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Title: A Wonder Book for Girls & Boys
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
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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.

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A WONDER BOOK FOR GIRLS & BOYS

[Illustration]

by

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

With 60 Designs by Walter Crane



Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company

[Illustration: BELLEROPHON ON PEGASVS]

Copyright, 1851, by Nathaniel
Hawthorne

Copyright, 1879, by Rose Hawthorne
Lathrop

Copyright, 1883 and 1892, by
Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

All Rights Reserved



PREFACE

[Illustration]


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_.

[Illustration]



CONTENTS

[Illustration]


                                                                  PAGE
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
  TANGLEWOOD PORCH.--Introductory to The Gorgon's Head               1
  THE GORGON'S HEAD                                                  7
  TANGLEWOOD PORCH.--After the Story                                39

THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
  SHADOW BROOK.--Introductory to The Golden Touch                   42
  THE GOLDEN TOUCH                                                  46
  SHADOW BROOK.--After the Story                                    69

THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
  TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM.--Introductory to The Paradise
    of Children                                                     73
  THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN                                          78
  TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM.--After the Story                           100

THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES.
  TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE.--Introductory to The Three
    Golden Apples                                                  102
  THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES                                          109
  TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE.--After the Story                            136

THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER.
  THE HILL-SIDE.--Introductory to The Miraculous
    Pitcher                                                        140
  THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER                                           144
  THE HILL-SIDE.--After the Story                                  170

THE CHIMÆRA.
  BALD-SUMMIT.--Introductory to The Chimæra                        172
  THE CHIMÆRA                                                      176
  BALD-SUMMIT.--After the Story                                    206



LIST OF DESIGNS

[Illustration]


Half-Title                                                           i
Frontispiece--Bellerophon on Pegasus.
Title                                                              iii
Preface                                                              v
  Tailpiece                                                         vi
Contents                                                           vii
List of Designs                                                     ix
  Tailpiece                                                          x
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD PORCH                                        1
THE GORGON'S HEAD--Headpiece                                         7
Perseus and the Graiæ                                               22
Perseus armed by the Nymphs                                         26
Perseus and the Gorgons                                             32
Perseus showing the Gorgon's Head                                   36
  Tailpiece                                                         38
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD PORCH, After the Story                      39
  Tailpiece                                                         41
  Headpiece--SHADOW BROOK                                           42
THE GOLDEN TOUCH--Headpiece                                         46
The Stranger appearing to Midas                                     50
Midas' Daughter turned to Gold                                      62
Midas with the Pitcher                                              66
  Tailpiece                                                         68
  Headpiece--SHADOW BROOK, After the Story                          69
  Tailpiece                                                         72
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM                                   73
  Tailpiece                                                         77
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN--Headpiece                                 78
Pandora wonders at the Box                                          80
Pandora desires to open the Box                                     86
Pandora opens the Box                                               92
  Tailpiece                                                         96
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM, After the Story                 100
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE                                   102
  Tailpiece                                                        108
THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES--Headpiece                                 109
Hercules and the Nymphs                                            112
Hercules and the Old Man of the Sea                                120
Hercules and Atlas                                                 126
  Tailpiece                                                        135
  Headpiece--TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE, After the Story                  136
  Tailpiece                                                        139
  Headpiece--THE HILL-SIDE                                         140
  Tailpiece                                                        143
THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER--Headpiece                                  144
Philemon and Baucis                                                144
The Strangers in the Village                                       148
The Strangers entertained                                          158
  Tailpiece                                                        169
  Headpiece--THE HILL-SIDE, After the Story                        170
  Tailpiece                                                        171
  Headpiece--BALD SUMMIT                                           172
  Tailpiece                                                        175
THE CHIMÆRA--Headpiece                                             176
Bellerophon at the Fountain                                        180
Bellerophon slays the Chimæra                                      200
  Tailpiece                                                        205
  Headpiece--BALD SUMMIT, After the Story                          206
  Tailpiece                                                        210

[Illustration]



THE GORGON'S HEAD

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]


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 skillful 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 schoolboy, 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
marvelously. 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 traveling 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 quarreling.
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 marvelous 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!"

[Illustration: PERSEVS & THE GRAIÆ]

"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 marvelous
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 deerskin 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."

[Illustration: PERSEVS ARMED BY THE NYMPHS]

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; for, 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."

[Illustration: PERSEVS & THE GORGONS]

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 marvelous 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 praiseworthy 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 travelers 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.

[Illustration: PERSEVS SHOWING THE GORGON'S HEAD]

On a platform, within full view of the balcony, sat the mighty King
Polydectes, amid his evil counselors, and with his flattering
courtiers in a semicircle round about him. Monarch, counselors,
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 counselors 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 counselors, 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.

[Illustration]



TANGLEWOOD PORCH

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]



THE GOLDEN TOUCH

[Illustration]

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 persuaded that
he had winged slippers, like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus; so
often had the student shown himself at the tiptop 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

[Illustration]


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 tiptop 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."

[Illustration: THE STRANGER APPEARING TO MIDAS]

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 crystal 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
downstairs, 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 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!

[Illustration: MIDAS' DAVGHTER TVRNED TO GOLD]

Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, and
pity, hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and most woeful
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
fullness 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 marvelous
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!"

[Illustration: MIDAS WITH THE 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
marvelous 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!"

[Illustration]



SHADOW BROOK AFTER THE STORY

[Illustration]


"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 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!

[Illustration]



THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]



THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN

[Illustration]


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 quarreled 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.

"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."

[Illustration: PANDORA WONDERS AT THE BOX]

"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 just 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 skillfullest 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.

[Illustration: PANDORA DESIRES TO OPEN THE BOX]

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.

[Illustration: PANDORA OPENS THE BOX]

"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.

[Illustration]



TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE

INTRODUCTORY TO THE 3 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 frost-work 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 woolens, 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, halfway 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 tiptop 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 semi-circular 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 mantel-piece.

[Illustration]



THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES

[Illustration]


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 traveler, what do you want there?"

"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 traveler 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!"

[Illustration: HERCVLES & THE NYMPHS]

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 traveler 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 traveled 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?"

[Illustration: HERCVLES & THE OLD MAN OF THE SEA]

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
marvelous 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 marvelous
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
travelers 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.

[Illustration: HERCVLES AND ATLAS]

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 thunder-clouds. 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!

[Illustration]



TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE

[Illustration]

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 that 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 remodeled 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.

[Illustration]



THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER

[Illustration]

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 halfway
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 tiptop 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 farther? 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.

[Illustration]



THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER

[Illustration]


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 traveler 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!"

[Illustration: PHILEMON & BAVCIS]

"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 traveler 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
traveler 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 travelers, 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 travelers 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.

[Illustration: THE STRANGERS IN THE VILLAGE]

Both of the travelers 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 traveler, 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 traveler'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 traveler 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
traveler. "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 olive-wood, 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 skillfully 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
marvelous, 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 traveler 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 traveler 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 travelers 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 traveler. "So, if
you call me Quicksilver, the name will fit tolerably well."

"Quicksilver? Quicksilver?" repeated Philemon, looking in the
traveler'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 traveler 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
travelers. 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 travelers 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!"

[Illustration: THE STRANGERS ENTERTAINED]

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
traveler, 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 traveler 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 traveler, 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 traveler'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 traveler, 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 traveler, 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!"

"Ah," 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 traveler,--"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 marvelous 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 marveling 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 traveler, 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!

[Illustration]



THE HILL-SIDE

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]



THE CHIMÆRA

[Illustration]

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 oftentimes 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.

[Illustration]



THE CHIMÆRA

[Illustration]


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 marvelous 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 plow 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 up him 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."

[Illustration: BELLEROPHON AT THE FOVNTAIN]

"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 marvelous
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.

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 marvelous 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 traveled 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 therein.

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 marvelous 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 marvelous 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 Chimæra'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, halfway 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 three-fold 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.

[Illustration: BELLEROPHON SLAYS THE CHIMÆRA]

"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 marvelous
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!

[Illustration]



BALD SUMMIT

[Illustration]

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."

"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 the 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.

[Illustration]





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