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GIRLS AND BOYS.
WITH ENGRAVINGS BY BAKER FROM DESIGNS BY BILLINGS.
TICKNOR, REED, AND FIELDS.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S51, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
HOBART k ROBBINS,
THE author has long been of opinion that many of the
classical myths were capable of being rendered into very
capital reading for children. In the little volume here
offered to the public, he has worked up half a dozen of them,
with this end in view. A great freedom of treatment was
necessary to his plan; but it will be observed by every one
who attempts to render these legends malleable in his intel-
lectual furnace, that they are marvellously independent of
all temporary modes and circumstances. They remain
essentially the same, after changes that would affect the
identity of almost anything else.
He does not, therefore, plead guilty to a sacrilege, in
having sometimes shaped anew, as his fancy dictated, the
forms that have been hallowed by an antiquity of two or
three thousand years. No epoch of time can claim a 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 imbue with its
own morality. In the present version they may have lost
much of their classical aspect (or, at all events, the author
has not been careful to preserve it), and have, perhaps,
assumed a Gothic or romantic guise.
In performing this pleasant task, for it has been really
a task fit for hot weather, and one of the most agreeable, of
a literary kind, which he ever undertook, the author has
not always thought it necessary to write downward, in order
to meet the comprehension of children. He has generally
suffered the theme to soar, whenever such was its tendency,
and when he himself was buoyant enough to follow without
an effort. Children possess an unestimated sensibility to
whatever is deep or high, in imagination or feeling, so long
as it is simple, likewise. It is only the artificial and the
complex that bewilders them.
LENOx, July 15th, 1851.
PREFACE, .......... ... 3
Introductory to "The Gorgon's Head," .
THE GORGON'S HEAD, ... *...
After the Story, .............
Introductory to The Golden Touch," .
THE GOLDEN TOUH,. . .. .
After the Story, .............
Introductory to The Paradise of Children,"
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN, .
After the Story, .. . .......
Introductory to "The Three Golden Apples,"
THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES, ..
After the Story, .............
. . 7
. ... 5'4
. . 657
. . 93
. . 186
THE HIII-SIDE, PAGE
Introductory to "The Miraculous Pitcher," .. ... 178
THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER, ...... .. 177
After the Story, ................... 208
Introductory to "The Chim era," . ..... .210
THE CHIMEA, .................. 214
After the Story,... ............ ..... 251
INTRODUCTORY TO THE GORGON'S HEAD."
BENEATH the porch of the country-seat called
Tanglewood, one fine autumnal morning, was assembled
a merry party of little folks, with a tall youth in the
midst of them. They had planned a nutting expedi-
tion, and were impatiently waiting for the mists to roll
up the hill-slopes, and for the sun to pour the warmth
of the Indian summer over the fields and pastures,
and into the nooks of the many-colored woods. There
was the prospect of as fine a day as ever gladdened the
aspect of this beautiful and comfortable world. As
yet, however, the morning mist filled up the whole
length and breadth of the valley, above which, on a
gently sloping eminence, the mansion stood.
This body of white vapor extended to within less
than a hundred yards of the house. It completely hid
everything beyond that distance, except a few ruddy
or yellow tree-tops, which here and there emerged,
and were glorified by the early sunshine, as was
likewise the broad surface of the mist. Four or five
miles off to the southward, rose the summit of Monu-
ment Mountain, and seemed to be floating on a cloud.
Some fifteen miles further away, in the same direction,
appeared the loftier Dome of Taconic, looking blue and
indistinct, and hardly so substantial as the vapory sea
that almost rolled over it. The nearer hills, which
bordered the valley, were half submerged, and were
specked with little cloud-wreaths all the way to their
tops. On the whole, there was so much cloud, and so
little solid earth, that it had the effect of a vision.
The children above-mentioned, being as full of life
as they could hold, kept overflowing from the porch
of Tanglewood, and scampering along the gravel walk,
or rushing across the dewy herbage of the lawn. I
can hardly tell how many of these small people there
were; not less than nine or ten, however, nor more
than a dozen, of all sorts, sizes, and ages, whether
girls or boys. They were brothers, sisters, and cous-
ins, together with a few of their young acquaintances,
who had been invited by Mr. and Mrs. Pringle to
spend some of this delightful weather with their own
children, at Tanglewood. I am afraid to tell you
their names, or even to give them any names which
other children have ever been called by; because, to
my certain knowledge, authors sometimes get them-
selves 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, Peri-
winkle, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Blue Eye, Clover,
Huckleberry, Cowslip, Squash-blossom, Milk-weed,
Plantain, and Butter-cup; although, to be sure, such
titles might better suit a group of fairies than a
company of earthly children.
It is not to be supposed that these little folks were
to be permitted by their careful fathers and mothers,
uncles, aunts, or grand-parents, to stray abroad into
the woods and fields, without the guardianship of some
particularly grave and elderly person. 0, no, in-
deed! In the first sentence of my book, you will
recollect that I spoke of a tall youth, standing in the
midst of the children. His name (and I shall let
you know his real name, because he considers it a
great honor to have told the stories that are here to be
printed) his name was Eustace Bright. He was a
student at Williams college, and had reached, I think,
at this period, the venerable age of eighteen years; so
that he felt quite like a grandfather towards Peri-
winkle, 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, now-a-
days, in order to prove their diligence at their books)
had kept him from college a week or two after the
beginning of the term. But, for my part, I have sel-
dom met with a pair of eyes that looked as if they
could see further or better than those of Eustace
This learned student was slender, and rather pale,
as all Yankee students are; but yet of a healthy
aspect, and as light and active as if he had wings to
his shoes. By-the-by, being much addicted to wad-
ing through streamlets and across meadows, he had
put on cow-hide boots for the expedition. lie wore a
linen blouse, a cloth cap, and a pair of green specta-
cles, which he had assumed, probably, less for the
preservation of his eyes, than for the dignity that they
imparted to his countenance. In either case, however,
he might as well have let them alone; for Huckle-
berry, a mischievous little elf, crept behind Eustace as
he sat on the steps of the porch,snatched the specta-
cles from his nose, and clapped them on her own; and
as the student forgot to take them back, they fell off
into the grass, and lay there till the next spring.
Now, Eustace Bright, you must know, had won
TANGLEWOOD POBOHR .
great fame among the children, as a narrator of won-
derful stories; and though he sometimes pretended to
be annoyed, when they teazed 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, Butter-cup, and most
of their playmates, besought him to relate one of his
stories, while they were waiting for the mist to
Yes, Cousin Eustace," said Primrose, who was a
bright girl of twelve, with laughing eyes, and a nose
that turned up a little, the morning is certainly the
best time for the stories with which you so often tire
out our patience. We shall be in less danger of hurt-
ing your feelings, by falling asleep at the most inter-
esting points, as little Cowslip and I did last
"Naughty Primrose," cried Cowslip, a child of six
years old; I did not fall asleep, and I only shut my
eyes, so as to see a picture of what Cousin Eustace
was telling about. His stories are good to hear at
night, because we can dream about them asleep;
and good in the morning, too, because then we can
dream about them awake. So I hope he will tell us
one this very minute."
L1 Thank you, my little Cowslip," said Eustace;
C 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 real-
ity, if I repeat any of them again."
No, no, no !" cried Blue Eye, Periwinkle, Plan-
tain, and half a dozen others. We like a story all
the better for having heard it two or three times
And it is a truth, as regards children, that a story
seems often to deepen its mark in their interest, not
merely by two or three, but by numberless repetitions.
But Eustace Bright, in the exuberance of his re-
sources, scorned to avail himself of an advantage
which an older story-teller would have been glad to
It would be a great pity," said he, if a man of
my learning (to say nothing of original fancy) could
not find a new story every day, year in and year out,
for children such as you. I will tell you one bf the
nursery tales that were made for the amusement of
our great old grandmother, the Earth, when she was a
child in frock and pinafore. There are a hundred
such; and it is a wonder to me that they have not
long ago been put into picture-books for little girls
and boys. But, instead of that, old gray-bearded
grandsires pore over them, in musty volumes of
Greek, and puzzle themselves with trying to find out
when, and how, and for what, they were made."
Well, well, well, well, Cousin Eustace!" cried
all the children at once; "talk no more about your
stories, but begin."
Sit down, then, every soul of you," said Eustace
Bright, and be all as still as so many mice. At the
slightest interruption, whether from great, naughty
Primrose, little Dandelion, or any other, I shall bite
the story short off between my teeth, and swallow the
untold part. But, in the first place, do any of you
know what a Gorgon is ? "
SI do," said Primrose.
"Then hold your tongue! rejoined Eustace, who
had rather she would have known nothing about the
matter. "Hold all your tongues, and I shall tell you
a sweet pretty story of a Gorgon's head."
And so he did, as you may begin to read on the
14 TANGLEWOOD PORCH.
next page. Working up his sophomorical erudition
with a good deal of tact, and incurring great obliga-
tions to Professor Anthon, he, nevertheless, disre-
garded all classical authorities, whenever the vagrant
audacity of his imagination impelled him to do so.
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THE GORGON'S HEAD.
PERSEUS was the son of Danae, who was the daugh-
ter of a king. And when Perseus was a very little
boy, some wicked people put his mother and himself
into a chest, and set them afloat upon the sea. The
wind blew freshly, and drove the chest away from the
shore, and the uneasy billows tossed it up and down;
while 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 entan-
gled in a fisherman's nets, and was drawn out high and
dry upon the sand. The island was called Seriphus,
and it was reigned over by King Polydectes, who
happened to be the fisherman's brother.
This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an
exceedingly humane and upright man. He showed
great kindness to Danap and her little boy; and con-
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
tinued to befriend them, until Perseus had grown to
be a handsome youth, very strong and active, and
skilful in the use of arms. Long before this time,
King Polydectes had seen the two strangers the
mother and her child who had come to his dominions
in a floating chest. As he was not good and kind,
like his brother the fisherman, but extremely wicked,
he resolved to send Perseus on a dangerous enter-
prise, 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, having
hit upon an enterprise that promised to turn out as
fatally as he desired, he sent for the youthful Perseus.
The young man came to the palace, and found the
king sitting upon his throne.
"Perseus," said King Polydectes, smiling craftily
upon him, '" you are grown up a fine young man. You
and your good mother have received a great deal of
kindness from myself, as well as from my worthy
brother the fisherman, and I suppose you would not
be sorry to repay some of it."
"Please your majesty," answered Perseus, "I
would willingly risk my life to do so."
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
Well, then," continued the king, still with a cun-
ning smile on his lips, "I have a little adventure to
propose to you; and, as you are a brave and enter-
prising youth, you will doubtless look upon it as a
great piece of good luck to have so rare an opportunity
of distinguishing yourself. You must know, my good
Perseus, I think of getting married to the beautiful
Princess Hippodamia; and it is customary, on these
occasions, to make the bride a present of some far-
fetched and elegant curiosity. I have been a little
perplexed, I must honestly confess, where to obtain
anything likely to please a princess of her exquisite
taste. But, this morning, I flatter myself, I have
thought of precisely the article."
"And can I assist your majesty in obtaining it?"
cried Perseus, eagerly.
"' You can, if you are as brave a youth as I believe
you to be," replied King Polydectes, with the utmost
graciousness of manner. "The bridal gift which I
have set my heart on presenting to the beautiful Hip-
podamia is the head of the Gorgon Medusa, with the
snaky locks; and I depend on you, my dear Perseus,
to bring it to me. So, as I am anxious to settle affairs
with the princess, the sooner you go in quest of the
Gorgon, the better I shall be pleased."
TItE GRGOO'S IEAD.
"I will set out to-morrow morning," answered
Pray do so, my gallant youth," rejoined the king.
"And, Perseus, in cutting off the Gorgon's head, be
careful to make a clean stroke, so as not to injure its
appearance. You must bring it home in the very
best condition, in order to suit the exquisite taste of
the beautiful Princess Hippodamia."
Perseus left the palace, but was scarcely out of hear-
ing before Polydectes burst into a laugh; being greatly
amused, wicked king that he was, to find how readily
the young man fell into the snare. The news quickly
spread abroad, that Perseus had undertaken to cut off
the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. Everybody
was rejoiced; for most of the inhabitants of the island
were as wicked as the king himself, and would have
liked nothing better than to see some enormous mis-
chief happen to Danae and her son. The only good
man in this unfortunate island of Seriphus appears to
have been the fisherman. As- Perseus walked along,
therefore, the people pointed after him, and made
mouths, and winked to one another, and ridiculed him
as loudly as they dared.
Ho, ho!" cried they; "Medusa's snakes will
sting him soundly!"
THR GORGON'S HiA.
Now, there were three Gorgons alive, at that period;
and they were the most strange and terrible monster
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
sisters, and seem to have borne some distant resemblance
to women, but were really a very frightful and mis-
chievous species of dragon. It is, indeed, difficult to
imagine what hideous beings these three sisters were.
Why, instead of locks of hair, if you can believe me,
they had each of them a hundred enormous snakes
growing on their heads, all alive, twisting, wrig-
gling, curling, and thrusting out their venomous
tongues, with forked stings at the end! The teeth of
the Gorgons were terribly long tusks; their hands
were made of brass; and their bodies were all over
scales, which, if not iron, were something as hard and
impenetrable. They had wings, too, and exceedingly
splendid ones, I can assure you; for every feather in
them was pure, bright, glittering, burnished gold, and
they looked very dazzlingly, no doubt, when the Gor-
gons were flying about in the sunshine.
But when people happened to catch a glimpse of
their glittering brightness, aloft in the air, they seldom
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
stopped to gaze, but ran and hid themselves as speedily
as they could. You will think, perhaps, that they
were afraid of being stung by the serpents that served
the Gorgons instead of hair, or of having their heads
bitten off by their ugly tusks, or of being torn all
to pieces by their brazen claws. Well, to be sure,
these were some of the dangers, but by no means the
greatest, nor the most difficult to avoid. For the worst
thing about these abominable Gorgons was, that, if once
a poor mortal fixed his eyes full upon one of their faces,
he was certain, that very instant, to be changed from
warm flesh and blood into cold and lifeless stone!
Thus, as you will easily perceive, it was a very
dangerous adventure that the wicked King Polydectes
had contrived for this innocent young man. Perseus
himself, when he had thought over the matter, could
not help seeing that he had very little chance of com-
ing safely through it, and that he was far more likely
to become a stone image than to bring back the head
of Medusa with the snaky locks. For, not to speak of
other difficulties, there was one which it would have
puzzled an older man than Perseus to get over. Not
only must he fight with and slay this golden-winged,
iron-scaled, long-tusked, brazen-clawed, snaky-haired
monster, but he must do it with his eyes shut, or, at
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
least, without so much as a glance at the enemy with
whom he was contending. Else, while his arm was
lifi6 to strike, he would stiffen into stone, and stand
with that uplifted arm for centuries, until time, and
the wind and weather, should crumble him quite away.
This would be a very sad thing to befall a young man,
who wanted to perform i a great many brave deeds, and
to enjoy a great deal of happiness, in this bright and
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
main land, where he sat down in a solitary place, and
hardly refrained from shedding tears.
But, while he was in this sorrowful mood, he heard
a voice close beside him.
Perseus," said the voice, why are you sad? "
He lifted his head from his hands, in which he had
hidden it, and, behold! all alone as Perseus had sup-
posed himself to be, there was a stranger in the solitary
place. It was a brisk, intelligent, and remarkably
shrewd-looking young man, with a cloak over his shoul-
ders, an odd sort of cap on his head, a strangely-twisted
staff in his hand, and a short and very crooked sword
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
hanging by his side. He was exceedingly light and
active in his figure, like a person much accustomed to
gymnastic exercises, and well able to leap or run.
Above all, the stranger had such a cheerful, knowing,
and helpful aspect (though it was certainly a little
mischievous, into the bargain), that Perseus could not
help feeling his spirits grow livelier, as he gazed at
him. Besides, being really a courageous youth, he
felt greatly ashamed that anybody should have found
him with tears in his eyes, like a timid little school-
boy, when, after all, there might be no occasion for
despair. So Perseus wiped his eyes, and answered
the stranger pretty briskly, putting on as brave a look
as he could.
I am not so very sad," said he; only thoughtful
about an adventure that I have undertaken."
"Oho!" answered the stranger. "Well, tell me
all about it, and possibly I may be of service to you.
I have helped a good many young men through adven-
tures 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 stranger's words and manner put Perseus into
THE GORGOVQ'S HeLD.23
quite a different mood from his former one. He
resolved to tell Quicksilver all his difficulties, since he
could not easily be worse off than he already was, and,
very possibly, his new friend might give him some
advice that would turn out well in the end. So he let
the stranger know, in few words, precisely what the
case was;- how that King Polydectes wanted the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks as a bridal gift
for the beautiful Princess Hippodamia, and how that
he had undertaken to get it for him, but was afraid of
being turned into stone.
"And that would be a great pity," said Quicksilver,
with his mischievous smile. You would make a very
handsome marble statue, it is true, and it would be a
considerable number of centuries before you crumbled
away; but, on the whole, one would rather be a young
man for a few years, than a stone image for a great
0, far rather!" exclaimed Perseus, with the
tears again standing in his eyes. And, besides, what
would my dear mother do, if her beloved son were
turned into a stone ? "
"Well, well; let us hope that the affair will not
turn out so very badly," replied Quicksilver, in an
encouraging tone. "I am the very person to help
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
you, if anybody can. My sister and myself will do
our utmost to bring you safe through the adventure,
ugly as it now looks."
"Your sister repeated Perseus.
Yes, my sister," said the stranger. She is very
wise, I promise you; and as for myself, I generally
have all my wits about me, such as they are. If
you show yourself bold and cautious, and follow our
advice, you need not fear being a stone image yet 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 beginning
of the adventure; for he thought it of far more
consequence that the shield should be strong enough
to defend him from the Gorgon's brazen claws, than
that it should be bright enough to show him the reflec-
tion of his face. However, concluding that Quicksilver
knew better than himself, he immediately set to work,
and scrubbed the shield with so much diligence and
good will, that it very quickly shone like the moon at
harvest-time. Quicksilver looked at it with a smile,
and nodded his approbation. Then, taking off his own
short and crooked sword, he girded it about Perseus,
instead of the one which he had before worn.
THE GORGON HEAD. 25 w
No sword but mine will answer your purpose,"
observed he; the blade has a most excellent temper,
and will cut through iron and brass as easily as through
the slenderest twig. And now we will set out. The
next thing is to find the Three Gray Women, who
will tell us where to find the Nymphs."
The Three Gray Women!" cried Perseus, to
whom this seemed only a new difficulty in the path of
his adventure; "pray, who may the Three Gray
Women be ? I never heard of them before."
"They are three very strange old ladies," said
Quicksilver, laughing. "They have but one eye
among them, and only one tooth. Moreover, you
must find them out by starlight, or in the dusk of
the evening; for they never show themselves by the
light either of the sun or moon."
"But," said Perseus, "why should I waste my
time with these Three Gray Women? Would it not
be better to set out at once in search of the terrible
Gorgons ? "
No, no," answered his friend. "There are other
things to be done, before you can find your way to the
Gorgons. There is nothing for it, but to hunt up
these old ladies; and when we meet with them, you
26 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
may be sure that the Gorgons are not a great way off.
Come, let us be stirring! "
Perseus, by this time, felt so much confidence in his
companion's sagacity, that he made no more objections,
and professed himself ready to begin the adventure
immediately. They accordingly set out, and walked
at a pretty brisk pace; so brisk, indeed, that Perseus
found it rather difficult to keep up with his nimble
friend Quicksilver. To say the truth, he had a singular
idea that Quicksilver was furnished with a pair of
winged shoes, which, of course, helped him along mar-
vellously. And then, too, when Perseus looked side-
ways at him, out of the corner of his eye, he seemed
to see wings on the side of his head; although, if he
turned a full gaze, there were no such things to be
perceived, but only an odd kind of cap. But, at all
events, the twisted staff was evidently a great conve-
nience to Quicksilver, and enabled him to proceed so
fast, that Perseus, though a remarkably active young
man, began to be out of breath.
Here! cried Quicksilver, at last for he knew
well enough, rogue that he was, how hard Perseus
found it to keep pace with him- take you the staff,
for you need it a great deal more than I. Are there
THB GORGON'S 'HAD.
no better walkers than yourself, in the island of
I could walk pretty well," said Perseus, glancing
slyly at his companion's feet, if I had only a pair of
"We must see about getting you a pair," answered
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, andto lend some
of its life to Perseus. He and Quicksilver now walked
onward at their ease, talking very sociably together;
and Quicksilver told so many pleasant stories about his
former adventures, and how well his wits had served
him on various occasions, that Perseus began to think
him a very wonderful person. He evidently knew the
world; and nobody is so charming to a young man as
a friend who has that kind of knowledge. Perseus
listened the more eagerly, in the hope of brightening
his own wits by what he heard.
At last, he happened to recollect that Quicksilver
had spoken of a sister, who was to lend her assistance
in the adventure which they were now bound upon.
"Where is she'?" he inquired. Shall we not
meet her soon? "
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
"All at the proper time," said his companion.
"But this sister of mine, you must understand, is
quite a different sort of character from myself. She is
very grave and prudent, seldom smiles, never laughs,
and makes it a rule not to utter a word unless she
has something particularly profound to say. Neither
will she listen to any but the wisest conversation."
"Dear me !" ejaculated Perseus; "I shall be afraid
to say a syllable."
She is a very accomplished person, I assure you,"
continued Quicksilver, "and has all the arts and
sciences at her fingers' ends. In short, she is so
immoderately wise, that many people call her wisdom
personified. But, to tell you the truth, she has hardly
vivacity enough for my taste; and I think you would
scarcely find her so pleasant a travelling companion as
myself. She has her good points, nevertheless; and
you will find the benefit of them, in your encounter
with the Gorgons."
By this time it had grown quite dusk. They were
now come to a very wild and desert place, overgrown
with shaggy bushes, and so silent and solitary that
nobody seemed ever to have dwelt or journeyed there.
All was waste and desolate, in the gray twilight, which
grew every moment more obscure. Perseus looked
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
about him, rather disconsolately, and asked Quicksilver
whether they had a great deal further to go.
"Hist! hist!" whispered his companion. "Make
no noise! This is just the time and place to meet the
Three Gray Women. Be careful that they do not see
you before you see them; for, though they have but a
single eye among the three, it is as sharp-sighted as
half-a-dozen common eyes."
"' But what must I do," asked Perseus, when we
meet them ?"
Quicksilver explained to Perseus how the Three
Gray Women managed with their one eye. They
were in the habit, it seems, of changing it from one to
another, as if it had been a pair of spectacles, or -
which would have suited them better a quizzing-
glass. When one of the three had kept the eye a
certain time, she took it out of the socket and passed it
to one of her sisters, whose turn it might happen to be,
and who immediately clapped it into her own head, and
enjoyed a peep at the visible world. Thus it will
easily be understood that only one of the Three Gray
Women could see, while the other two were in utter
darkness; and, moreover, at the instant when the eye
was passing from hand to hand, neither of the poor old
ladies was able to see a wink. I have heard of a great
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
many strange things, in my day, and have witnessed
not a few; but none, it seems to me, that can compare
with the oddity of these Three Gray Women, all peep-
ing through a single eye.
So thought Perseus, likewise, and was so astonished
that he almost fancied his companion was joking with
him, and that there were no such old women in the
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 described the Three Gray Women. The light
being so faint, he could not well make out what sort
of figures they were; only he discovered that they had
long gray hair; and, as they came nearer, he saw that
two of them had but the empty socket of an eye, in the
middle of their foreheads. But, in the middle of the
third sister's forehead, there was a very large, bright,
and piercing eye, which sparkled like a great diamond
in a ring; and so penetrating did it seem to be, that
Perseus could not help thinking it must possess the
gift of seeing in the darkest midnight just as perfectly
TEN GORGON'S HEAD.
as at noon-day. The sight of three persons' eyes was
melted and collected into that single one.
Thus the three old dames got along about as com-
fortably, upon the whole, as if they could all see at
once. She who chanced to have the eye in her fore-
head led the other two by the hands, peeping sharply
about her, all the while; insomuch that Perseus
dreaded lest she should see right through the thick
clump of bushes behind which he and Quicksilver had
hidden themselves. My stars! it was positively ter-
rible to be within reach of so very sharp an eye!
But, before they reached the clump of bushes, one
of the Three Gray Women spoke:
Sister Sister Scarecrow! cried she, you have
had the eye long enough. It is my turn now! "
SLet me keep it a moment longer, Sister Night-
mare," answered Scarecrow. "I thought I had a
glimpse of something behind that thick bush."
"Well, and what of that ?" retorted Nightmare,
peevishly. Can't I see into a thick bush as easily
as yourself? The eye is mine, as well as yours; and
I know the use of it as well as you, or may be a little
better. I insist upon taking a peep immediately! "
But here the third sister, whose name was Shake-
joint, began to complain, and said that it was her turn
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
to have the eye, and that Scarecrow and Nightmare
wanted to keep it all to themselves. To end the dis-
pute, old Dame Scarecrow took the eye out of her
forehead, and held it forth in her hand.
"Take it, one of you," cried she, "and quit this
foolish quarrelling. For my part, I shall be glad of a
little thick darkness. Take it quickly, however, or I
must clap it into my own head again "
Accordingly, both Nightmare and Shakejoint
stretched out their hands, groping eagerly to snatch
the eye out of the hand of Scarecrow. But, being
both alike blind, they could not easily find where
Scarecrow's hand was; and Scarecrow, being now
just as much in the dark as Shakejoint and Night-
mare, 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
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
each finding fault with Scarecrow and one another,
that he could scarcely help laughing aloud.
"Now is your time!" he whispered to Perseus.
" Quick, quick! before they can clap the eye into
either of their heads. Rush out upon the old ladies,
and snatch it from Scarecrow's hand! "
In an instant, while the Three Gray Women were
still scolding each other, Perseus leaped from behind
the clump of bushes, and made himself master of the
prize. The marvellous eye, as he held it in his hand,
shone very brightly, and seemed to look up into his
face with a knowing air, and an expression as if it
would have winked, had it been provided with a pair
of eyelids for that purpose. But the Gray Women
knew nothing of what had happened; and, each sup-
posing that one of her sisters was in possession of the
eye, they began their quarrel anew. At last, as
Perseus did not wish to put these respectable dames
to greater inconvenience than was really necessary, he
thought it right to explain the matter.
"My good ladies," said he, pray do not be angry
with one another. If anybody is in fault, it is myself;
for I have the honor to hold your very brilliant and
excellent eye in my own hand! "
"You! you have our eye! And who are you ?"
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
screamed the Three Gray Women, all in a breath;
for they were terribly frightened, of course, at hearing
a strange vice, and discovering that their eyesight
had got into the hands of they could not guess whom.
" O! what shall we do, sisters ? what shall we do?
We are all in the dark! Give us our eye! Give us
our one, precious, solitary eye! You have two of your
own! Give us our eye!"
"Tell them," whispered Quicksilver to Perseus,
"that they shall have back the eye as soon as they
direct you where to find the Nymphs who have the
flying slippers, the magic wallet, and the helmet of
C My dear, good, admirable old ladies," said Per-
seus, addressing the Gray Women, there is no occa-
sion for putting yourselves into such a fright. I am
by no means a bad young man. You shall have back
your eye, safe and sound, and as bright as ever, the
moment you tell me where to find the Nymphs."
The Nymphs! Goodness me! sisters, what Nymphs
does he mean? screamed Scarecrow. There are a
great many Nymphs, people say; some that go a hunt-
ing 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
IRH GORGON'S HEAD.
are three unfortunate old souls, that go wandering about
in the dusk, and never had but one eye amongst us,
and that one you have stolen away. Opgive it back,
good stranger! -whoever you are, give it back!"
All this while, the Three Gray Women were grop-
ing with their outstretched hands, and trying their
utmost to get hold of Perseus. But he took good care
to keep out of their reach.
My respectable dames," said he, for his mother
had taught him always to use the greatest civility, -
" I hold your eye fast in my hand, and shall keep it
safely for you, until you please to tell me where to
find these Nymphs. The Nymphs, I mean, who keep
the enchanted wallet, the flying slippers, and the -
what is it? --the helmet of invisibility."
Mercy on us, sisters what is the young man talk-
ing about?" exclaimed Scarecrow, Nightmare and
Shakejoint, one to another, with great appearance of
astonishment. A pair of flying slippers, quoth he!
His heels would quickly fly higher than his head, if
he were silly enough to put them on. And a helmet
of invisibility! How could a helmet make him invis-
ible, unless it were big enough for him to hide under
it? And an enchanted wallet! What sort of a con-
trivance may that be, I wonder? No, no, good stran-
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
ger! we can tell you nothing of these marvellous
things. You have two eyes of your own, and we but
a single one amongst us three. You can find out such
wonders better than three blind old creatures, like us."
Perseus, hearing them talk in this way, began
really to think that the Gray Women knew nothing
of the matter; and, as it grieved him to have put
them to so much trouble, he was just on the point of
restoring their eye, and asking pardon for his rudeness
in snatching it away. But Quicksilver caught his
Don't let them make a fool of you!" said he.
"These Three Gray Women are the only persons in
the world that can tell you where to find the Nymphs;
and, unless you get that information, you will never
succeed in cutting off the head of Medusa with the
snaky locks. Keep fast hold of the eye, and all will
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.
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
No sooner had they done so, than he immediately, and
with the utmost respect, clapped the eye into the
vacant socket in one of their foreheads, thanked them
for their kindness, and bade them farewell. Before
the young man was out of hearing, however, they had
got into a new dispute, because he happened to have
given the eye to Scarecrow, who had already taken her
turn of it when their trouble with Perseus commenced.
It is greatly to be feared that the Three Gray
Women were very much in the habit of disturbing
their mutual harmony by bickerings of this sort;
which was the more pity, as they could not conveniently
do without one another, and were evidently intended
to be inseparable companions. As a general rule, I
would advise all people, whether sisters or brothers,
old or young, who chance to have but one eye amongst
them, to cultivate forbearance, and not all insist upon
peeping through it at once.
Quicksilver and Perseus, in the mean time, were
making the best of their way in quest of the Nymphs.
The old dames had given them such particular direc-
tions, that they were not long in finding them out.
They proved to be very different persons from Night-
mare, Shakejoint and Scarecrow; for, instead of
being old, they were young and beautiful; and instead
TH GORGON'S HEAD.
of one eye amongst the sisterhood, each Nymph had
two exceedingly bright eyes of her own, with which
she looked very kindly at Perseus. They seemed to
be acquainted with Quicksilver; and when he told
them the adventure which Perseus had undertaken,
they made no difficulty about giving him the valuable
articles that were in their custody. In the first place,
they brought out what appeared to be a small purse,
made of deer-skin, and curiously embroidered, and
bade him be sure and keep it safe. This was the
magic wallet. The Nymphs next produced a pair of
shoes, or slippers, or sandals, with a nice little pair of
wings at the heel of each.
Put them on, Perseus," said Quicksilver. You
will find yourself as light-heeled as you can desire, for
the remainder of our journey."
So Perseus proceeded to put one of the slippers on,
while he laid the other on the ground by his side.
Unexpectedly, however, this other slipper spread its
wings, fluttered up off the ground, and would probably
have flown away, if Quicksilver had not made a leap,
and luckily caught it in the air.
Be more careful," said he, as he gave it back to
Perseus. It would frighten the birds, up aloft, if
they should see a flying slipper amongst them."
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
When Perseus had got on both of these wonderful
slippery, he was altogether too buoyant to tread on
earth. Making a step or two, lo and behold upward
he popt into the air, high above the heads of Quick-
silver and the Nymphs, and found it very difficult to
clamber down again. Winged slippers, and all such
high-flying contrivances, are seldom quite easy to
manage, until one grows a little accustomed to them.
Quicksilver laughed at his companion's involuntary
activity, and told him that he must not be in so des-
perate a hurry, but must wait for the invisible helmet.
The good-natured Nymphs had the helmet, with ita
dark tuft of waving plumes, all in readiness to put
upon his head. And now there happened about as
wonderful an incident as anything that I have yet told
you. The instant before the helmet was put on, there
stood Perseus, a beautiful young man, with golden
ringlets and rosy cheeks, the crooked sword by his
side, and the brightly-polished shield upon his arm -
a figure that seemed all made up of courage, sprightli-
ness, and glorious light. But when the helmet had
descended over his white brow, there was no longer
any Perseus to be seen! Nothing but empty air!
Even the helmet, that covered him with its invisibility,
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
Where are you, Perseus asked Quicksilver.
"Why, here, to be sure! answered Perseus, very
quietly, although his voice seemed to come out of the
transparent atmosphere. Just where I was a mo-
ment ago. Don't you see me ? "
"No, indeed!" answered his friend. "You are
hidden under the helmet. But, if I cannot see you,
neither can the Gorgons. Follow me, therefore, and
we will try your dexterity in using the winged slip-
With these words, Quicksilver's cap spread its
wings, as if his head were about to fly away from his
shoulders; but his whole figure rose lightly into the
air, and Perseus followed. By the time they had
ascended a few hundred feet, the young man began to
feel what a delightful thing it was to leave the dull
earth so far beneath him, and to be able to flit about
like a bird.
It was now deep night. Perseus looked upward,
and saw the round, bright, silvery moon, and thought
that he should desire nothing better than to soar up
thither, and spend his life there. Then he looked
downward again, and saw the earth, with its seas, and
lakes, and the silver courses of its rivers, and its
snowy mountain-peaks, and the breadth of its fields,
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
and the dark cluster of its woods, and its cities of
white marble; and, with the moonshine sleeping over
the whole scene, it was as beautiful as the moon or
any star could be. And, among other objects, he saw
the island of Seriphus, where his dear mother was.
Sometimes, he and Quicksilver approached a cloud,
that, at a distance, looked as if it were made of fleecy
silver; although, when they plunged into it, they
found themselves chilled and moistened with gray
mist. So swift was their flight, however, that, in an
instant, they emerged from the cloud into the moon-
light again. Once, a high-soaring eagle flew right
against the invisible Perseus. The bravest sights
were the meteors, that gleamed suddenly out, as if a
bonfire had been kindled in the sky, and made the
moonshine pale for as much as a hundred miles around
As the two companions flew onward, Perseus fan-
cied that he could hear the rustle of a garment close
by his side; and it was on the side opposite to the one
where he beheld Quicksilver, yet only Quicksilver
Whose garment is this," inquired Perseus, "that
keeps rustling close beside me, in the breeze ? "
"0, it is my sister's!" answered Quicksilver.
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
"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 mo-
ment, just as distinctly as if you were not invisible;
and I'll venture to say, she will be the first to dis-
cover the Gorgons."
By this time, in their swift voyage through the air,
they had come within sight of the great ocean, and
were soon flying over it. Far beneath them, the
waves tossed themselves tumultuously in mid-sea, or
rolled a white surf-line upon the long beaches, or
foamed against the rocky cliffs, with a roar that was
thunderous, in the lower world; although it became a
gentle murmur, like the voice of a baby half-asleep,
before it reached the ears of Perseus. Just then a
voice spoke in the air close by him. It seemed to be
a woman's voice, and was melodious, though not
exactly what might be called sweet, but grave and
I Perseus," said the voice, there are the Gor-
"Where ?" exclaimed Perseus. "I cannot see
On the shore of that island beneath you," replied
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
the voice. "A pebble, dropped from your hand,
would strike in the midst of them."
1 I told you she would be the first to discover
them," said Quicksilver to Perseus. "And there
Straight downward, two or three thousand feet
below him, Perseus perceived a small island, with the
sea breaking into white foam all around its rocky
shore, except on one side, where there was a beach of
snowy sand. He descended towards it, and, looking
earnestly at a cluster or heap of brightness, at the
foot of a precipice of black rocks, behold, there were
the terrible Gorgons They lay fast asleep, soothed
by the thunder of the sea; for it required a tumult
that would have deafened everybody else to lull such
fierce creatures into slumber. The moonlight glis-
tened on their steely scales, and on their golden wings,
which drooped idly over the sand. Their brazen
claws, horrible to look at, were thrust out, and
clutched the wave-beaten fragments of rock, while the
sleeping Gorgons dreamed of tearing some poor mortal
all to pieces. The snakes, that served them instead
of hair, seemed likewise to be asleep; although, now
and then, one would writhe, and lift its head, and
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
thrust out its forked tongue, emitting a drowsy hiss,
and then let itself subside among its sister snakes.
The Gorgons were more like an awful, gigantic kind
of insect-immense, golden-winged beetles, or dragon-
flies, or things of that sort, -at once ugly and beauti-
ful, than like anything else; only that they were a
thousand and a million times as big. And, with all
this, there was something partly human about them,
too. Luckily for Perseus, their faces were completely
hidden from him by the posture in which they lay;
for, had he but looked one instant at them, he would
have fallen heavily out of the air, an image of sense-
"Now," whispered Quicksilver, as he hovered by
the side of Perseus, "now is your time to do the deed!
Be quick; for, if one of the Gorgons should awake,
you are too late! "
"Which shall I strike at?" asked Perseus, drawing
his sword and descending a little lower. They all
three look alike. All three have snaky locks. Which
of the three is Medusa ?"
It must be understood that Medusa was the only
one of these dragon-monsters whose head Perseus
could possibly cut off. As for the other two, let him
have the sharpest sword that ever was forged, and he
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 stir-
ring 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
Perseus now understood Quicksilver's motive for so
earnestly exhorting him to polish his shield. In its
surface, he could safely look at the reflection of the
Gorgon's face. And there it was, -that terrible
countenance, mirrored in the brightness of the
shield, with the moonlight falling over it, and display
ing all its horror. The snakes, whose venomous na-
tures could not altogether sleep, kept twisting them-
selves over the forehead. It was the fiercest and most
horrible face that ever was seen or imagined, and yet
with a strange, fearful, and savage kind of beauty in
it. The eyes were closed, and the Gorgon was still
in a deep slumber; but there was an unquiet expres-
sion disturbing her features, as if the monster was
troubled with an ugly dream. She gnashed her white
tusks, and dug into the sand with her brazen claws.
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
The snakes, too, seemed to feel Medusa's dream,
and to be made more restless by it. They twined
themselves into tumultuous knots, writhed fiercely,
and uplifted a hundred hissing heads, without opening
"Now, now!" whispered Quicksilver, who was
growing impatient. Make a dash at the monster!"
But be calm," said the grave, melodious voice, at
the young man's side. Look in your shield, as you
fly downward, and take care that you do not miss
your first stroke."
Perseus flew cautiously downward, still keeping his
eyes on Medusa's face, as reflected in his shield. The
nearer he came, the more terrible did the snaky visage
and metallic body of the monster grow. At last,
when he found himself hovering over her within arm's
length, Perseus uplifted his sword, while, at the same
instant, each separate snake upon the Gorgon's head
stretched threateningly upward, and Medusa unclosed
her eyes. But she awoke too late. The sword was
sharp; the stroke fell like a lightning-flash; and the
head of the wicked Medusa tumbled from her body!
Admirably done cried Quicksilver. Make
haste, and clap the head into your magic wallet."
To the astonishment of Perseus, the small, embroi-
T GOE G0TRGON'S READ.47
dered wallet, which he had hung about his neck, and
which had hitherto been no bigger than a purse, grew
all at once large enough to contain Medusa's head.
As quick as thought, he snatched it up, with the
snakes still writhing upon it, and thrust it in.
Your task is done," said the calm voice. Now
fly; for the other Gorgons will do their. utmost to
take vengeance for Medusa's death."
It was, indeed, necessary to take flight; for Perseus
had not done the deed so quietly, but that the clash
of his sword, and the hissing of the snakes, and the
thump of Medusa's head as it tumbled upon the sea-
beaten sand, awoke the other two monsters. There
they sat, for an instant, sleepily rubbing their eyes
with their brazen fingers, while all the snakes on their
heads reared themselves on end with surprise, and
with venomous malice against they knew not what.
But when the Gorgons saw the scaly carcass of Me-
dusa, headless, and her golden wings all ruffled, and
half spread out on the sand, it was really awful to
hear what yells and screeches they set up. And then
the snakes! They sent forth a hundred-fold hiss,
with one consent, and Medusa's snakes answered them,
out of the magic wallet.
No sooner were the Gorgons broad awake, than
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
they hurtled upward into the air, brandishing their
brass talons, gnashing their horrible tusks, and flap-
ping 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 Gor-
gons, 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 an-
other way; and, as he wore the helmet of invisibility,
the Gorgons knew not in what direction to follow him;
nor did he fail to make the best use of the winged
slippers, by soaring upward a perpendicular mile or so.
At that height, when the screams of those abominable
creatures sounded faintly beneath him, he made a
straight course for the island of Seriphus, in order to
carry Medusa's head to King Polydectes.
I have no time to tell you of several marvellous
things that befell Perseus, on his way homeward; such
as his killing a hideous sea-monster, just as it was on
the point of devouring a beautiful maiden; nor how he
changed an enormous giant into a mountain of stone,
merely by showing him the head of the Gorgon. If
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
you doubt this latter story, you may make a voyage
to Africa, some day or other, and see the very moun-
tain, which is still known by the ancient giant's name.
Finally, our brave Perseus arrived at the island,
where he expected to see his dear mother. But, dur-
ing 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 Polydectes himself, were remarkably ill-
behaved, and deserved no better destiny than that
which was now to happen.
Not finding his mother at home, Perseus went
straight to the palace, and was immediately ushered
into the presence of the king. Polydectes was by no
means rejoiced to see him; for he had felt almost cer-
tain, 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
THO GORGON'S HEAD.
safely returned, he put the best face he could upon
the matter, and asked Perseus how he had succeeded.
Have you performed your promise ?" inquired
he. "Have you brought me the head of Medusa
with the snaky locks ? If not, young man, it will
cost you dear; for I must have a bridal present for
the beautiful princess Hippodamia, and there is noth-
ing else that she would admire so much."
Yes, please your majesty," answered Perseus, in
a quiet way, as if it were no very wonderful deed for
such a young man as he to perform. "I have
brought you the Gorgon's head, snaky locks and all!"
Indeed! Pray let me see it," quoth King Poly-
dectes. It must be a very curious spectacle, if all
that travellers tell about it be true!"
Your majesty is in the right," replied Perseus.
It is really an object that will be pretty certain to
fix the regards of all who look at it. And, if your
majesty think fit, I would suggest that a holiday be
proclaimed, and that all your majesty's subjects be
summoned to behold this wonderful curiosity. Few
of them, I imagine, have seen a Gorgon's head before,
and perhaps never may again!"
The king well knew that his subjects were an idle
set of reprobates, and very fond of sight-seeing, as
THI GORGON'S HEAD.
idle persons usually are. So he took the young man's
advice, and sent out heralds and messengers, in all
directions, to blow the trumpet at the street-corners,
and in the market-places, and wherever two roads met,
and summon everybody to court. Thither, accord-
ingly, came a great multitude of good-for-nothing vag-
abonds, 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 staid quietly at home, minding
their own business, and taking care of their little chil-
dren. Most of the inhabitants, at all events, ran as
fast as they could to the palace, and shoved, and
pushed, and elbowed one another, in their eagerness
to get near a balcony, on which Perseus showed him-
self, holding the embroidered wallet in his hand.
On a platform, within full view of the balcony, sat
the mighty King Polydectes, amid his evil counsellors,
and with his flattering courtiers in a semi-circle round
about him. Monarch, coupsellors, courtiera, and sub-
jects, all gazed eagerly towards Perseus.
Show us the head Show us the head!" shout-
ed the people; and there was a fierceness in their cry,
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
as if they would tear Perseus to pieces, unless he
should satisfy them with what he had to show.
" Show us the head of Medusa with the snaky locks!"
A feeling of sorrow and pity came over the youth-
King Polydectes," cried he, "and ye many
people, I am very loth to show you the Gorgon's
Ah, the villain and coward!" yelled the people,
more fiercely than before. "He is making game of
us! He has no Gorgon's head! Show us the head,
if you have it, or we will take your own head for a
The evil counsellors whispered bad advice in the
king's ear; the courtiers murmured, with one consent,
that Perseus had shown disrespect to their royal lord
and master; and the great King Polydectes himself
waved his hand, and ordered him, with the stern, deep
voice of authority, on his peril, to produce the head.
"Show me the Gorgon's head, or I will cut off
And Perseus sighed.
"This instant," repeated Polydectes, "or you die!"
"Behold it, then!" cried Perseus, in a voice like
the blast of a trumpet.
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 58
And, suddenly holding up the head, not an eyelid
had time to wink before the wicked King Polydectes,
his evil counsellors, and all his fierce subjects, were no
longer anything but the mere images of a monarch and
his people. They were all fixed, forever, in the look
and attitude of that moment! At the first glimpse of
the terrible head of Medusa, they whitened into mar-
ble! And Perseus thrust the head back into his
wallet, and went to tell his dear mother that she need
no longer be afraid of the wicked King Polydectes.
AFTER THE STORY.
WAS not that a very fine story ?" asked Eustace.
O, yes, yes!" cried Cowslip, clapping her
hands. And those funny old women, with only one
eye amongst them! I never heard of anything so
As to their one tooth, which they shifted about,"
observed Primrose, there was nothing so very won-
derful in that. I suppose it was a false tooth. But
think of your turning Mercury into Quicksilver, and
talking about his sister You are too ridiculous!"
"And was she not his sister?" asked Eustace
Bright. "If I had thought of it sooner, I would
have described her as a maiden lady, who kept a pet-
Well, at any rate," said Primrose, "your story
seems to have driven away the mist."
And, indeed, while the tale was going forward, the
vapors had been quite exhaled from the landscape. A
scene was now disclosed which the spectators might
almost fancy as having been created since they had
last looked in the direction where it lay. About half
a mile distant, in the lap of the valley, now appeared
a beautiful lake, which reflected a perfect image of its
own wooded banks, and of the summits of the more
distant hills. It gleamed in glassy tranquillity, with-
out the trace of a winged breeze on any part of its
bosom. Beyond its further shore was Monument
Mountain, in a recumbent position, stretching almost
across the valley. Eustace Bright compared it to a
huge, headless sphinx, wrapped in a Persian shawl;
and, indeed, so rich and diversified was the autumnal
foliage of its woods, that the simile of the shawl was
by no means too high-colored for the reality. In the
lower ground, between Tanglewood and the lake, the
clumps of trees and borders of woodland were chiefly
golden-leaved or dusky brown, as having suffered
more from frost than the foliage on the hill-sides.
Over all this scene there was a genial sunshine,
intermingled with a slight haze, which made it un-
speakably soft and tender. 0, 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 Eus-
56 TANGLEWOOD PORCH.
tace proved his fitness to preside over the party, by
out-doing all their antics, and performing several new
capers, which none of them could ever hope to imitate.
Behind went a good old dog, whose name was Ben.
He was one of the most respectable and kind-hearted
of quadrupeds, and probably felt it to be his duty not
to trust the children away from their parents without
some better guardian than this feather-brained Eus-
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 pro-
duce 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 sun-
niest spot anywhere to be found.
The little brook ran along over its pathway of gold,
here pausing to form a pool, in which minnows were
darting to and fro; and then it hurried onward at a
swifter pace, as if in haste to reach the lake; and, for-
getting 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 bab-
bled 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 mer-
rily, and made a very nice dinner indeed. After it
was over, nobody felt like stirring.
We will rest ourselves here," said several of the
children, while Cousin Eustace tells us another of
his pretty stories."
Cousin Eustace had a good right to be tired, as well as
the children; for he had performed great feats on that
memorable forenoon. Dandelion, Clover, Cowslip and
Buttercup, were almost persuaded that he had winged
slippers, like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus;
so often had the student shown himself at the tip-
top of a nut-tree, when only a moment before he
had been standing on the ground. And then, what
showers of walnuts had he sent rattling down upon
their heads, for their busy little hands to gather into
the baskets! In short, he had been as active as a
squirrel or a monkey, and now, flinging himself down
on the yellow leaves, seemed inclined to take a little
But children have no mercy nor consideration for
anybody's weariness; and if you had but a single
breath left, they would ask you to spend it in telling
them a story.
Cousin Eustace," said Cowslip, that was a very
nice story of the Gorgon's Head. Do you think you
could tell us another as good "
Yes, child," said Eustace, pulling the brim of his
cap over his eyes, as if preparing for a nap. "I can
tell you a dozen, as good or better, if I choose."
0 Primrose and Periwinkle, do you hear what
he says?" cried Cowslip, dancing with delight.
"' Cousin Eustace is going to tell us a dozen better
stories than that about the Gorgon's Head! "
I did not promise you even one, you foolish little
Cowslip!!" said Eustace, half-pettishly. However,
I suppose you must have it. This is the consequence
of having earned a reputation! I wish I were a great
deal duller than I am, or that I had never shown half
the bright qualities with which nature has endowed
me; and then I might have my nap out, in peace and
But Cousin Eustace, as I think I have hinted
before, was as fond of telling his stories as the chil-
dren of hearing them. His mind was in a free and
happy state, and took delight in its own activity, and
scarcely required any external impulse to set it at work.
How different is this spontaneous play of the intel-
lect from the trained diligence of maturer years, when
toil has perhaps grown easy by long habit, and the
day's work may have become essential to the day's
comfort, although the rest of the matter has bubbled
away! This remark, however, is not meant for the
children to hear.
Without further solicitation, Eustace Bright pro-
ceeded to tell the following really splendid story. It
had come into his mind as he lay looking upward into
SHADOW BROOK. 61
the depths of a tree, and observing how the touch of
Autumn had transmuted every one of its green leaves
into what resembled the purest gold. And this
change, which we have all of us witnessed, is as won-
derful as anything that Eustace told about, in the
story of Midas.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
ONCE upon a time, there lived a very rich man, and
a king besides, whose name was Midas; and he had a
little daughter, whom nobody but myself ever heard
of, and whose name I either never knew, or have
entirely forgotten. So, because I love odd names for
little girls, I choose to call her Marygold.
This King Midas was fonder of gold than of any-
thing else in the world. He valued his royal crown
chiefly because it was composed of that precious metal.
If he loved anything better, or half so well, it was the
one little maiden who played so merrily around her
father's footstool. But the more Midas loved his
daughter, the more did he desire and seek for wealth.
He thought, foolish man! that the best thing he could
possibly do for this dear child would be to bequeath
her the immensest pile of yellow, glistening coin, that
had ever been heaped together since the world was
made. Thus, he gave all his thoughts and all his
time to this one purpose. If ever he happened to gaze
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
for an instant at the gold-tinted clouds of sunset, he
wished that they were real gold, and that they could
be squeezed safely into his strong box. When little
Marygold ran to meet him, with a bunch of buttercups
and dandelions, he used to say, Poh, poh, child!
If these flowers were as golden as they look, they
would be worth the plucking! "
And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so
entirely possessed 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
beautifullest and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw
or smelt. These roses were still growing in the garden,
as large, as lovely and as fragrant, as when Midas used
to pass whole hours in gazing at them, and inhaling
their perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all,
it was only to calculate how much the garden would
be worth, if each of the innumerable rose-petals were
a thin plate of gold. And though he once was fond
of music (in spite of an idle story about his ears,
which were said to resemble those of an ass), the only
music for poor Midas, now, was the chink of one coin
At length (as people always grow more and more
foolish, unless they take care to grow wiser and wiser),
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
Midas had got to be so exceedingly unreasonable, that
he could scarcely bear to see or touch any object that
was not gold. lie made it his custom, therefore, to
pass a large portion of every day in a dark and dreary
apartment, under ground, at the basement of his palace.
It was here that he kept his wealth. To this dismal
hole for it was little better than a dungeon Midas
betook himself, whenever he wanted to be particularly
happy. Here, after carefully locking the door, he
would take a bag of gold coin, or a gold cup as big as
a wash-bowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck-measure
of gold dust, and bring them from the obscure covers
of the room into the one bright and narrow sunbeam
that fell from the dungeon-like window. He valued
the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure
would not shine without its help. And then would
he reckon over the coins in the bag; toss up the
bar, and catch it as it came down; sift the gold dust
through his fingers; look at the funny image of his
own face, as reflected in the burnished circumference
of the cup; and whisper to himself, "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 polished surface of the
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
cup. It seemed to be aware of his foolish behavior,
and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of him.
Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he
was not yet quite so happy as he might be. The very
tip-top of enjoyment would never be reached, unless
the whole world were to become his treasure-room,
and be filled with yellow metal which should be all his
Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people
as you are, that in the old, old times, when King
Midas was alive, a great many things came to pass,
which we should consider wonderful if they were to
happen in our own day and country. And, on the
other hand, a great many things take place now-a-
days, which seem not only wonderful to us, but at
which the people of old times would have stared their
eyes out. On the whole, I regard our own times as
the strangest of the two; but, however that may be, I
must go on with my story.
Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure-room,
one day, as usual, when he perceived a shadow fall
over the heaps of gold; and, looking suddenly up,
what should he behold but the figure of a stranger,
standing in the bright and narrow sunbeam! It was a
young man, with a cheerful and ruddy face. Whether
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
it was that the imagination of King Midas threw a
yellow tinge over everything, or whatever the cause
might be, he could not help fancying that the smile
with which the stranger regarded him had a kind of
golden radiance in it. Certainly, although his figure
intercepted the sunshine, there was now a brighter
gleam upon all the piled-up treasures than before.
Even the remotest corners had their share of it, and
were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with
tips of flame and sparkles of fire.
As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the
key in the look, 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 compara-
tively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the
resort of beings endowed with supernatural powers,
and who used to interest themselves in the joys and
sorrows of men, women and children, half playfully
and half seriously. Midas had met such beings before
now, and was not sorry to meet one of them again.
The stranger's aspect, indeed, was so good-humored
and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would have been
unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
It was far more probable that he came to do Mid~a a
favor. And what could that favor be, unless to mul-
tiply his heaps of treasure ?
The stranger gazed about the room; and when his
lustrous smile had glistened upon all the golden objects
that were there, he turned again to Midas.
You are a wealthy man, friend Midas!" he
observed. "'I doubt whether any other four walls,
on earth, contain so much gold as you have contrived
to pile up in this room."
I have done pretty well- pretty well," answered
Midas, in a discontented tone. But, after all, it is
but a trifle, when you consider that it has taken me
my whole life to get it together. If one could live a
thousand years, he might have time to grow rich! "
"What! exclaimed the stranger. "Then you
are not satisfied ? "
Midas shook his head.
"And pray what would satisfy you?" asked the
stranger. "Merely for the curiosity of the thing, I
should be glad to know."
Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment
that this stranger, with such a golden lustre in his
good-humored smile, had come hither with both the
power and the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes.
THE GOLDEN TOUAH.
Now, therefore, was the fortunate moment, when he
had but to speak, and obtain whatever possible, or
seemingly impossible thing, it might come into his
head to ask. So he thought, and thought, and thought,
-and heaped up one golden mountain upon another, in
his imagination, without being able to imagine them
big enough. At last, a bright idea occurred to King
Midas. It seemed really as bright as the glistening
metal which he loved so much.
Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in
"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
The stranger's smile grew so very broad, that it
seemed to fill the room like an outburst of the sun,
gleaming into a shadowy dell, where the yellow
autumnal leaves- for so looked the lumps and parti-
cles of gold lie strewn in the glow of light.
The Golden Touch! exclaimed he. You cer-
THB GOLDEN TOUCH.
tainly deserve credit, friend Midas, for striking out so
brilliant a conception. But are you quite sure that
this will satisfy you ?"
SHow could it fail ?" said Midas.
SAnd will you never regret the possession of it ? "
SWhat could induce me ? asked Midas. "I ask
nothing else, to render me perfectly happy."
Be it as you wish, then," replied the stranger,
waving his hand in token of farewell. To-morrow,
at sunrise, you will find yourself gifted with the
The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly
bright, and Midas involuntarily closed his eyes. On
opening them again, he beheld only one yellow sun
beam in the room, and, all around him, the glistening
of the precious metal which he had spent his life in
Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story
does not say. Asleep or awake, however, his mind
was probably in the state of a child's, to whom a beau-
tiful 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.
the Golden Touch had really come, according to the
stranger's promise. So he laid his finger on a chair
by the bedside, and on various other things, but was
grievously disappointed to perceive that they remained
of exactly the same substance as before. Indeed, he
felt very much afraid that he had only dreamed about
the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter had been
making game of him. And what a miserable affair
would it be, if, after all his hopes, Midas must content
himself with what little gold he could scrape together
by ordinary means, instead of creating it by a touch !
All this while, it was only the gray of the morning,
with but a streak of brightness along the edge of the
sky, where Midas could not see it. He -lay in a very
disconsolate mood, regretting the downfall of his hopes,
and kept growing sadder and sadder, until the earliest
sunbeam shone through the window, and gilded the
ceiling over his head. It seemed to Midas that this
bright yellow sunbeam was reflected in rather a singu-
lar way on the white covering of the bed. Looking
more closely, what was his astonishment and delight,
when he found that this linen fabric had been trans-
muted to what seemed a woven texture of the purest
and brightest gold! The Golden Touch had come to
him, with the first sunbeam!
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
Midas started up, in a kind of joyffl frenzy, and
ran about the room, grasping at everything that hap-
pened to be in his way. He seized one of the bed-
posts, and it became immediately a fluted golden
pillar. He pulled aside a window-curtain, in order
to admit a clear spectacle of the wonders which he
was performing; and the tassel grew heavy in his
hand a mass of gold. He took up a book from
the table. At his first touch, it assumed the appear-
ance of such a splendidly-bound and gilt-edged volume
as one often meets with, now-a-days; but, on running
his fingers through the leaves, behold! it was a
bundle of-thin golden plates, in which all the wisdom
of the book had grown illegible. He hurriedly put
on his clothes, and was enraptured to see himself in a
magnificent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flex-
ibility 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
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 GOLDEN TOUCH.
the same as when she climbed his knee, and put it
into his hand.
But it was not worth while to vex himself about a
trifle. Midas now took his spectacles from his pocket,
and put them on his nose, in order that he might see
more distinctly what he was about. In those days,
spectacles for common people had not been invented,
but were already worn by kings; else, how could
Midas have had any ? To his great perplexity, 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, and, of course, were
worthless as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It
struck Midas as rather inconvenient, that, with all
his wealth, he could never again be rich enough to
own a pair of serviceable spectacles.
"It is no great matter, nevertheless," said he to
himself, very philosophically. "We cannot expect
any great good, without its being accompanied with
some small inconvenience. The Golden Touch is
worth the sacrifice of a pair of spectacles, at least,
if not of one's very eyesight. My own eyes will
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 for-
tune, that the palace seemed not sufficiently spacious
to contain him. He therefore went down stairs, and
smiled, on observing that thq balustrade of the stair-
case became a bar of burnished gold, as his hand
passed over it, in his descent. He lifted the door-
latch (it was brass only a moment ago, but golden
when his fingers quitted it), and emerged into the
garden. Here, as it happened, he found a great
number of beautiful roses in full bloom, and others in
all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. Very de-
licious was their fragrance in the morning breeze.
Their delicate blush was one of the fairest sights in
the world; so gentle, so modest, and so full of sweet
tranquillity, did these roses seem to be.
But Midas knew a way to make them far more
precious, according to his way of thinking, than roses
had ever been before. So he took great pains in
going from bush to bush, and exercised his magic
touch most indefatigably; until every individual
flower and bud, and even the worms at the heart of
some of them, were changed to gold. By the time
this good work was completed, King Midas was sum-
THE GOLDEN TOUCH,
moned to breakfast; and, as the morning air had
given him an excellent appetite, he made haste back
to the palace.
What was usually a king's breakfast, in the days
of Midas, I really do not know, and cannot stop now
to investigate. To the best of my belief, however, on
this particular morning, the breakfast consisted of hot
cakes, some nice little brook-trout, roasted potatoes,
fresh boiled eggs, and coffee, for King Midas himself,
and a bowl of bread and milk for his daughter Mary-
gold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set
before a king; and, whether he had it or not, King
Midas could not have had a better.
Little Marygold had not yet made her appearance.
Her father ordered her to be called, and, seating
himself at table, awaited the child's coming, in order
to begin his own breakfast. To do Midas justice, he
really loved his daughter, and loved her so much the
more this morning, on account of the good fortune
which had befallen him. It was not a great while
before he heard her coming along the passage-way,
crying bitterly. This circumstance surprised him,
because Marygold was one of the cheerfullest little
people whom you would see in a summer's day, and
hardly shed a thimble-full of tears in a twelve-month,
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
When Midas heard her sobs, he determined to put little
Marygold into better spirits, by an agreeable surprise;
so, leaning across the table, he touched his daughter's
bowl (which was a China one, with pretty figures all
around it), and transmuted it to gleaming gold.
Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately
opened the door, and showed herself with her apron
at her eyes, still sobbing as if her heart would break.
"How now, my little lady! cried Midas. Pray
what is the matter with you, this bright morning? "
Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes,
held out her hand, in which was one of the roses
which Midas had so recently transmuted.
Beautiful! exclaimed her father. And what
is there in this magnificent golden rose to make you
"Ah, dear father! answered the child, as well as
her sobs would let her; it is not beautiful, but the
ugliest flower that ever grew! As soon as I was
dressed, I ran into the garden to gather some roses
for you; because I know you like them, and like
them the better when gathered by your little daugh-
ter. But, oh dear, dear me! What do you think
has happened ? Such a misfortune! All the beau-
tiful roses, that smelled so sweetly and had so many
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
lovely blushes, are blighted and spoilt! They are
grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no
longer any fragrance! What can have been the
matter with them ? "
Poh, my dear little girl, pray don't cry about
it! said Midas, who was ashamed to confess that he
himself had wrought the change which so greatly
afflicted her. Sit down and eat your bread and milk !
You will find it easy enough to exchange a golden
rose like that (which will last hundreds of years), for
an ordinary one, which would wither in a day."
I don't care for such roses as this! cried Mary-
gold, tossing it contemptuously away. "It has no
smell, and the hard petals prick my nose!"
The child now sat down to table, but was so occu-
pied 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
metal it may have been when he took it up, was gold
when he set it down. He thought to himself, that it
was rather an extravagant style of splendor, in a king
of his simple habits, to breakfast off a service of gold,
and began to be puzzled with the difficulty of keeping
his treasures safe. The cupboard and the kitchen
would no longer be a secure place of deposit for arti-
cles so valuable as golden bowls and coffee-pots.
Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee
to his lips, and, sipping it, was astonished to perceive
that, the instant his lips touched the liquid, it became
molten gold, and, the next moment, hardened into a
"Ha! exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.
"What is the matter, father ?'" asked little Mary-
gold, gazing at him, with the tears still standing in
"Nothing, child, nothing!" said Midas. "Eat
your milk, before it gets quite cold."
He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate,
and, by way of experiment, touched its tail with his
finger. To his horror, it was immediately transmuted
from an admirably-fried brook-trout into a gold fish,
though not one of those gold-fishes which people often
keep in glass globes, as ornaments for the parlor.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
No; but it was really a metallic fish, and looked as if
it had been very cunningly made by the nicest gold-
smith 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 del-
icate, frothy appearance of a nicely fried fish, exactly
imitated in metal. A very pretty piece of work, as
you may suppose; only King Midas, just at that
moment, would much rather have had a real trout in
his dish than this elaborate and valuable imitation of
"I don't quite see," thought he to himself, how
I am to get any breakfast!"
He took one of the smoking hot cakes, and had
scarcely broken it, when, to his cruel mortification,
though, a moment before, it had been of the whitest
wheat, it assumed the yellow hue of Indian meal. To
say the truth, if it had really been a hot Indian cake,
Midas would have prized it a good deal more than he
now did, when its solidity and increased weight made
him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in
despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg, which im-
mediately 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
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
goose, in the story-book, was in the habit of laying;
but King Midas was the only goose that had had any.
thing to do with the matter.
"Well, this is a quandary! thought he, leaning
back in his chair, and looking quite enviously at little
Marygold, who was now eating her bread and milk
with great satisfaction. Such a costly breakfast
before me, and nothing that can be eaten '
Hoping that, by dint of great despatch, he might
avoid what he now felt to be a considerable inconve-
nience, King Midas next snatched a hot potato, and
attempted to cram it into his mouth, and swallow it in
a hurry. But the Golden Touch was too nimble for
him. He found his mouth full, not of mealy potato,
but of solid metal, which so burnt his tongue that he
roared aloud, and, jumping up from the table, began to
dance and stamp about the room, both with pain and
Father, dear father !" cried little Marygold, who
was a very affectionate child, pray what is the mat-
ter ? Have you burnt your mouth ? "
Ah, dear child," groaned Midas, dolefully, "I
don't know what is to become of your poor father !"
And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever
hear of such a pitiable case, in all your lives?
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 deli-
cate food was really worth its weight in gold. And
what was to be done ? Already, at breakfast, Midas
was excessively hungry. Would he be less so by din-
ner-time ? And how ravenous would be his appetite
for supper, which must undoubtedly consist of the
same sort of indigestible dishes as those now before
him! How many days, think you, would he survive
a continuance of this rich fare ?
These reflections so troubled wise King Midas, that
he began to doubt whether, after all, riches are the
one desirable thing in the world, or even the most
desirable. But this was only a passing thought. So
fascinated was Midas with the glitter of the yellow
metal, that he would still have refused to give up the
Golden Touch for so paltry a consideration as a break-
fast. Just imagine what a price for one meal's vict-
uals! It would have been the same as paying mil-
lions and millions of money (and as many millions
more as would take forever to reckon up) for some
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a cup of
It would be quite too dear," thought Midas.
Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the per-
plexity of his situation, that he again groaned aloud,
and very grievously too. Our pretty Marygold could
endure it no longer. She sat, a moment, gazing at
her father, and trying, with all the might of her little
wits, to find out what was the matter with him. Then,
with a sweet and sorrowful impulse to comfort him,
she started from her chair, and running to Midas,
threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He
bent down and kissed her. He felt that his little
daughter's love was worth a thousand times more than
he had gained by the Golden Touch.
My precious, precious Marygold !" cried he.
But Marygold made no answer.
Alas, what had he done ? How fatal was the gift
which the stranger bestowed! The moment the lips
of Midas touched Marygold's forehead, a change had
taken place. Her sweet, rosy face, so full of affection
as it had been, assumed a glittering yellow color, with
yellow tear-drops congealing on her cheeks. Her
beautiful brown ringlets took the same tint. Her soft
and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
her father's encircling arms. 0, terrible misfortune!
The victim of his insatiable desire for wealth, little
Marygold was a human child no longer, but a golden
Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of
love, grief, and pity, hardened into her face. It was
the prettiest and most woful sight that ever mortal
saw. All the features and tokens of Marygold were
there; even the beloved little dimple remained in her
golden chin. But, the more perfect was the resem-
blance, the greater was the father's agony at beholding
this golden image, which was all that was left him of
a daughter. It had been a favorite phrase of Midas,
whenever he felt particularly fond of the child, to say
that she was worth her weight in gold. And now the
phrase had become literally true. And now, at last,
when it was too late, he felt how infinitely a warm
and tender heart, that loved him, exceeded in value all
the wealth that could be piled up betwixt the earth
It would be too sad a story, if I were to tell you
how Midas, in the fulness of all his gratified desires,
began to wring his hands and bemoan himself; and
how he could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor
yet to look away from her. Except when his eyes
THEB GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 yel-
low tear-drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so pite-
ous and tender, that it seemed as if that very expres-
sion must needs soften the gold, and make it flesh
again. This, however, could not be. So Midas had
only to wring his hands, and to wish that he were the
poorest man in the wide world, if the loss of all his
wealth might bring back the faintest rose-color to his
dear child's face.
While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly
beheld a stranger, standing near the door. Midas
bent down his head, without speaking; for he recog-
nized the same figure which had appeared to him, the
day before, in the treasure-room, and had bestowed on
him this disastrous faculty of the Golden Touch. The
stranger's countenance still wore a smile, which seemed
to shed a yellow lustre all about the room, and gleamed
on little Marygold's image, and on the other objects
that had been transmuted by the touch of Midas.
"Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, "pray
how do you succeed with the Golden Touch ?"
Midas shook his head.
I am very miserable," said he.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
Very miserable, indeed!" exclaimed the stran-
ger. "And how happens that ? Have I not faith-
fully kept my promise with you ? Have you not
everything that your heart desired ? "
Gold is not everything," answered Midas. "And
I have lost all that my heart really cared for."
Ah! So you have made a discovery, since yes-
terday ? observed the stranger. Let us see, then.
Which of these two things do you think is really worth
the most, the gift of the Golden Touch, or one cup
of clear cold water I "
"0, blessed water!" exclaimed Midas. "It will
never moisten my parched throat again !"
The Golden Touch," continued the stranger, "or
a crust of bread ?"
"A piece of bread," answered Midas, "is worth all
the gold on earth "
"The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, "or
your own little Marygold, warm, soft, and loving, as
she was an hour ago ? "
O, 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 chang-
ing this whole big earth into a solid lump of gold! "
You are wiser than you were, King Midas!"
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
said the stranger, looking seriously at him. Your
own heart, I perceive, has not been entirely changed
from flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would
indeed be desperate. But you appear to be still capa&
ble of understanding that the commonest things, such
as lie within everybody's grasp, are more valuable
than the riches which so many mortals sigh and strug-
gle after. Tell me, now, do you sincerely desire to
rid yourself of this Golden Touch "
It is hateful to me !" replied Midas.
A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to
the floor; for it, too, had become gold. Midas shud-
Go, then," said the stranger, and plunge into
the river that glides past the bottom of your garden.
Take likewise a vase of the same water, and sprinkle
it over any object that you may desire to change back
again from gold into its former substance. If you
do this in earnestness and sincerity, it may possibly
repair the mischief which your avarice has occasioned."
King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his
head, the lustrous stranger had vanished.
You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in
snatching up a great earthen pitcher (but, alas me! it
was no longer earthen after he touched it), and hasten-
ing to the river-side. As he scampered along, and
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
forced his way through the shrubbery, it was posi-
tively marvellous to see how the foliage turned yellow
behind him, as if the autumn had been there, and
nowhere else. On reaching the river's brink, he
plunged headlong in, without waiting so much as to
pull off his shoes.
Poof! poof! poof!" snorted King Midas, as his
head emerged out of the water. Well; this is really
a refreshing bath, and I think it must have quite
washed away the Golden Touch. And now for filling
my pitcher !"
As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it glad-
dened his very heart to see it change from gold into
the same good, honest earthen vessel which it had
been before he touched it. He was conscious, also,
of a change within himself. A cold, hard and heavy
weight seemed to have gone out of his bosom. No
doubt, his heart had been gradually losing its human
substance, and transmuting itself into insensible metal,
but had now softened back again into flesh. 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 retained its purple
hue, instead of undergoing a yellow blight. The
curse of the Golden Touch had, therefore, really been
removed from him.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
King Midas hastened back to the palace: and, I
suppose, the servants knew not what to make of it
when they saw their royal master so carefully bring-
ing 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
No sooner did it fall on her than you would have
laughed to see how the rosy color came back to the
dear child's cheek and how she began to sneeze
and sputter! -and how astonished she was to find
herself dripping wet, and her father still throwing
more water over her !
"Pray do not, dear father!" cried she. "See
how you have wet my nice frock, which I put on only
this morning! "
For Marygold did not know that she had been a
little golden statue; nor could she remember anything
that had happened since the moment when she ran,
with outstretched arms, to comfort poor King Midas.
Her father did not think it necessary to tell his
beloved child how very foolish he had been, but con-
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
tented himself with showing how much wiser he had
now grown. For this purpose, he led little Marygold
into the garden, where he sprinkled all the remainder
of the water over the rose-bushes, and with such good
effect that above five thousand roses recovered their
beautiful bloom. There were two circumstanceshow-
ever, which, as long as he lived, used to put King
Midas in mind of the Golden Touch. One was, that
the sands of the river sparkled like gold; the other,
that little Marygold's hair had now a golden tinge,
which he had never observed in it before she had been
transmuted by the effect of his kiss. This change of
hue was really an improvement, and made Marygold's
hair richer than in her babyhood.
When King Midas had grown quite an old man,
and used to trot Marygold's children on his knee, he
was fond of telling them this marvellous story, pretty
much as I have now told it to you. And then would
he stroke their glossy ringlets, and tell them that their
hair, likewise, had a rich shade of gold, which they
had inherited from their mother.
And, to tell you the truth, my precious little
folks," quoth King Midas, diligently trotting the
children all the while, "ever since that morning, I
have hated the very sight of all other gold, save
AFTER THE STORY.
"WELL, children," inquired Eustace, who was
very fond of eliciting a definite opinion from his
auditors, did you ever, in all your lives, listen to a
better story than this of 'The Golden Touch' ? "
Why, as to the story of King Midas," said saucy
Primrose, it was a famous one thousands of years
before Mr. Eustace Bright came into the world, and
will continue to be so as long after he quits it. But
some people have what we may call 'The Leaden
Touch,' and make everything dull and heavy that
they lay their fingers upon."
You are a smart child, Primrose, to be not yet in
your teens," said Eustace, taken rather aback by the
piquancy of her criticism. But you well know, in
your naughty little heart, that I have burnished the
old gold of Midas all over anew, and have made it
shine as it never shone before. And then that figure
of Marygold! Do you perceive no nice workmanship
in that ? And how finely I have brought out and
deepened the moral! What say you, Sweet Fern,
Dandelion, Clover, Periwinkle? Would any of you,
after hearing this story, be so foolish as to desire the
faculty of changing things to gold ? "
I should like," said Periwinkle, a girl of ten,
"to have the power of turning everything to gold with
my right forefinger; but, with my left forefinger, I
should want the power of changing it back again, if
the first change did not please me. And I know what
I would do, this very afternoon!"
"Pray tell me," said Eustace.
"Why," answered Periwinkle, "I would touch every
one of these golden leaves on the trees with my left
forefinger, and make them all green again; so that we
might have the summer back at once, with no ugly
winter in the mean time."
O, Periwinkle!" cried Eustace Bright, "there
you are wrong, and would do a great deal of mischief.
Were I Midas, I would make nothing else but just
such golden days as these, over and over again, all
the year throughout. My best thoughts always come
a little too late. Why did not I tell you how old
King Midas came to America, and changed the dusky
autumn, such as it is in other countries, into the bur"
nished beauty which it here puts on? He gilded the
leaves of the great volume of Nature."
Cousin Eustace," said Sweet Fern, a good little
boy, who was always making particular inquiries about
the precise height of giants and the littleness of fairies,
" how big was Marygold, and how much did she weigh
after she was turned to gold? "
She was about as tall as you are," replied Eustace,
and, as gold is very heavy, she weighed at least two
thousand pounds, and might have been coined into
thirty or forty thousand gold dollars. I wish Primrose
were worth half as much. Come, little people, let us
clamber out of the dell, and look about us."
They did so. The sun was now an hour or two
beyond its noontide mark, and filled the great hollow
of the valley with its western radiance, so that it
seemed to be brimming with mellow light, and to spill
it over the surrounding hill-sides, like golden wine out
of a bowl. It was such a day, that you could not help
saying of it, 1" There never was such a day before! "
although yesterday was just such a day, and to-mor-
row will be just such another. Ah, but there are
very few of them in a twelvemonth's circle! It is a
remarkable peculiarity of these October days, that each
of them seems to occupy a great deal of space;
although the sun rises rather tardily at that season of
the year, and goes to bed, as little children ought, at
sober six o'clock, or even earlier. We cannot, there-
fore, call the days long; but they appear, somehow or
other, to make up for their shortness by their breadth;
and when the cool night comes, we are conscious of
having enjoyed a big armful of life, since morning.
"Come, children, come! cried Eustace Bright.
More nuts, more nuts, more nuts! Fill all your
baskets; and, at Christmas time, I will crack them
for you, and tell you beautiful stories! "
So away they went; all of them in excellent spirits,
except little Dandelion, who, I am sorry to tell you,
had been sitting on a chestnut-bur, and was stuck as
full as a pincushion of its prickles. Dear me, how
uncomfortably he must have felt!
INTRODUCTORY TO THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN."
THE golden days of October passed away, as so
many other Octobers have, and brown November like-
wise, and the greater part of chill December, too. At
last came merry Christmas, and Eustace Bright along
with it, making it all the merrier by his presence.
And, the day after his arrival from college, there
came a mighty snow-storm. Up to this time, the
winter had held back, and had given us a good many
mild days, which were like smiles upon its wrinkled
visage. The grass had kept itself green, in sheltered
places, such as the nooks of southern hill-slopes, and
along the lee of the stone fences. It was but a week
or two ago, and since the beginning of the month, that
the children had found a dandelion in bloom, on the
margin of Shadow Brook, where it glides out of the
But no more green grass and dandelions, now.
This was such a snow-storm Twenty miles of it
might have been visible at once, between the windows
of Tanglewood and the dome of Taconic, had it been
possible to see so far, among the eddying drifts that
whitened all the atmosphere. It seemed as if the hills
were giants, and were flinging monstrous handfuls of
snow at one another, in their enormous sport. So
thick were the fluttering snow-flakes, that even the
trees, mid-way down t] 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 white-
ness of the frozen lake at its base, and the black or
gray tracts of woodland in the nearer landscape.
But these were merely peeps through the tempest.
Nevertheless, the children rejoiced greatly in the
snow-storm. They had already made acquaintance
with it, by tumbling heels over head into its highest
drifts, and flinging snow at one another, as we have
just fancied the Berkshire mountains to be doing.
And now they had come back to their spacious play-
room, which was as big as the great drawing-room,
and was lumbered with all sorts of playthings, large
and small. The biggest was a rocking-horse, that
looked like a real pony; and there was a whole family
of wooden, waxen, plaster and china dolls, besides rag-
babies; and blocks enough to build Bunker Hill Mon-
ument, and nine-pins, and balls, and humming-tops,
and battle-doors, and grace-sticks, and skipping-ropes,
and more of such valuable property than I could tell
of in a printed page. But the children liked the
snow-storm better than them all. It suggested so
many brisk enjoyments for to-morrow, and all the
remainder of the winter. The leigh-ride; the slides
down hill into the valley; the snow-images that were
to be shaped out; the snow-fortresses that were to be
built, and the snow-balling to be carried on !
So the little folks blessed the snow-storm, and were
glad to see it come thicker and thicker, and watched
hopefully the long drift that was piling itself up in
the avenue, and was already higher than any of their
Why, we shall be blocked up till spring !" cried
they, with the hugest delight. "What a pity that
the house is too high to be quite covered up! The
little red. house, down yonder, will be buried up to its
"You silly children, what do you want of more
snow ?" asked Eustace, who, tired of some novel that
he was skimming through, had strolled into the play-
room. "It has done mischief enough already, by
spoiling the only skating that I could hope for,
through the winter. We shall see nothing more of
the lake till April; and this was to have been my
first day upon it! Don't you pity me, Primrose ? "
"0, to be sure!" answered Primrose, laughing.
But, for your comfort, we will listen to another of
your old stories, such as you told us under the porch,
and down in the hollow, by Shadow Brook. Perhaps
I shall like them better now, when there is nothing to
do, than while there were nuts to be gathered, and
beautiful weather to enjoy."
Hereupon, Periwinkle, Clover, Sweet Fern, and as
many others of the little fraternity and cousinhood as
were still at Tanglewood, gathered about Eustace, and
earnestly besought him for a story. The student
yawned, stretched himself, and then, to the vast
admiration of the small people, skipped three times
back and forth over the top of a chair, in order, as he
explained to them, to set his wits in motion.
Well, well, children," said he, after these prelimi-
naries, "since you insist, and Primrose has set her heart
upon it, I will see what can be done for you. And,
that you may know what happy days there were before
snow-storms came into fashion, I will tell you a story
of the oldest of all old times, when the world was as