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H. M. CALDWELL CO., PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND BOSTON ** J*
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 everyone who attempts to
render these legends malleable in his intel-
lectual furnace that they are marvelously
independent of all temporary modes and cir-
cumstances. They remain essentially the same
after changes that would affect the identity of
almost anything else.
He does not, therefore, plead guilty to a sacri-
lege in having sometimes shaped anew, as his
fancy dictated, the forms that have been hal-
lowed by an antiquity of two or three thousand
years. No epoch of time can claim a copy-
right 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 im-
bue with its own morality. In the present
version they may have lost much of their clas-
sical 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 taskfor it has
been really a task fit for hot weather, and one
of the most agreeable, of a literary kind, which
he ever undertookthe 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 when-
ever such was its tendency, and when he him-
self was buoyant enough to follow without an
effort. Children possess an unestimated sen-
sibility to whatever is deep or high in imagina-
tion or feeling, so long as it is simple likewise.
It is only the artificial and the complex that
Lenox, July 15, 1851.
Introductory to The Gorgon's Head," 1
The Gorgons Head,..................... 8
After the Story, . . *.............41
Introductory to The Golden Touch," 43
The Golden Touch, ............. . 47
After the Story,......................70
Introductory to The Paradise of Chil-
dren, " 74
The Paradise of Children, ..............78
After the Story, .....................100
Introductory to The Three Golden
The Three Golden Apples, ..............109
After the Story,......................187
Introductory to The Miraculous
The Miraculous Pitcher,....................145
After the Story,................... . 172
Introductory to 'The Chimera, 174
The Chuvlera, ........................178
After the Story,........................200
A WONDER BOOK
INTRODUCTORY TO THE GORGONS 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 impa-
tiently 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 the prospect of as fine a day as ever
gladdened the aspect of this beautiful and com-
fortable world. As yet, however, the morning
mists filled up the whole length and breadth of
the valley above which, on a gently sloping emi-
nence, 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 treetops which
TANGLE WOOD PORCH.
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 sub-
stantial as the vapory sea that almost rolled over
it. The nearer hills which bordered the valley
were half submerged, and were speckled 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
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 werenot 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 ac-
quaintances, 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, Milk-weed, Plantain, and But-
tercup, although, to be sure, such titles might
better suit a group of fairies than a company of
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 nameand 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 printedhis 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 toward Periwinkle,
Dandelion, Huckleberry, Squash-blossom, Milk-
weed, and the rest, who were only half or a
third as venerable as he. A trouble in his eye-
sight (such as many students think it necessary
to have, nowadays, in order to prove their dili-
gence at their books) had kept him from col-
lege 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
This learned student was slender and rather
pale, as all Yankee students are, hut yet of a
healthy aspect, and as light and active as if he
had wing to his shoes. By the bye, 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 preserva-
tion 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.
How, Eustace Bright, you must know, had
won great fame among the children as a narra-
tor of wonderful stories; and though he some-
times 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 morn-
ing 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 l?~t 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
Thank you, my little Cowslip, said Eu-
stace; 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,
TANGLE WOOD PORCH.
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 lie, 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 bo}^s. 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 Eu-
stace 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 be-
tween 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,
TANGLE WOOD PORCH.
and I shall tell you a sweet pretty story of a
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 incur-
ring great obligations to Professor Anthon, he
nevertheless disregarded all classical authorities
whenever the vagrant audacity of his imagina-
tion impelled him to do so.
THE GOEGONS HEAD.
Pekseus was the son of Danae, who was the
daughter of a king, and when Perseus was a
very little hoy 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
Danae 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 fishermans
nets and was drawn out high and dry upon the
sand. The island was called Seriphus, and it
was reigned over by Kang Polydectes, who hap-
pened to be the fishermans brother.
This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an
exceedingly humane and upright man. He
showed great kindness to Danae and her little
boy, and continued to befriend them until Per-
seus 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 strangersthe mother and
her childwho had come to his dominions in
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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 dan-
gerous enterprise in which he would probably
be killed, and then to do some great mischief
to Danae 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, hav-
ing hit upon an enterprise that promised to turn
out as fatally as he desired, he sent for the
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 fisher-
man, 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 ad-
venture to propose to you; and, as you are a
brave and enterprising youth, you will doubt-
less look upon it as a great piece of good luck
to have so rare an opportunity of distinguish-
ing yourself. You must know, my good Per-
seus, I think of getting married to the beautiful
Princess Hippodamia, and it is customary on
these occasions to make the bride a present of
THE GORGONS HEAD.
some fax-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 morn-
ing, I flatter myself, I have thought of precisely
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
I will set out to-morrow morning, an-
Pray do so, my gallant youth, rejoined the
king. And, Perseus, in cutting off the Gor-
gons head be careful to make a clean stroke, so
so 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
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
Bnare. The news quickly spread abroad that
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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 Danae and
her son. The only good man in this unfortu-
nate island of Seriphus appears to have been the
fisherman. As Perseus walked along, there-
fore, the people pointed after him, and made
mouths, and winked to one another, and ridi-
culed him as loudly as they dared.
Ho, ho! cried they; Medusas snakes
will sting him soundly!
Now, there were three Gorgons alive at that
period, and they were the most strange and ter-
rible monsters that had ever been seen 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 sis-
ters, and seem to have borne some distant re-
semblance 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 grow-
ing 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
THE GOBGONs HEAD.
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 dazzling, no doubt,
when the Gorgons were flying about in the sun-
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 abomi-
nable 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
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 tjie
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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-elawed, snaky-haired mon-
ster, hut 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 cen-
turies, 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 re-
frained 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
He lifted his head from his. hands, in which
he had hidden it, and, behold! all alone as Per-
seus had supposed himself to be, there was a
stranger in the solitary place. It was a brisk,
intelligent, and remarkably shrewd-looking;
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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 exceeding
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 de-
spair. 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
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 your trouble
is, and We will talk the matter over and see
what can be done.
The strangers words and manner put Per-
THE GORGONS HEAD.
seus into quite a different mood from his for-
mer one. He resolved to tell Quicksilver all
his difficulties, since he could not easily he
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 washow that King Polydectes wanted
the head of Medusa with the snaky locks as a
bridal gift for the beautiful Princess Hippo-
damia, and how that he had undertaken to get
it for him, but was afraid of being turned into
" 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, oil
the whole, one would rather be a young man
for a few years than a stone image for a great
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 per-
son to help you, if anybody can. My sister
and mjrself 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
THE GOIiGONS HEAD.
is very wise, I promise yon; and as for myself,
I generally have all my wits about me, such as
they are. If you show yourself bold and cau-
tious and follow our advice, you need not
fear being a stone image yet a while. But,
first of all, you must polish your shield till
you can see your face in it as distinctly as in a
This seemed to Perseus rather an odd begin-
ning of the adventure, for he thought it of far
more consequence that the shield should be
strong enough to defend him from the Gorgons*
brazen claws than that it should be bright
enough to show him the reflection of his face.
However, concluding that Quicksilver knew bet-
ter 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
Â£word, he girded it about Perseus, instead of the
one which he had before worn.
Ho sword but mine will answer your pur-
pose, observed he; the blade has a most ex-
cellent 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
THE GORGONS HEAD.
Three Gray Women be? I never heard of them
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
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 wluen we
meet with them you may be sure that the Gor-
gons are not a great way off. Come, let us be
Perseus by this time felt so much confidence
in his companions sagacity that lie made no
more objections, and professed himself ready to
begin the adventure immediately. They ac-
cordingly set out and walked at a pretty brisk
paceso 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 GOKGON?S HEAD.
the side of his head, although, if he turned a
full gaze, there were no such things to he per-
ceived, 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 remark-
ably active young man, began to be out of
"Here! cried Quicksilver at lastfor 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 your-
self in the island of Seriphus?
I could walk pretty well, said Perseus,
glancing slyly at his companions feet, if I had
only a air of winged shoes.
We must see about getting you a pair, an-
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 evi-
dently knew the world, and nobody is so charm-
ing 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.
THE GORGONS HEAD.
At last he happened to recollect that Quick-
silver 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 my-
self. She is very grave and prudent, seldom
smiles, never laughs, and makes it a rule not
to utter a word unless she has something par-
ticularly 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 my-
self. 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
THE GORGONS HEAD.
moment more obscure. Perseus looked about
him rather disconsolately, and asked Quick-
silver whether they had a great deal farther
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 orwhich would have
suited them bettera 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
THE GOKGONS HEAD.
Three Gray Women all peeping through a
So thought Perseus likewise, and was so as-
tonished 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 sisters 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 see-
ing 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
the gorgons head.
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
Let me keep it a moment longer, Sister
Nightmare/ answered Scarecrow. I thought
I had a glimpse of something behind that thick
Well, and what of that? retorted Night-
mare peevishly. Cant 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 maybe a little better. I insist upon tak-
ing 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 Scare-
crow 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
Accordingly, both Nightmare and Shakejoint
stretched out their hands, groping eagerly to
snatch the eye out of the hand of Scarecrow.
THE GOBGONs HEAD.
But, being both alike blind, they could not
easily find where Scarecrows hand was; and
Scarecrow, being now just as much in the dark
as Shake joint 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
Shake joint and Nightmare both groping for the
eye, and each finding fault with Scarecrow and
with one another, that he could scarcely help
Now is your time! he whispered to Per-
seus. Quick, quick! before they can clap the
eye into either of their heads. Push out upon
the old ladies and snatch it from Scarecrows
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 hap-
THE GORGONS HEAD.
pened, and, each supposing that one of her sis-
ters 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
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 discover-
ing that their eyesight had got into the hands
of they could not guess whom. Oh, what
shall we do, sisters? what shall we do? We
are all in the dark! Give us our eye! Give us
our one precious, solitary eye! You have two
of your own! Give us our eye!
Tell them, whispered Quicksilver to Per-
seus, 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 GORGONS HEAD.
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 among
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 try-
ing their utmost to get hold of Perseus, but he
took good care to keep out of their reach.
My respectable dames, said hefor 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 thewhat is
it?the helmet of invisibility.
Mercy on us, sisters! what is the young man
talking about? exclaimed Scarecrow, Night-
mare, 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?
THE GORGONS HEAD.
And an enchanted wallet! What sort of a con-
trivance may that be, I wonder? No, no, good
stranger! we can tell yon nothing of these mar-
velous things. You have two eyes of your own,
and we but a single one among 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.
Dont let them make a fool of you, said he.
These Three Gray Women are the only per-
sons in the world that can tell you where to
find the Nymphs, and unless you get that infor-
mation 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
THE GOBGONS HEAD.
farewell. Before the young man was out of
hearing, however, they had got into a new dis-
pute because he happened to have given the eye
to Scarecrow, who had already taken her turn
of it when their trouble with Perseus com-
It is greatly to be feared that the Three Gray
Women were very much in the habit of disturb-
ing 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 com-
panions. As a general rule, I would advise all
people, whether sisters or brothers, old or
young, who chance to have but one eye among
them, to cultivate forbearance, and not all insist
upon peeping through it at once.
Quicksilver and Perseus in the meantime
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, Shake-
joint, and Scarecrow, for instead of being old
they were young and beautiful, and instead of
one eye among 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
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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 slip-
pers 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
When Perseus had got on both of these won-
derful 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 companions
involuntary activity, and told him that he must
not be in so desperate a hurry, but must wait
for the invisible helmet
THE GORGONS HEAD-.
The good-natured Nymphs had the helmet
with its dark tuft of waving plumes all in readi-
ness to put upon his head. And now there
happened about as wonderful an incident as
anything that I have yet told you. The in-
stant 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 arma 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 hel-
met that covered him with its invisibility had
Where are you, Perseus? asked Quick-
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. Dont you see
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 Quicksilvers 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 GORGONS HEAD.
the young man began to feel what a delightful
thing it was to leave the dull earth so far be-
neath him and to be able to flit about like a
It was now deep night. Perseus looked up-
ward and saw the round, bright, silvery moon,
and thought that he should desire nothing bet-
ter 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 moun-
tain-peaks, and the breadth of its fields, and the
dark cluster of *'s 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 ob-
jects, he saw the island of Seriphus, where his
dear mother was. Sometimes he and Quick-
silver approached a cloud that at a distance
looked as if it were made of fleecy silver, al-
though 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 sunshine
pale for as much as a hundred miles around
As the two companions flew onward Perseus
fancied that he could hear the rustle of a gar-
THE GORGONS HEAD.
ment 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
Oh, it is my sisters! 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 Ill 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 tu-
multuously 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 womans voice, and was melodi-
ous, though not exactly what might be called
sweet, but grave and mild.
Perseus, said the voice, there are the
Where? exclaimed Perseus. I cannot
On the shore of that island beneath you,
THE GORGON*S HEAD.
replied the voice. A pebble dropped from
jour 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 de-
scended toward 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 in-
stead of hair seemed likewise to be asleep* al-
though now and then one would writhe and lift
its head and thrust out its forked tongue* emit-
ting a drowsy hiss* and then let itself subside
among its sister snakes.
The Gorgons were more like an awful* gigan-
tic kind of insectimmense golden-winged
beetles or dragon-flies or things of that sort* at
once ugly and beautifulthan like anything
THE GORGONS HEAD.
else, only that they were a thousand and a mil-
lion 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 ta
do the deed! Be quick, for if one of the Gor-
gons 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 Quicksilvers motiye
for so earnestly exhorting him to polish his
shield. In its surface he could safely look at
THE GORGONS HEAD.
the reflection of the Gorgons 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 hor-
rible 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 fea-
tures, 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 Medusas
dream and to be made more restless by it.
They twined themselves into tumultuous knots,
writhed fiercely, and uplifted a hundred hiss-
ing heads without opening their eyes.
Now, now! whispered Quicksilver, who
was growing impatient. Make a dash at the
But be calm, said the grave, melodious
voice at the young mans side. Look in your
shield as you fly downward, and take care that
you do not miss your first stroke.
Perseus flew cautiously downward, still keep-
ing his eyes on Medusas 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 arms length, Perseus
THE GORGONS HEAD.
uplifted his sword, while at the same instant
each separate snake upon the Gorgons head
stretched threateningly upward and Medusa un-
closed 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
To the astonishment of Perseus, the small
embroidered wallet which he had hung about
his neck, and which had hitherto been no big-
ger than a purse, grew all at once large enough
to contain Medusas 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 Medusas death.
It was indeed necessary to take flight, for Per-
seus had not done the deed so quietly but that
the clash of his sword and the hissing of the
snakes and the thump of Medusas head as it
tumbled upon the sea-beaten sand awoke the
other two monsters. There they sat for an in-
stant, 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
THE GOBGONS HEAD.
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 Medusas snakes answered them
out of the magic wallet.
No sooner were the Gorgons broad awake
than they hurtled upward into the air, bran-
dishing their brass talons, gnashing their hor-
rible 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 be-
neath him, he made a straight course for the
island of Seriphus, in order to carry Medusas
head to King Polydectes.
I have no time to tell you of several marvel-
ous things that befell Perseus on his way home-
ward, such as his killing a hideous sea-monster
just as it was on the point of devouring a beau-
tiful maiden, nor how he changed an enormous
THE GORGONS HEAD.
giant into a mountain of stone merely by show-
ing him the head of the Gorgon. If you doubt
this latter story, you may make a voyage to
Africa some day or other and s^e the very
mountain, which is still known by the ancient
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 Danae so very ill that she was
compelled to make her escape, and had taken
refuge in a temple, where some good old priests
were extremely kind to her. These praise-
worthy priests, and the kind-hearted fisherman
who had first shown hospitality to Danae 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 Poly-
dectes himself, were remarkably ill-behaved,
and deserved no better destiny that that which
was now to happen.
Not finding his mother at home, Perseus
went straight to the palace, and was immedi-
ately 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 suc-
THE GORGONS HEAD.
Have you performed your promise? in-
quired 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 Hippo-
damia, and there is nothing else that she would
admire so much.
Yes, please your majesty, answered Per-
seus in a quiet way, as if it were no very won-
derful deed for such a young man as he to
perform. I have brought you the Gorgons
head, snaky locks, and all.
Indeed! Pray let me see it, quoth King
Polydectes. It must be a very curious spec-
tacle, if all that travelers tell about it be true.
Your majesty is in the right, replied Per-
seus. 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
majestys subjects be summoned to behold this
wonderful curiosity. Few of them, I imagine,
have seen a Gorgons 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 mans 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 sum-
mon everybody to court. Thither, accordingly,
came a great multitude of good-for-nothing
THE GORGONS HEAD.
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 own 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 an-
other in their eagerness to get near a balcony
on which Perseus showed himself holding the
embroidered wallet in his hand.
On a platform within full view of the balcony
sat the mighty King Polydectes, amid his evil
counselors and with his flattering courtiers in a
semicircle round about him. Monarch, coun-
selors, courtiers, and subjects all gazed eagerly
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 Me-
dusa with the snaky locks!
A feeling of sorrow and pity came over the
0 King Polydectes, cried he, and ye
many people, I am very loath to show you the
Ah, the villain and coward! yelled the
people, more fiercely than before. He is mak-
THE GOEGONS HEAD.
ing game of us! He has no Gorgons 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 kings 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, *rith the stern, deep voice of au-
thority, on his peril to produce the head:
Show me the Gorgons head or I will cut
off your own!
And Perseus sighed.
This instant, repeated Polydectes, or you
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
TANGLE WOOD POECH.
AFTER THE STORY.
Was not that a very fine story? asked
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 Mer-
cury 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 for-
ward the vapors had been quite exhaled from
the landscape. A scene was now disclosed
which the spectators might almost fancy as hav-
ing 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 hillside.
Over all this scene there was a genial sun-
shine, 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 re-
spectable 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 Eu-
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 inter-
mingling 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 min-
nows 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
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. Dande-
lion, Clover, Cowslip, and Buttercup were al-
most persuaded that he had winged slippers
like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus, so
often had the student shown himself at the tip-
top of a nut tree, when only a moment before
he had been standing on the ground. And
Behold the Gorgons head cried Perseus.
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
But children have no mercy nor considera-
tion for anybodys 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 Gorgons 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.
Oh, 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 Gor-
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 reputa-
tion. 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
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 exter-
nal 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 days work may have become
essential to the days 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 trans-
muted every one of its green leaves into what
resembled the purest gold. And this change,
which we have all of us witnessed, is as wonder-
ful as anything that Eustace told about in the
story of Midas.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
Once upon a time there lived a very rich
man, and a king besides, whose name was
Midas; and he had a little daughter whom
nobody but myself ever heard of, and whose
name I either never knew or have entirely for-
gotten. 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 com-
posed 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 fathers footstool. But the more Midas
loved his daughter, the more did he d.esire
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 he ever 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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
And yet in his earlier days, before he was so
entirely possessed with 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 beautifulest 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 inhal-
ing 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 in-
numerable 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
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 apart-
ment underground, at the basement of his
palace. It was here that he kept his wealth.
To this dismal holefor it was little better than
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
a dungeonMidas 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 wash-
bowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck measure
of gold-dust, and bring it from the obscure cor-
ners of the room into the one bright and narrow*
sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like win-
dow. He valued the sunbeam for no other rea-
son but that his treasure would not shine with-
out 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, 0 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 pol-
ished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware
of his foolish behavior, and to have a naughty
inclination to make fun of him.
Midas called himself a happy man, but felt
that he was not yet quite so happy as he might
be. The very tip-top of enjoyment would never
be reached unless the whole world were to be-
come 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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; hut,
however that may be, I must go on with my
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 re-
motest 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,
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
it was supposed to be often the resort of beings
endowed with supernatural powers, and who
used to interest themselves in the joys and sor-
rows of men, women, and children half play-
fully and half seriously. Midas had met such
beings before now, and was not sorry to meet
one of them again. The strangers aspect, in-
deed, was so good-humored and kindly, if not
beneficent, that it would have been unreason-
able to suspect him of intending any mischief.
Tt 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
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 wellpretty well, an-
swered 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
Midas paused and meditated. He felt a pre-
sentiment that this stranger, with such a golden
luster 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 an-
other 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
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 strangers 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 leavesfor so looked the
lumps and particles of goldlie strewn in the
glow of light.
The Golden Touch! exclaimed he. You
certainly deserve credit, friend Midas, for strik-
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
ing 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
What could induce me? asked Midas.
I ask nothing else to render me perfectly
Be it as you wish, then, replied the stran-
ger, 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 ex-
ceedingly bright, and Midas involuntarily
closed his eyes. On opening them again he be-
held 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
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 childs
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 strangers promise. So he laid his finger
on a chair by the bedside and on various other
things, but was grievously disappointed to per-
ceive that they remained of exactly the same
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
substance as before. Indeed, he felt very much
afraid that he had only dreamed about the lus-
trous 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 in-
stead 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, regret-
ting the downfall of his hopes, and kept grow-
ing sadder and sadder until the earliest sunbeam
shone through the window and gilded the ceil-
ing 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 astonish-
ment 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
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 handa mass of gold.
He took up a book from the table. At his first
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 enrap-
tured 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 up on 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 com-
mon people had not been invented, but were
already worn by kings, else how could Midas
have had any? To his great perplexity, how-
ever, excellent as the glasses were, he discovered
that he could not possibly see through them.
But this was the most natural thing in the
world, for on taking them off the transparent
crystals turned out to be plates of yellow metal,
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 accom-
panied with some small inconvenience. The
Golden Touch is worth the sacrifice of a pair of
spectacles at least, if not of ones 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 bur-
nished 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,.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 57
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 kings breakfast in the
days of Midas I really do not know, and cannot
stop now to investigate. To the best of my be-
lief, 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 ap-
pearance. Her father ordered her to be called,
and, seating himself at table, awaited the childs
coming in order to begin his own breakfast.
To do Midas justice, he really loved his daugh-
ter, and loved her so much the more this morn-
ing on account of the good fortune which had
befallen him. It was not a great while before
he heard her coming along the passage-way
crying bitterly. This circumstance surprised
him, because Marygold was one of the cheer-
fulest little people whom you would see in a
THE GOLDEIST TOUCH.
summers 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 daugh-
ters bowl (which was a china one with pretty
figures all around it) and transmuted it to
Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconso-
lately 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
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 beau-
tiful, 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 gath-
ered by your little daughter. Butoh, 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
have no longer any fragrance. What can be
the matter with them?
Poh, my dear little girl! pray dont cry
about it! said Midas, who was ashamed to con-
fess 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 ordi-
nary one, which would wither in a day.
I dont care for such roses as this! cried
Marygold, tossing it contemptuously away.
It has no smell, and the hard petals prick my
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 extrava-
gant 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 keep-
ing his treasures safe. The cupboard and the
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
kitchen would no longer be a secure place of
deposit for articles so valuable as golden bowls
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 mo-
ment 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 im-
mediately 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 appear-
ance 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 mo-
ment, would much rather have had a real trout
in his dish than this elaborate and valuable imi-
tation of one.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
*' 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 morti-
fication, 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 bit-
terly sensible that it was gold. Almost in
despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg,
which immediately underwent a change similar
to those of the trout and the cake. The egg,
indeed, might have been mistaken for one of
those which the famous goose in the story-book
was in the habit of laying; but King Midas was
the only goose that had had anything to do with
Well, this is a quandary! thought he
leaning back in his chair and looking quite en-
viously at little Marygold, who was now eating
her bread and milk with great satisfaction.
Such a costly breakfast before me, and noth-
ing that can be eaten!
Hoping that, by dint of great dispatch, he
might avoid what he now felt to be a consider-
able 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 which so burnt his tongue that
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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?99
Ah, dear child, groaned Midas dolefully,
I dont know what is to become of your poor
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 exces-
sively hungry. Would he be less so by dinner
time? And how ravenous would be his appe-
tite 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
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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
for so paltry a consideration as a breakfast.
Just imagine what a price for one meals
victuals! It would have been the same as pay-
ing 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 try-
ing 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 daughters love was worth a thou-
sand times more than he had gained by the
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 mo-
ment the lips of Midas touched Marygolds fore-
head 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
within her father's encircling arms. Oh, ter-
rible misfortune! The victim of his insatiable
desire for wealth, little Marygold, was a human
child no longer, but a golden statue!
Yes, there she was, with the questioning look
of love, grief, and pity hardened into her face.
It was the prettiest and most 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 this resemblance the greater
was the fathers 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 grati-
fied desires, began to wring his hands and be-
moan 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
TIIK GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 childs
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 strangers countenance still wore a smile,
which seemed to shed a yellow luster all about
the room, and gleamed on little Marygolds
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
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
Gold is not everything, answered Midas,
and I have lost all that my heart really cared
Ah! So you have made a discovery since
yesterday? observed the stranger. Let us
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
see, then. Which of these two things do you
think is really worth the mostthe gift of the
Golden Touch or one cup of clear cold water?
Oh, blessed water!99 exclaimed Midas. It
will never moisten my parched throat again.
The Golden Touch, continued the stran-
ger, 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 en-
tirely 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 every-
bodys 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.
Go, then, said the stranger, and plunge
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 earnest-
ness 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 majv
velous to see how the foliage turned yellow
behind him, as if the autumn had been there
and nowhere else. On reaching the river's
brink he plunged headlong in, without waiting
so much as to pull off his shoes.
Poof! poof! poof! snorted King Midas as
his head emerged out of the water. Well,
this is really a refreshing bath, and I think it
must have quite washed away the Golden
Touch. And now for filling my pitcher.
As he dipped the pitcher into the water it
gladdened his very heart to see it change from
gold into the same good, honest earthen vessel
which it had been before he touched it. He
was conscious also of a change within himself.
A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have
gone out of his bosom. No doubt his heart had
been gradually losing its human substance and
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
transmuting itself into insensible metal, but
bad now softened back again into flesh. Per-
ceiving 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 re-
tained 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 care-
fully 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 Mary-
Ko sooner did it fall on her than you would
have laughed to see how the rosy color came
back to the dear childs cheek, and how she be-
gan 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 re-
member anything that had happened since the
moment when she ran with outstretched arms
to comfort poor King Midas.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 beau-
tiful 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 Mary golds hair
had now a golden tinge which he had never
observed in it before she had been transmuted
by the effect of his kiss. The change of hue
was really an improvement, and made Mary-
golds hair richer than in her babyhood.
When King Midas had grown quite an old
man, and used to trot Marygolds children on
his knee, he was fond of telling them this mar-
velous 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 trot-
ting the children all the while, ever since that
morning I have hated the very sight of all other
gold save this.
AFTER THE STORY.
Well, children, inquired Eustace, who
was very fond of eliciting a definite opinion
from his auditors, did you ever, in all your
lives, listen to a better story than this of The
Why, as to the story of Eng Midas, said
saucy Primrose, it was a famous one thou-
sands of years before Mr. Eustace Bright came
into the world, and will continue to he so long
after he quits it. But some people have what
we may call The Leaden Touch/ and mate
everything dull and heavy that they lay their
You are a smart child, Primrose, to he not
yet in your teens, s*id 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 oi Midas all
over anew, and have made it shine as it never
shone before. And then that figure of Mary-
gold! 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
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-
Oh, 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 au-
tumn, 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
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 Mary-
gold, 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 surround-
ing hillsides like golden wine out of a bowl.
It was such a day that you could not help say-
ing 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 twelve-
month^ 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 oclock, or even earlier. We cannot
therefore call the days long, but they appear,
somehow or other, to make up for their short-
ness 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!
Kll all your baskets, and at Christmas-time I
will crack them for yon and tell you beautiful
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 pin-cushion of its
prickles. Dear me, how uncomfortable he
must have felt!
INTRODUCTORY TO THE PARADISE OF CHIL-
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
snowstorm. 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 snowstorm! 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 snowflakes 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 land-
scape. But these were merely peeps through
Nevertheless, the children rejoiced greatly in
the snowstorm. They had already made ac-
quaintance 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 playroom, 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 ninepins
and balls, and humming-tops, and battledoors,
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
snowstorm better than them all. It suggested
so many brisk enjoyments for to-morrow and all
the remainder of the winterthe sleigh ride,
the slides down hill into the valley, the snow
images that were to he- shaped out, the snow for-
tresses that were to he built, and the snowball-
ing to be carried on!
So the little folks blessed the snowstorm, 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 cov-
ered 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 playroom. It has done mis-
chief enough already by spoiling the only skat-
ing 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 itf
Dont you pity me, Primrose ?
Oh, to be sure! answered Primrose, laugh-
ing. '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 bet-
ter 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,
TANGLEWOOD PLAYROOM. 77
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 him-
self, 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 snowstorms came
into fashion, I will tell you a story of the oldest
of all old times, when the world was as new as
Sweet Ferns brand-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.
Cf course you never did, answered Eus-
tace. It shall be a story of what nobody but
myself ever dreamed ofa Paradise of Chil-
dren, and how, by the naughtiness of just such
a little imp as Primrose here, it all came to
So Eustace Bright sat down in the chair
which he had just been skipping over, took
Cowslip upon his knee, ordered silence through-
out the auditory, and began a story about a bad,
naughty child whose name was Pandora, and
about her playfellow Epimetheus. You may read
it, word for word, in the pages that come next.
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
Long, long ago, when this old world was in
its tender infancy, there was a child named
Epimetheus, who never had either father or
mother; and, that he might not he lonely, an-
other child, fatherless and motherless like him-
self, was sent from a far country to live with
him and he 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 hox, and almost the first question
which she put to him, after crossing the thresh-
old, was this:
Epimetheus, what have you in that hox?
My dear little Pandora, answered Epime-
theus, that is a secret, and you must he kind
enough not to ask any questions about it. The
hox 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 hox
were out of the way!
Oh, come, don't think of it any more,
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
cried Epimetheus. Let us run out of doors
and have some nice play with the other chil-
It is thousands of years since Epimetheus
and Pandora were alive, and the world nowa-
days is a very different sort of thing from what
it was in their time. Then everybody was a
child. They 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 morn-
ing, he could see the expanding blossom of that
nights supper, or at eventide he saw the tender
bud of to-morrows breakfast. It was a very
pleasant life indeed. No labor to be done, no
tasks to be studiednothing but sports and
dances, and sweet voices of children talking or
caroling like birds cr 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 dis-
quietude which a child had ever experienced
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
was Pandoras vexation at not being able to dis-
cover 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 cot-
tage of Epimetheus and Pandora was less sun-
shiny than those of the other children.
Whence can the box have come ? Pandora
continually kept saying to herself and to Epi-
metheus, and what in the world can be inside
Always talking about this box! said Epi-
metheus 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 dont care if
I never have any more!' answered our pettish
little Pandora. And, besides, I never do have
any. This ugly box! I am so taken up with
thinking about it all the time! I insist upon
your telling me what is inside of it.
As I have already said fifty times over, I do
not know, replied Epimetheus, getting a little
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
vexed. How, then, can I tell you what is
You might open it, said Pandora, looking
sideways at Epimetheus, and then we could
see for ourselves.
Pandora, what are you thinking of? ex-
And his face expressed so much horror at the
idea of looking into a box which had been con-
fided 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, she said, you can tell me how
it came here.
It was left at the door, replied Epime-
theus, 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 Pan-
Oh, the most curious staff you ever saw!
cried Epimetheus. It was like two serpents
twisting around a stick, and was carved so natu-
rally that I at first thought the serpents were
I know him, said Pandora thoughtfully.
Nobody else has such a staff. It was Quick-
silver, and he brought me hither as well as the
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
"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, Epime-
theus had gone out without asking Pandora to
accompany him. He went to gather figs and
grapes by himself, or to seek whatever amuse-
ment he could find in other society than his
little playfellows. He was tired to death of
hearing about the box, and heartily wished that
Quicksilver, or whatever was the messengers
name, had left it at some other childs 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 be-
witched, and as if the cottage were not big
enough to hold it without Pandoras 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
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN. 8$
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 hand-
some 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 spread-
ing 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 comers of the box were carved
with most wonderful skill. Around the mar-
gin there were figures of graceful men and
women and the prettiest children ever seen, re-
clining 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*
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
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
The most beautiful face of all was done in
what is called high relief in the center of the
lid. There was nothing else save the dark,
smooth richness of the polished wood, and this
one face in the center 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:
a 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 some-
thing 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, wThich roguishly defied the skillfulest fin-
gers to disentangle them. And yet, by the very
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
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 Epi-
metheus would not blame me for that. I need
not open the box, and should not, of course,
without the foolish boys 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 con-
stantly thinking of this one subject. But chil-
dren 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 for-
ever playing at hide-and-seek among the flower
shrubs, or at blindmans 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 vasesand poor little Pan-
doras days work was over. And then, for the
rest of the day, there was the box!
THE PARADISE OP CHILDREN.
After all, I am not quite sure that the box
was not a blessing to her in its way. It sup-
plied 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 gotmany
a kick did it receive. But certain it is, if it
had not been for the box, our active-minded
little Pandora would not have known half so
well how to spend her time as she now did.
For it was really an endless employment to
guess what was inside. What could it be, in-
deed? 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 rea-
son to suppose, contained something new and
pretty for your Christmas or New Years 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
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
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
heavyquite 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 mo-
ment afterward she almost fancied that she
heard something stir inside of the box. She
applied her ear as closely as possible and lis-
tened. Positively, there did seem to be a kind
of stifled murmur within! Or was it merely the
singing in Pandoras ears? Or could it be the
beating of her heart? The child could not
quite satisfy herself whether she had heard any-
thing 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
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
am resolved, at least, to find the two ends of the
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, happen-
ing 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
This is the strangest thing I ever knew!
said Pandora. What will Epimetheus say?
And how can I possibly tie it up again?
THE PARADISE OP CHILDREN*
She made one or two attempts to restore the
knot, hut 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 he done, there-
fore, 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 he 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 be-
lieved. 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
Let us out, dear Pandorapray let us out!
We will be such nice, pretty playfellows for you!
Only let us out!
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
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 Epime-
theus was doing.
This was the first time since his little play-
mate 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
overripe 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 him-
self know what ailed him any better than they
did. For you must recollect that, at the time
we are speaking of, it was everybodys nature
and constant habit to be happy. The world
had not yet learned to be otherwise. Hot 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
THE PARADISE OP CHILDREN. 91
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 lovelyroses and lilies and orange blos-
soms 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
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 manas heavily, I was
going to say, as an elephantwithout much
probability of Pandoras 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 hd and was on
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
the point of opening the mysterious box. Epi-
metheus beheld her. If he had cried out, Pan-
dora 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 curi-
osity 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 for-
get 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 in-
side. It seemed as if a sudden swarm of winged
creatures brushed past her, taking flight out of
the box, while at the same instant she heard the
voice of Epimetheus with a lamentable tone, as
if he were in pain.
Oh, I am stung! cried he. I am stung!