of
the grove of Mars intervened between. By his advice, the heroes had
seated themselves on the benches of the galley, with their oars held
perpendicularly, ready to let fall into the water.

As Jason drew near, he heard the Talking Image calling to him with more
than ordinary eagerness, in its grave, sweet voice:--

"Make haste, Prince Jason! For your life, make haste!"

With one hound he leaped aboard. At sight of the glorious radiance of
the Golden Fleece, the nine-and-forty heroes gave a mighty shout, and
Orpheus, striking his harp, sang a song of triumph, to the cadence of
which the galley flew over the water, homeward bound, as if careering
along with wings!





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales - For girls and boys" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home