The Baldwin Library
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE'S WORKS.
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FOR GIRLS AN'D BOYS.
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BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO.,
HE author has long been of opinion that many
of the classical myths were capable of being
rendered into very capital reading for children.
In the little volume here offered to the public, he has
worked up half a dozen of them, with this end in view.
A great freedom of treatment was necessary to his plan;
but it will be observed by every one who attempts to
render these legends malleable in his intellectual furnace,
that they are marvellously independent of all temporary
modes and circumstances. They remain essentially the
same, after changes that would affect the identity of
almost anything else.
He does not, therefore, plead guilty to a sacrilege, in
having sometimes shaped anew, as his fancy dictated, the
forms that have been hallowed by an antiquity of two or
three thousand years. No epoch of time can claim a
copyright in these immortal fables. They seem never
to have been made; and certainly, so long as man
exists, they can never perish; but, by their indestructi-
bility 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 b-en careful to
preserve it), and have, perhaps, assumed a Gothic or
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 chil-
dren. 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. Chil-
dren 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 com-
plex that bewilder them.
LENOX, July 15, 1851.
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
TANGLEWOOD PORCH. Introductory to "The Gor-
gon's Head" 11
THE GORGON'S HEAD 17
TANGLEWOOD PORCH.- After the Story.. 48
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
SHADOW BROOK. Introductory to "The Golden
THE GOLDEN TOUCH 57
SHADOW BROOK.- After the Story 79
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM.- Introductory to The
Paradise of Children" 8
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN 89
TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM. After the Story. 110
THE TIIREE GOLDEN APPLES.
TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE. Introductory to "The
Three Golden Apples" .115
THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES 121
TANGLEWOOD FIRESIDE.- After the Story 147
THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER.
THE HILLSIDE. Introductory to "The Miraculous
THE MIRACULOUS PITCHER 157
THE HILLSIDE. -After the Story 182
BALD-SUMMIT.- Introductory to "The Chimera" 187
THE CHIMERA 191
BALD-SUMMIT.- After the Story 220
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
INTRODUCTORY TO "THE GOGON'S HEAD."
ENEATH the porch of the country-seat called
Tanglewood, one fine autumnal morning, was
assembled a merry party of little folks, with a
tall youth in the midst of them. They had planned a
nutting expedition, and were impatiently waiting for the
mists to roll up the hill-slopes, and for the sun to pour
the warmth of the Indian summer over the fields and
pastures, and into the nooks of the many-colored woods.
There was a prospect of as fine a day as ever gladdened
the aspect of this beautiful and comfortable world. As
yet, however, the morning mist filled up the whole length
and breadth of the valley, above which, on a gently
sloping eminence, the mansion stood.
This body of white vapor extended to within less than
a hundred yards of the house. It completely hid every-
thing beyond that distance, except a few ruddy or yellow
tree-tops, which here and there emerged, and were glori-
fied by the early sunshine, as was likewise the broad sur-
face of the mist. Four or five miles off to the south-
12 TANGLEWOOD PORCH.
ward rose the summit of Monument Mountain, and
seemed to be floating on a cloud. Some fifteen miles
farther away, in the same direction, appeared the loftier
Dome of Taconic, looking blue and indistinct, and hardly
so substantial as the vapory sea that almost rolled over
it. The nearer hills, which bordered the valley, were
half submerged, and were specked with little cloud-
wreaths all the way to their tops. On the whole, there
was so much cloud, and so little solid earth, that it had
tlie effect of a vision.
The children above-mentioned, being as full of life as
they could hold, kept overflowing from the porch of
Tanglewood, and scampering along the gravel-walk, or
rushing across the dewy herbage of the lawn. I can
hardly tell how many of these small people there were;
not less than nine or ten, however, nor more than a
dozen, of all sorts, sizes, and ages, whether girls or boys.
They were brothers, sisters, and cousins, together with a
few of their young acquaintances, who had been invited
by Mr. and Mrs. Pringle to spend some of this delight-
ful weather with their own children, at Tanglewood. I
am afraid to tell you their names, or even to give them
any names which other children have ever been called by;
because, to my certain knowledge, authors sometimes get
themselves into great trouble by accidentally giving the
names of real persons to the characters in their books.
For this reason, I mean to call them Primrose, Peri-
winkle, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Blue Eye, Clover,
Huckleberry, Cowslip, Squash-blossom, Milkweed, Plan-
tain, and Buttercup; although, to be sure, such titles
TANGLEWOOD PORCH. 13
might better suit a group of fairies than a company of
It is not to be supposed that these little folks were to
be permitted by their careful fathers and mothers, uncles,
aunts, or grandparents, to stray abroad into the woods
and fields, without the guardianship of some particularly
grave and elderly person. O no, indeed! In the first
sentence of my book, you will recollect that I spoke of a
tall youth, standing in the midst of the children. His
name- (and I shall let you know his real name, because
he considers it a great honor to have told the stories that
are here to be printed) his name was Eustace Bright.
He was a student at Williams College, and had reached,
I think, at this period, the venerable age of eighteen
years; so that he felt quite like a grandfather towards
Periwinkle, Dandelion, Huckleberry, Squash-blossom,
Milkweed, and the rest, who were only half or a third
as venerable as he. A trouble in his eyesight (such as
many students think it necessary to have, nowadays, in
order to prove their diligence at their books) had kept
him from college a week or two after the beginning of
the term. But, for my part, I have seldom met with a
pair of eyes that looked as if they could see farther or
better than those of Eustace Bright.
This learned student was slender, and rather pale, as
all Yankee students are; but yet of a healthy aspect, and
as light and active as if he had wings to his shoes. By
the by, being much addicted to wading through stream-
lets and across meadows, he had put on cowhide boots
for the expedition. He wore a linen blouse, a cloth cap,
14 TANGLEWOOD PORCH.
and a pair of green spectacles, which he had assumed,
probably, less for the preservation of his eyes, than for
the dignity that they imparted to his countenance. In
either case, however, he might as well have let them
alone; for Huckleberry, a mischievous little elf, crept
behind Eustace as he sat on the steps of the porch,
snatched the spectacles from his nose, and clapped them
on her own; and as the student forgot to take them
back, they fell off into the grass, and lay there .till the
Now, Eustace Bright, you must know, had won great
fame among the children, as a narrator of wonderful
stories; and though he sometimes pretended to be an-
noyed, when they teased him for more, and more, and
always for more, yet I really doubt whether he liked
anything quite so well as to tell them. You might have
seen his eyes twinkle, therefore, when Clover, Sweet
Fern, Cowslip, Buttercup, and most of their playmates,
besought him to relate one of his stories, while they were
waiting for the mist to clear up.
"Yes, Cousin Eustace," said Primrose, who was a
bright girl of twelve, with laughing eyes, and a nose
that turned up a little, "the morning is certainly the best
time for the stories with which you so often tire out our
patience. We shall be in less danger of hurting your
feelings, by falling asleep at the most interesting points,
- as little Cowslip and I did last night! "
"Naughty Primrose," cried Cowslip, a child of six
years old; "I did not fall asleep, and I only shut my
eyes, so as to see a picture of what Cousin Eustace was
TANGLEWOOD PORCH. 15
telling about. His stories are good to hear at night,
because we can dream about them asleep; and good in
the morning, too, because then we can dream about them
awake. So I hope he will tell us one this very minute."
"Thank you, my little Cowslip," said Eustace; "cer-
tainly you shall have the best story I can think of, if
it were only for defending me so well from that naughty
Primrose. But, children, I have already told you so
many fairy tales, that I doubt whether there is a single
one which you have not heard at least twice over. I am
afraid you will fall asleep in reality, if I repeat any of
No, no, no cried Blue Eye, Periwinkle, Plantain,
and half a dozen others. We like a story all the better
for having heard it two or three times before."
And it is a truth, as regards children, that a story
seems often to deepen its mark in their interest, not
merely by two or three, but by numberless repetitions.
But Eustace Bright, in the exuberance of his resources,
scorned to avail himself of an advantage which an older
story-teller would have been glad to grasp at.
"It would be a great pity," said he, if a man of my
learning (to say nothing of original fancy) could not find
a new story every day, year in and year out, for children
such as you. I will tell you one of the nursery tales
that were made for the amusement of our great old
grandmother, the Earth, when she was a child in frock
and pinafore. There are a hundred such; and it is a
wonder to me that they have not long ago been put into
picture-books for little girls and boys. But, instead of
16 TANGLEWOOD PORCH.
that, old gray-bearded grandsires pore over them, in
musty volumes of Greek, and puzzle themselves with try-
ing to find out when, and how, and for what they were
"Well, well, well, well, Cousin Eustace !" cried all
the children at once; "talk no more about your stories,
"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 Prim-
rose, 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 Gor-
gon is ?"
"I do," said Primrose.
"Then hold your tongue! rejoined Eustace, who had
rather she would have known nothing about the matter.
"Hold all your tongues, and I shall tell you a sweet
pretty story of a Gorgon's head."
And so he did, as you may begin to read on the next
page. Working up his sophomorical erudition with a
good deal of tact, and incurring great obligations to Pro-
fessor Anthon, he, nevertheless, disregarded all classical
authorities, whenever the vagrant audacity of his imagina-
tion impelled him to do so.
THE GORGON'S HEAD.
ERSEUS was the son of Danae, who was the
daughter of a king. And when Perseus was a
"very little boy, some wicked people put his
mother and himself into a chest, and set them afloat upon
the sea. The wind blew freshly, and drove the chest
away from the shore, and the uneasy billows tossed it up
and down; while 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, how-
ever, and neither sank nor was upset; until, when night
was coming, it floated so near an island that it got en-
tangled 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 hap-
pened to be the fisherman's brother.
This fisherman, I am glad to tell you, was an exceed-
ingly humane and upright man. He showed great kind-
ness to Danae and her little boy; and continued to be-
friend them, until Perseus had grown to be a handsome
18 TIE GORGON'S HEAD.
youth, very strong and active, and skilful in the use of
arms. Long before this time, King Polydectes had seen
the two strangers the mother and her child who
had come to his dominions in a floating chest. As he
was not good and kind, like his brother the fisherman,
but extremely wicked, he resolved to send Perseus on a
dangerous enterprise, in which he would probably be
killed, and then to do some great mischief to Danae her-
self. So this bad-hearted king spent a long while in con-
sidering what was the most dangerous thing that a young
man could possibly undertake to perform. At last, hav-
ing hit upon an enterprise that promised to turn out as
fatally as he desired, he sent for the 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 fish-
erman, and I suppose you would not be sorry to repay
some of it."
Please your Majesty," answered Perseus, "I would
willingly risk my life to do so."
"Well, then," continued the king, still with a cunning
smile on his lips, I have a little adventure to propose to
you; and, as you are a brave and enterprising youth,
you will doubtless look upon it as a great piece of good
luck to have so rare an opportunity of distinguishing
yourself. You must know, my good Perseus, I think of
getting married to the beautiful Princess Hippodamia;
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 19
and it is customary, on these occasions, to make the
bride a present of some far-fetched and elegant curiosity.
I have been a little perplexed, I must honestly confess,
where to obtain anything likely to please a princess of
her exquisite taste. But, this morning, I flatter myself,
I have thought of precisely the article."
And can I assist your Majesty in obtaining it ?
cried Perseus, eagerly.
"You can, if you are as brave a youth as I believe
you to be," replied King Polydectes, with the utmost
graciousness of manner. The bridal gift which I have
set my heart on presenting to the beautiful Hippodamia
is the head of the Gorgon Medusa, with the snaky locks;
and I depend on you, my dear Perseus, to bring it to
me. So, as I am anxious to settle affairs with the
princess, the sooner you go in quest of the Gorgon, the
better I shall be pleased."
"I will set out to-morrow morning," answered
"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
2;0 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
of Medusa with the snaky locks. Everybody was re-
joiced; for most of the inhabitants of the island were
as wicked as the king himself, and would have liked
nothing better than to see some enormous mischief hap-
pen 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
Ho, ho cried they; "Medusa's snakes will sting
him soundly !
Now, there were three Gorgons alive, at that period;
and they were the most strange and terrible monsters
that had ever been since the world was made, or that
have been seen in after days, or that are likely to be seen
in all time to come. I hardly know what sort of crea-
ture or hobgoblin to call them. They were three sisters,
and seem to have borne some distant resemblance to
women, but were really a very frightful and mischievous
species of dragon. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine
what hideous beings these three sisters were. Why, in-
stead of locks of hair, if you can believe me, they had
each of them a hundred enormous snakes growing on
their heads, all alive, twisting, wriggling, curling, and
thrusting out their venomous tongues, with forked stings
at the end The teeth of the Gorgons were terribly
long tusks; their hands were made of brass; and their
bodies were all over scales, which, if not iron, were some-
thing as hard and impenetrable. They had wings, too,
THE GORGON'S IIEAD. 21
and exceedingly splendid ones, I can assure you; for
every feather in them was pure, bright, glittering, bur-
nished gold, and they looked very dazzlingly, no doubt,
when the Gorgons were flying about in the sunshine.
But when people happened to cateh a glimpse of their
glittering brightness, aloft in the air, they seldom stopped
to gaze, but ran and hid themselves as speedily as they
could. You will think, perhaps, that they were afraid of
being stung by the serpents that served the Gorgons
instead of hair, or of having their heads bitten off by
their ugly tusks, or of being torn all to pieces by their
brazen claws. Well, to be sure, these were some of the
dangers, but by no means the greatest, nor the most diffi-
cult to avoid. For the worst thing about these abomina-
ble 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 danger-
ous adventure that the wicked King Polydectes had con-
trived for this innocent young man. Perseus himself,
when he had thought over the matter, could not help
seeing that he had very little chance of coming safely
through it, and that he was far more likely to become a
stone image than to bring back the head of Medusa with
the snaky locks. For, not to speak of other difficulties,
there was one which it would have puzzled an older man
than Perseus to get over. Not only must he fight with
and slay this golden-winged, iron-scaled, long-tusked,
brazen-clawed, snaky-haired monster, but he must do it
22 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
with his eyes shut, or, at least, without so much as a
glance at the enemy with whom he was contending.
Else, while his arm was lifted to strike, he would stiffen
into stone, and stand with that uplifted arm for centuries,
until time, and the wind and weather, should crumble
him quite away. This would be a very sad thing to be-
fall a young man who wanted to perform a great many
brave deeds, and to enjoy a great deal of happiness, in
this bright and beautiful world.
So disconsolate did these thoughts make him, that
Perseus could not bear to tell his mother what he had
undertaken to do. He therefore took his shield, girded
on his sword, and crossed over from the island to the
mainland, where he sat down in a solitary place, and
hardly refrained from shedding tears.
But, while he was in this sorrowful mood, he heard
a voice close beside him.
"Perseus," said the voice, why are you sad ?"
He lifted his head from his hands, in which lie 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 shoulders, an
odd sort of cap on his head, a strangely twisted staff in
his hand, and a short and very crooked sword hanging
by his side. He was exceedingly light and active in his
figure, like a person much accustomed to gymnastic ex-
ercises, 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
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 23
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 any-
body should have found him with tears in his eyes, like
a timid little school-boy, when, after all, there might be
no occasion for despair. So Perseus wiped his eyes, and
answered the stranger pretty briskly, putting on as brave
a look as he could.
"I am not so very sad," said he; "only thoughtful
about an adventure that I have undertaken."
Oho answered the stranger. Well, tell me all
about it, and possibly I may be of service to you. I have
helped a good many young men through adventures that
looked difficult enough beforehand. Perhaps you may
have heard of me. I have more names than one; but
the name of Quicksilver suits me as well as any other.
Tell me what 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 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 Hippo-
damia, 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,
24 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 encour-
aging tone. "I am the very person to help you, if any-
body can. My sister and myself will do our utmost to
bring you safe through the adventure, ugly as it now
Your sister ? repeated Perseus.
Yes, my sister," said the stranger. She is very
wise, I promise you; and as for myself, I generally have
all my wits about me, such as they are. If you show
yourself bold and cautious, and follow our advice, you
need not fear being a stone image yet awhile. But, first
of all, you must polish your shield, till you can see your
face in it as distinctly as in a mirror."
This seemed to Perseus rather an odd beginning of
the adventure; for he thought it of far more conse-
quence that the shield should be strong enough to defend
him from the Gorgon's brazen claws, than that it should
be bright enough to show him the reflection of his face.
However, concluding that Quicksilver knew better than
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 25
himself, lie 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. Quicksil-
ver 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
"No sword but mine will answer your purpose," ob-
served 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 adven-
ture ; "pray, who may the Three Gray Women be? I
never heard of them before."
They are three very strange old ladies," said Quick-
silver, 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
"But," said Perseus, "why should I waste my time
with these Three Gray Women ? Would it not be better
to set out at once in search of the terrible Gorgons ? "
"No, no," answered his friend. "There are other
things to be done, before you can find your way to the
Gorgons. There is nothing for it but to hunt up these
old ladies; and when we meet with them, you may be
26 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 im-
mediately. 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 Quick-
silver. To say the truth, he had a singular idea that
Quicksilver was furnished with a pair of winged shoes,
which, of course, helped him along marvellously. And
then, too, when Perseus looked sideways at him, out of
the corner of his eye, lie seemed to see wings on the side
of his head; although, if he turned a full gaze, there
were no such things to be perceived, but only an odd
kind of cap. But, at all events, the twisted staff was
evidently a great convenience to Quicksilver, and enabled
him to proceed so fast, that Perseus, though a remark-
ably active young man, began to be out of breath.
"Here! cried Quicksilver, at last,- for he knew well
enough, rogue that he was, how hard Perseus found it to
keep pace with him,- "take you the staff, for you need
it a great deal more than I. Are there no better walkers
than yourself, in the island of Seriphus ?"
"I could walk pretty well," said Perseus, glancing
slyly at his companion's feet, "if I had only a pair of
"We must see about getting you a pair," answered
But the staff helped Perseus along so bravely, that he
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 27
no longer felt the slightest weariness. In fact, the stick
seemed to be alive in his hand, and to lend some of its
life to Perseus. He and Quicksilver now walked onward
at their ease, talking very sociably together; and Quick-
silver told so many pleasant stories about his former ad-
ventures, and how well his wits had served him on vari-
ous 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
At last, he happened to recollect that Quicksilver had
spoken of a sister, who was to lend her assistance in the
adventure which they were now bound upon.
Where is she ? he inquired. "Shall we not meet
her soon ?"
"All at the proper time," said his companion. "But
this sister of mine, you must understand, is quite a dif-
ferent 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 par-
ticularly profound to say. Neither will she listen to any
but the wisest conversation."
Dear me ejaculated Perseus; "I shall be afraid
to say a syllable."
"cShe 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,
28 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 no-
body seemed ever to have dwelt or journeyed there. All
was waste and desolate, in the gray twilight, which grew
every moment more obscure. Perseus looked about him,
rather disconsolately, and asked Quicksilver whether they
had a great deal farther to go.
Hist! hist! whispered his companion. Make
no noise! This is just the time and place to meet the
Three Gray Women. Be careful that they do not see
you before you see them; for, though they have but a
single eye among the three, it is as sharp-sighted as half
a dozen common eyes."
But what must I do," asked Perseus, when we
meet them ?"
Quicksilver explained to Perseus how the Three Gray
Women managed with their one eye. They were in the
habit, it seems, of changing it from one to another, as if
it had been a pair of spectacles, or which would have
suited them better a quizzing-glass. When one of the
three had kept the eye a certain time, she took it out of
the socket and passed it to one of her sisters, whose turn
it might happen to be, and who immediately clapped it
into her own head, and enjoyed a peep at the visible
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 29
world. Thus it will easily be understood that only one
of the Three Gray Women could see, while the other two
were in utter darkness; and, moreover, at the instant
when the eye was passing from hand to hand, neither of
the poor old ladies was able to see a wink. I have heard
of a great many strange things, in my day, and have
witnessed not a few; but none, it seems to me, that can
compare with the oddity of these Three Gray Women,
all peeping through a single eye.
So thought Perseus, likewise, and was so astonished
that he almost fancied his companion was joking with him,
and that there were no such old women in the world.
You will soon find whether I tell the truth or
no," observed Quicksilver. "Hark hush hist hist!
There they come, now "
Perseus looked earnestly through the dusk of the
evening, and there, sure enough, at no great distance off,
he 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 as at noonday. The
sight of three persons' eyes was melted and collected into
that single one.
30 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
Thus the three old dames got along about as comfort-
ably, upon the whole, as if they could all see at once.
She who chanced to have the eye in her forehead led the
other two by the hands, peeping sharply about her, all
the while; insomuch that Perseus dreaded lest she should
see right through the thick clump of bushes behind which
he and Quicksilver had hidden themselves. My stars!
it was positively terrible to be within reach of so very
sharp an eye!
But, before they reached the clump of buses, one of
the Three Gray Women spoke.
"Sister! Sister Scarecrow! cried she, "you have
had the eye long enough. It is my turn now !
"Let me keep it a moment longer, Sister Nightmare,"
answered Scarecrow. "I thought I had a glimpse of
something behind that thick bush."
Well, and what of that? retorted Nightmare, peev-
ishly. Can't I see into a thick bush as easily as your-
self? The eye is mine, as well as yours; and I know
the use of it as well as you, or may be a little better. I
insist upon taking a peep immediately !"
But here the third sister, whose name was Shakejoint,
began to complain, and said that it was her turn to have
the eye, and that Scarecrow and Nightmare wanted to
keep it all to themselves. To end the dispute, old Dame
Scarecrow took the eye out of her forehead, and held it
forth in her hand.
"Take it, one of you," cried slie, "and quit this fool-
ish 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!"
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 31
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 Nightmare, could not at once meet either
of their hands, in order to put the eye into it. Thus (as
you will see, with half an eye, my wise little auditors),
these good old dames had fallen into a strange perplex-
ity. 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 Sliake-
joint and Nightmare both groping for the eye, and each
finding fault with Scarecrow and one another, that he
could scarcely help laughing aloud.
"Now is your time !" he whispered to Perseus.
"Quick, quick! before they can clap the eye into either
of their heads. Rush out upon the old ladies, and snatch
it from Scarecrow's hand "
In an instant, while the Three Gray Women were still
scolding each other, Perseus leaped from behind the
clump of bushes, and made himself master of the prize.
The marvellous eye, as he held it in his hand, shone very
brightly, and seemed to look up into his face with a
knowing air, and an expression as if it would have
winked, had it been provided with a pair of eyelids for
that purpose. But the Gray Women knew nothing of
what had happened; and, each supposing that one of her
32 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 ex-
cellent eye in my own hand! "
"You! you have our eye And who are you ?"
screamed the Three Gray Women, all in a breath; for
they were terribly frightened, of course, at hearing a
strange voice, and discovering that their eyesight had got
into the hands of they could not guess whom. 0,
what shall we do, sisters ? what shall we do? We are
all in the dark Give us our eye! Give us our one,
precious, solitary eye! You have two of your own!
Give us our eye! "
Tell them," whispered Quicksilver to Perseus, "that
they shall have back the eye as soon as they direct you
where to find the Nymphs who have the flying slippers,
the magic wallet, and the helmet of darkness."
My dear, good, admirable old ladies," said Perseus,
addressing the Gray Women, "there is no occasion for
putting yourselves into such a fright. I am by no means
a bad young man. You shall have back your eye, safe
and sound, and as bright as ever, the moment you tell me
where to find the Nymphs."
The Nymphs Goodness me! sisters, what Nymphs
does he mean ? screamed Scarecrow. "There are a
great many Nymphs, people say; some that go a hunting
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 33
in the woods, and some that live inside of trees, and some
that have a comfortable home in fountains of water. We
know nothing at all about them. We are three unfortu-
nate old souls, that go wandering about in the dusk, and
never had but one eye amongst us, and that one you have
stolen away. 0, give it back, good stranger! who-
ever you are, give it back!"
All this while the Three Gray Women were groping
with tleir out stretched 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 hel-
met of invisibility."
"Mercy on us, sisters! what is the young man
talking about ? exclaimed Scarecrow, Nightmare, and
Shakejoint, one to another, with great appearance of
astonishment. A pair of flying slippers, quoth he!
His heels would quickly fly higher than his head, if he
were silly enough to put them on. And a helmet of in-
visibility How could a helmet make him invisible, un-
less it were big enough for him to hide under it ? And
an enchanted wallet! What sort of a contrivance
may that be, I wonder ? No, no, good stranger! we can
tell you nothing of these marvellous things. You have
two eyes of your own, and we have but a single one
34 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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 mat-
ter; and, as it grieved him to have put them to so much
trouble, he was just on the point of restoring their eye
and asking pardon for his rudeness in snatching it away.
But Quicksilver caught his hand.
"Don't let them make a fool of you said lie.
"These Three Gray Women are the only persons in
the world that can tell you where to find the Nymphs;
and, unless you get that information, you will never
succeed in cutting off the head of Medusa with the
snaky locks. Keep fast hold of the eye, and all will go
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. Find-
ing that there was no other way of recovering it, they at
last told Perseus what he wanted to know. No sooner
had they done so, than he immediately, and with the ut-
most 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 lie happened to have given the eye to Scarecrow,
who hlad already taken her turn of it when their trouble
with Perseus commenced.
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 35
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 an-
other, and were evidently intended to be inseparable
companions. As a general rule, I would advise all peo-
ple, 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
Quicksilver and Perseus, in the mean time, were mak-
ing the best of their way in quest of the Nynmphs. The
old dames had given them such particular directions,
that they were not long in finding them out. They
proved to be very different persons from Nightmare,
Shakejoint, and Scarecrow; for, instead of being old,
they were young and beautiful; and instead of one eye
amongst the sisterhood, each Nymph had two exceed-
ingly 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 ap-
peared to be a small purse, made of deer-skin, and curi-
ously 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
36 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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. Un-
expectedly, however, this other slipper spread its wings,
fluttered up off the ground, and would probably have
flown away, if Quicksilver had not made a leap, and
luckily caught it in the air.
"Be more careful," said he, as he gave it back to
Perseus. "It would frighten the birds, up aloft, if they
should see a flying slipper amongst them."
When Perseus had got on both of these wonderful
slippers, he was altogether too buoyant to tread on earth.
Making a step or two, lo and behold! upward he popt
into the air, high above the heads of Quicksilver and the
Nymphs, and found it very difficult to clamber down
again. Winged slippers, and all such high-flying contriv-
ances, 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 lie
must not be in so desperate a hurry, but must wait for
the invisible helmet.
The good-natured Nymphs had the helmet, with its
dark tuft of waving plumes, all in readiness to put upon
his head. And now there happened about as wonderful
an incident as anything that I have yet told you. The
instant before the helmet was put on, there stood Per-
seus, 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
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 37
made up of courage, sprightliness, and glorious light.
But when the helmet had descended over his white brow,
there was no longer any Perseus to be seen! Nothing
but empty air! Even the helmet, that covered him with
its invisibility, had vanished!
Where are you, Perseus? asked Quicksilver.
Why, here, to be sure!" answered Perseus, very
quietly, although his voice seemed to come out of the
transparent atmosphere. "Just where I was a moment
ago. Don't you see me ? "
"No, indeed answered his friend. "You are hid-
den under the helmet. But, if I cannot see you, neither
can the Gorgons. Follow me, therefore, and we will try
your dexterity in using the winged slippers."
With these words, Quicksilver's cap spread its wings,
as if his head were about to fly away from his shoulders;
but his whole figure rose lightly into the air, and Perseus
followed. By the time they had ascended a few hundred
feet, the young man began to feel what a delightful thing
it was to leave the dull earth so far beneath him, and to
be able to flit about like a bird.
It was now deep night. Perseus looked upward, and
saw the round, bright, silvery moon, and thought that he
should desire nothing better than to soar up thither, and
spend his life there. Then he looked downward again,
and saw the earth, with its seas, and lakes, and the silver
courses of its rivers, and its snowy mountain-peaks, and
the breadth of its fields, and the dark cluster of its
woods, and its cities of white marble; and, with 'the
moonshine sleeping over the whole scene, it was as beau-
38 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
tiful 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 ap-
proached a cloud, that, at a distance, looked as if it were
made of fleecy silver; although, when they plunged into
it, they found themselves chilled and moistened with gray
mist. So swift was their flight, however, that, in an
instant, they emerged from the cloud into the moonlight
again. Once, a high-soaring eagle flew right against the
invisible Perseus. The bravest sights were the meteors,
that gleamed suddenly out, as if a bonfire had been
kindled in the sky, and made the moonshine pale for as
much as a hundred miles around them.
As the two companions flew onward, Perseus fancied
that he could hear the rustle of a garment close by his
side; and it was on the side opposite to the one where
he beheld Quicksilver, yet only Quicksilver was visible.
"Whose garment is this," inquired Perseus, "that
keeps rustling close beside me, in the breeze ?"
"0, it is my sister's !" answered Quicksilver. She is
coming along with us, as I told you she would. We
could do nothing without the help of my sister. You
have no idea how wise she is. She has such eyes, too!
Why, she can see you, at this moment, just as distinctly
as if you were not invisible; and I'11 venture to say, she
will be the first to discover the Gorgons."
By this time, in their swift voyage through the air,
they had come within sight of the great ocean, and were
soon flying over it. Far beneath them, the waves tossed
themselves tumultuously in mid-sea, or rolled a white
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 39
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 melo-
dious, though not exactly what might be called sweet,
but grave and mild.
"Perseus," said the voice, "there are the Gorgons."
Where ?" exclaimed Perseus. "I cannot see them."
"On the shore of that island beneath you," replied
the voice. "A pebble, dropped from your hand, would
strike in the midst of them."
"I told you she would be the first to discover them,"
said Quicksilver to Perseus. "And there they are "
Straight downward, two or three thousand feet below
him, Perseus perceived a small island, with the sea break-
ing into white foam all around its rocky shore, except on
one side, where there was a beach of snowy sand. He
descended towards it, and, looking earnestly at a cluster
or heap of brightness, at the foot of a precipice of black
rocks, behold, there were the terrible Gorgons! They
lay fast asleep, soothed by the thunder of the sea; for
it required a tumult that would have deafened everybody
else to lull such fierce creatures into slumber. The
moonlight glistened on their steely scales, and on their
golden wings, which drooped idly over the sand. Their
brazen claws, horrible to look at, were thrust out, and
clutched the wave-beaten fragments of rock, while the
sleeping Gorgons dreamed of tearing some poor mortal
40 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
all to pieces. The snakes that served them instead of
hair seemed likewise to be asleep; although, now and
then, one would writhe, and lift its head, and thrust out
its forked tongue, emitting a drowsy hiss, and then let
itself subside among its sister snakes.
The Gorgons were more like an awful, gigantic kind of
insect, immense, golden-winged beetles, or dragon-flies,
or things of that sort, at once ugly and beautiful, -
than like anything else; only that they were a thousand
and a million times as big. And, with all this, there
was something partly human about them, too. Luckily
for Perseus, their faces were completely hidden from him
by the posture in which they lay; for, had he but looked
one instant at them, he would have fallen heavily out of
the air, an image of senseless stone.
"Now," whispered Quicksilver, as he hovered by the
side of Perseus, -"now is your time to do the deed Be
quick; for, if one of the Gorgons should awake, you are
too late! "
"Which shall I strike at ?" asked Perseus, drawing his
sword and descending a little lower. "They all three
look alike. All three have snaky locks. Which of the
three is Medusa ? "
It must be understood that Medusa was the only one
of these dragon-monsters whose head Perseus could pos-
sibly cut off. As for the other two, let him have the
sharpest sword that ever was forged, and he might have
hacked away by the hour together, without doing them
the least harm.
"Be cautious," said the calm voice which had before
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 41
spoken to him. "One of the Gorgons is stirring in her
sleep, and is just about to turn over. That is Medusa.
Do not look at her The sight would turn you to stone!
Look at the reflection of her face and figure in the bright
mirror of your shield."
Perseus now understood Quicksilver's motive for so
earnestly exhorting him to polish his shield. In its sur-
face 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 moon-
light falling over it, and displaying all its horror. The
snakes, whose venomous natures could not altogether
sleep, kept twisting themselves over the forehead. It
was the fiercest and most horrible face that ever was seen
or imagined, and yet with a strange, fearful, and savage
kind of beauty in it. The eyes were closed, and the
Gorgon was still in a deep slumber; but there was an
unquiet expression disturbing her features, as if the mon-
ster was troubled with an ugly dream. She gnashed her
white tusks, and dug into the sand with her brazen claws.
The snakes, too, seemed to feel Medusa's dream, and
to be made more restless by it. They twined themselves
into tumultuous knots, writhed fiercely, and uplifted a
hundred hissing heads, without opening their eyes.
Now, now whispered Quicksilver, who was grow-
ing 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
42 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
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-
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 ven-
geance 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 fin-
gers, while all the snakes on their heads reared themselves
on end with surprise, and with venomous malice against
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 43
they knew not what. But when the Gorgons saw the
scaly carcass of Medusa, headless, and. her golden wings
all ruffled, and half spread out on the sand, it was really
awful to hear what yells and screeches they set up. And
then the snakes They sent forth a hundred-fold hiss,
with one consent, and Medusa's snakes answered them
out of the magic wallet.
No sooner were the Gorgons broad awake, than they
hurtled upward into the air, brandishing their brass tal-
ons, gnashing their horrible tusks, and flapping their huge
wings so wildly, that some of the golden feathers were
shaken out, and floated down upon the shore. And there,
perhaps, those very feathers lie scattered, till this day.
Up rose the Gorgons, as I tell you, staring horribly
about, in hopes of turning somebody to stone. Had
Perseus looked them in the face, or had he fallen into
their clutches, his poor mother would never have kissed
her boy again! But he took good care to turn his eyes
another way; and, as he wore the helmet of invisibility,
the Gorgons knew not in what direction to follow him;
nor did he fail to make the best use of the winged slip-
pers, by soaring upward a perpendicular mile or so. At
that height, when the screams of those abominable crea-
tures sounded faintly beneath him, he made a straight
course for the island of Seriphus, in order to carry Me-
dusa'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
44 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
enormous giant into a mountain of stone, merely by show-
ing him the head of the Gorgon. If you doubt this latter
story, you may make a voyage to Africa, some day or
other, and see the very mountain, which is still known
by the ancient giant's name.
Finally, our brave Perseus arrived at the island, where
he expected to see his dear mother. But, during his
absence, the wicked king had treated 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 praiseworthy 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 him-
self, 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 pres-
ence of the king. Polydectes was by no means rejoiced
to see him; for he had felt almost certain, in his own
evil mind, that the Gorgons would have torn the poor
young man to pieces, and have eaten him up, out of the
way. However, seeing him safely returned, he put the
best face he could upon the matter and asked Perseus
how he had succeeded.
Have you performed your promise ? inquired he.
"Have you brought me the head of Medusa with the
snaky locks ? If not, young man, it will cost you dear;
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 45
for I must have a bridal present for the beautiful Prin-
cess Hippodamia, and there is nothing else that she
would admire so much."
"Yes, please your Majesty," answered Perseus, in a
quiet way, as if it were no very wonderful deed for such
a young man as he to perform. "I have brought you
the Gorgon's head, snaky locks and all!
"Indeed! Pray let me see it," quoth King Polydec-
tes. "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 be-
hold this wonderful curiosity. Few of them, I imagine,
have seen a Gorgon's head before, and perhaps never
may again! "
The king well knew that his subjects were an idle set
of reprobates, and very fond of sight-seeing, as idle
persons usually are. So he took the young man's ad-
vice, and sent out heralds and messengers, in all direc-
tions, to blow the trumpet at the street-corners, and in
the market-places, and wherever two roads met, and
summon everybody to court. Thither, accordingly, came
a great multitude of good-for-nothing vagabonds, all of
whom, out of pure love of mischief, would have been
glad if Perseus had met with some ill-hap, in his encoun-
ter with the Gorgons. If there were any better people
in the island (as I really hope there may have been, al-
46 THE GORGON'S HEAD.
though the story tells nothing about any such), they stayed
quietly at home, minding their own business, and taking
care of their little children. Most of the inhabitants, at
all events, ran as fast as they could to the palace, and
shoved, and pushed, and elbowed one another, in their
eagerness to get near a balcony, on which Perseus
showed himself, holding the embroidered wallet in his
On a platform, within full view of the balcony, sat the
mighty King Polydectes, amid his evil counsellors, and
with his flattering courtiers in a semicircle round about
him. Monarch, counsellors, courtiers, and subjects, all
gazed eagerly towards Perseus.
Show us the head Show us the head!" shouted
the people; and there was a fierceness in their cry as if
they would tear Perseus to pieces, unless he should sat-
isfy them with what he had to show. Show us the
head of Medusa with the snaky locks "
A feeling of sorrow and pity came over the youthful
"0 King Polydectes," cried he, "and ye many peo-
ple, I am very loath to show you the Gorgon's head "
"Ah, the villain and coward !" yelled the people, more
fiercely than before. He is making game of us! He
las no Gorgon's head! Show us the head, if you have
it, or we will take your own head for a football! "
The evil counsellors whispered bad advice in the king's
ear; the courtiers murmured, with one consent, that Per-
seus had shown disrespect to their royal lord and master;
and the great King Polydectes himself waved his hand,
THE GORGON'S HEAD. 47
and ordered him, with the stern, deep voice of authority,
on his peril, to produce the head.
Show me the Gorgon's head, or I will cut off your
And Perseus sighed.
"This instant," repeated Polydectes, or you die! "
"Behold it, then!" cried Perseus, in a voice like the
blast of a trumpet.
And, suddenly holding up the head, not an eyelid had
time to wink before the wicked King Polydectes, his evil
counsellors, and all his fierce subjects were no longer
anything but the mere images of a monarch and his peo-
ple. They were all fixed, forever, in the look and atti-
tude of that moment! At the first glimpse of the terri-
ble head of Medusa, they whitened into marble! And
Perseus thrust the head back into his wallet, and went
to tell his dear mother that she need no longer be afraid
of the wicked King Polydectes.
AFTER THE STORY.
AS not that a very fine story ?" asked Eustace.
"0 yes, yes!" cried Cowslip, clapping her
hands. "And those funny old women, with
only one eye amongst them! I never heard of anything
"As to their one tooth, which they shifted about,"
observed Primrose, "there was nothing so very wonder-
ful in that. I suppose it was a false tooth. But think
of your turning Mercury into Quicksilver, and talking
about his sister! You are too ridiculous! "
"And was she not his sister?" asked Eustace Bright.
"If I had thought of it sooner, I would have described
her as a maiden lady, who kept a pet owl! "
"Well, at any rate," said Primrose, your story seems
to have driven away the mist."
And, indeed, while the tale was going forward, the
vapors had been quite exhaled from the landscape. A
scene was now disclosed which the spectators might
almost fancy as having been created since they had last
looked in the direction where it lay. About half a mile
TANGLEWOOD PORCH. 49
distant, in the lap of the valley, now appeared a beauti-
ful lake, which reflected a perfect image of its own
wooded banks, and of the summits of the more distant
hills. It gleamed in glassy tranquillity, .without the
trace of a winged breeze on any part of its bosom. Be-
yond its farther shore was Monument Mountain, in a re-
cumbent 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 Tangle-
wood 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
Over all this scene there was a genial sunshine, inter-
mingled with a slight haze, which made it unspeakably
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 Eustace proved his
fitness to preside over the party, by outdoing all their
antics, and performing several new capers, which none of
them could ever hope to imitate. Behind went a good
old dog, whose name was Ben. He was one of the most
respectable and kind-hearted of quadrupeds, and probably
felt it to be his duty not to trust the children away from
their parents without some better guardian than this
feather-brained Eustace Bright.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
INTRODUCTORY TO "THE GOLDEN TOUCH."
T noon, our juvenile party assembled in a dell,
through the depths of which ran a little brook.
The dell was narrow, and its steep sides, from
the margin of the stream upward, were thickly set with
trees, chiefly walnuts and chestnuts, among which grew a
few oaks and maples. In the summer time, the shade of
so many clustering branches, meeting and intermingling
across the rivulet, was deep enough to produce a noon-
tide 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 mar-
gin of the brook with sunlight, too. Thus the shady
nook, where summer had cooled herself, was now the
sunniest spot anywhere to be found.
The little brook ran along over its pathway of gold,
54 SHADOW BROOK.
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, forget-
ting to look whither it went, it tumbled over the root of
a tree, which stretched quite across its current. You
would have laughed to hear how noisily it babbled about
this accident. And even after it had run onward, the
brook still kept talking to itself, as if it were in a maze.
It was wonder-smitten, I suppose, at finding its dark dell
so illuminated, and at hearing the prattle and merriment
of so many children. So it stole away as quickly as it
could, and hid itself in the lake.
In the dell of Shadow Brook, Eustace Bright and his
little friends had eaten their dinner. They had brought
plenty of good things from Tanglewood, in their baskets,
and had spread them out on the stumps of trees, and on
mossy trunks, and had feasted merrily, and made a very
nice dinner indeed. After it was over, nobody felt like
"We will rest ourselves here," said several of the
children, while Cousin Eustace tells us another of his
Cousin Eustace had a good right to be tired, as well as
the children, for he had performed great feats on that
memorable forenoon. Dandelion, Clover, Cowslip, and
Buttercup were almost persuaded that he had winged
slippers, like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus; so
often had the student shown himself at the tiptop of a
nut-tree, when only a moment before he had been stand-
ing on the ground. And then, what showers of walnuts
SHADOW BROOK. 55
had he sent rattling down upon their heads, for their
busy little hands to gather into the baskets Il short,
he had been as active as a squirrel or a monkey, and
now, flinging himself down on the yellow leaves, seemed
inclined to take a little rest.
But children have no mercy nor consideration for any-
body's weariness; and if you had but a single breath
left, they would ask you to spend it in telling them a
"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."
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 children of hear-
ing them. His mind was in a free and happy state, and
56 SHADOW BROOK.
took delight in its own activity, and scarcely required
any external impulse to set it at work.
How difficult is this spontaneous play of the intellect
from the trained diligence of maturer years, when toil
has perhaps grown easy by long habit, and the day's
work may have become essential to the day's comfort,
although the rest of the matter has bubbled away This
remark, however, is not meant for the children to hear.
Without further solicitation, Eustace Bright proceeded
to tell the following really splendid story. It had come
into his mind as he lay looking upward into the depths
of a tree, and observing how the touch of Autumn had
transmuted every one of its green leaves into what re-
sembled the purest gold. And this change, which we
have all of us witnessed, is as wonderful as anything that
Eustace told about, in the story of Midas.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
"- NCE upon a time, there lived a very rich man,
Sand a king besides, whose name was Midas;
Sand he had a little daughter, whom nobody but
myself ever heard of, and whose name I either never
knew, or have entirely forgotten. So, because I love
odd names for little girls, I choose to call her Marygold.
This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything
else in the world. He valued his royal crown chiefly
because it was composed of that precious metal. If he
loved anything better, or half so well, it was the one
little maiden who played so merrily around her father's
footstool. But the more Midas loved his daughter, the
more did he desire and seek for wealth. He thought,
foolish man! that the best thing he could possibly do for
this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest
pile of yellow, glistening coin, that had ever been heaped
together since the world was made. Thus, he gave all
his thoughts and all his time to this one purpose. If
ever he happened to gaze for an instant at the gold-
58 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 met him, with
a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, he used to say,
"Poll, poh, child! If these flowers were as golden as
they look, they would be worth the plucking!"
And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so entirely
possessed of this insane desire for riches, King Midas
had shown a great taste for flowers. He had planted
a garden, in which grew the biggest and beautifullest
and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw or smelt.
These roses were still growing in the garden, as large, as
lovely, and as fragrant, as when Midas used to pass whole
hours in gazing at them, and inhaling their perfume.
But now, if he looked at them at all, it was only to cal-
culate how much the garden would be worth, if each
of the innumerable rose-petals were a thin plate of gold.
And though he once was fond of music (in spite of an
idle story about his ears, which were said to resemble
those of an ass), the only music for poor Midas, now,
was the chink of one coin against another.
At length (as people always grow more and more fool-
ish, unless they take care to grow wiser and wiser),
Midas had got to be so exceedingly unreasonable, that lie
could scarcely bear to see or touch any object that was
not gold. He made it his custom, therefore, to pass
a large portion of every day in a dark and dreary apart-
ment, 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 be-
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 59
took 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 corners of the
room into the one bright and narrow sunbeam that fell
from the dungeon-like window. He valued the sunbeam
for no other reason but that his treasure would not shine
without its help. And then would he reckon over the
coins in the bag; toss up the bar, and catch it as it came
down; sift the gold-dust through his fingers; look at
the funny image of his own face, as reflected in the bur-
nished circumference of the cup; and whisper to him-
self, "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 cup. It seemed to be aware of his foolish behav-
ior, and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of
Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he
was not yet quite so happy as he might be. The very tip-
top of enjoyment would never be reached, unless the whole
world were to become his treasure-room, and be filled
with yellow metal which should be all his own.
Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as
you are, that in the old, old times, when King Midas was
alive, a great many tllings came to pass, which we should
consider wonderful if they were to happen in our own
day and country. And, on the other hand, a great many
things take place nowadays, which seem not only won-
60 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
derful 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
lie behold. but the figure of a stranger, standing in the
bright and narrow sunbeam It was a young man, with
a cheerful and ruddy face. Whether it was that the im-
agination of King Midas threw a yellow tinge over every-
1hing, 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, al-
though his figure intercepted the sunshine, there was now
a brighter gleam upon all the piled-up treasures than be-
fore. Even the remotest corners had their share of it,
and were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with
tips of flame and sparkles of fire.
As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key
in the lock, and that no mortal strength could possibly
break into his treasure-room, he, of course, concluded
that his visitor must be something more than mortal. It
is no matter about telling you who he was. In those
days, when the earth was comparatively a new affair, it was
supposed to be often the resort of beings endowed with
supernatural power, and who used to interest them-
selves in the joys and sorrows of men, women, and chil-
dren, half playfully and half seriously. Midas had met
such beings before now, and was not sorry to meet one
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 61
of them again. The stranger's aspect, indeed, was so
good-humored and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would
have been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any
mischief. It was far more probable that he came to do
Midas a favor. And what could that favor be, unless
to multiply his heaps of treasure ?
The stranger gazed about the room; and when his
lustrous smile had glistened upon all the golden objects
that were there, he turned again to Midas.
"You are a wealthy man, friend Midas!" he ob-
served. "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 stran-
ger. "Merely for the curiosity of the thing, I should
be glad -to know."
Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment
that this stranger, with such a golden lustre in his good-
humored smile, had come hither with both the power and
the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes. Now,
therefore, was the fortunate moment, when he had but
to speak, and obtain whatever possible, or seemingly
6:Z THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 be-
holding the heap so diminutive, after I have done my
best. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to
The stranger's smile grew so very broad, that it seemed
to fill the room like an outburst of the sun, gleaming into
a shadowy dell, where the yellow autumnal leaves for
so looked the lumps and particles of gold lie strewn
in the glow of light.
The Golden Touch! exclaimed he. You certainly
deserve credit, friend Midas, for striking out so brilliant
a conception. But are you quite sure that this will sat-
isfy you ? "
"How could it fail ? said Midas.
"And will you never regret the possession of it ? "
"What could induce me?" asked Midas. "I ask
nothing else, to render me perfectly happy."
"Be it as you wish, then," replied the stranger, waving
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 63
his hand in token of farewell. "To-morrow, at sunrise,
you will find yourself gifted with the Golden Touch."
The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly
bright, and Midas involuntarily closed his eyes. On
opening them again, he beheld only one yellow sunbeam
in the room, and, all around him, the glistening of the
precious metal which he had spent his life in hoarding
Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story
does not say. Asleep or awake, however, his mind was
probably in the state of a child's, to whom a beautiful
new plaything has been promised in the morning. At
any rate, day had hardly peeped over the hills, when
King Midas was broad awake, and, stretching his arms
out of bed, began to touch the objects that were within
reach. He was anxious to prove whether the Golden
Touch had really come, according to the stranger's prom-
ise. 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 sub-
stance 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 discon-
64 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
solate mood, regretting the downfall of his hopes, and
kept growing sadder and sadder, until the earliest sun-
beam shone through the window, and gilded the ceiling
over his head. It seemed to Midas that this bright yel-
low sunbeam was reflected in rather a singular way on
the white covering of the bed. Looking more closely,
what was his astonishment and delight, when he found
that this linen fabric had been transmuted to what seemed
a woven texture of the purest and brightest gold! The
Golden Touch had come to him, with the first sunbeam !
Midas started up, in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran
about the room, grasping at everything that happened to
be in his way. He seized one of the bedposts, and it be-
came immediately a fluted golden pillar. He pulled aside
a window-curtain, in order to admit a clear spectacle of
the wonders which he was performing; and the tassel
grew heavy in his hand,- a mass of gold. He took up
a book from the table. At his first touch, it assumed
the appearance of such a splendidly bound and gilt-edged
volume as one often meets with, nowadays; but, on run-
ning his fingers through the leaves, behold it was a bun-
dle 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 magnifi-
cent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flexibility and
softness, although it burdened him a little with its weight.
He drew out his handkerchief, which little Marygold had
hemmed for him. That was likewise gold, with the dear
child's neat and pretty stitches running all along the bor-
der, in gold thread!
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 65
Somehow or other, this last transformation did not
quite please King Midas. He would rather that his little
daughter's handiwork should have remained just the same
as when she climbed his knee and put it into his hand.
But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle.
Midas now took his spectacles from his pocket, and put
them on his nose, in order that he might see more dis-
tinctly 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 P
To his great perplexity, however, excellent as the glasses
were, he discovered that he could not possibly see through
them. But this was the most natural thing in the world ;
for, on taking them off, the transparent crystals turned
out to be plates of yellow metal, and, of course, were
worthless as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It
struck Midas as rather inconvenient, that, with all his
wealth, he could never again be rich enough to own a
pair of serviceable spectacles.
"It is no great matter, nevertheless," said he to him-
self, very philosophically. "We cannot expect any great
good, without its being accompanied with some small in-
convenience. The Golden Touch is worth the sacrifice
of a pair of spectacles, at least, if not of one's very eye-
sight. My own eyes will serve for ordinary purposes,
and little Marygold will soon be old enough to read to
Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune,
that the palace seemed not sufficiently spacious to con-
tain him. He therefore went down stairs, and smiled,
66 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
on observing that the balustrade of the staircase became
a bar of burnished gold, as his hand passed over it, in
his descent. He lifted the door-latch (it was brass only
a moment ago, but golden when his fingers quitted it),
and emerged into the garden. Here, as it happened, he
found a great number of beautiful roses in full bloom,
and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom.
Very delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze.
Their delicate blush was one of the fairest sights in the
world; so gentle, so modest, and so full of sweet tran-
quillity, did these roses seem to be.
But Midas knew a way to make them far more pre-
cious, 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 in-
defatigably; 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 com-
pleted, King Midas was summoned to breakfast; and, as
the morning air had given him an excellent appetite, he
made haste back to the palace.
What was usually a king's breakfast in the days of
Midas, I really do not know, and cannot stop now to in-
vestigate. To the best of my belief, however, on this
particular morning, the breakfast consisted of hot cakes,
some nice little brook trout, roasted potatoes, fresh
boiled eggs, and coffee, for King Midas himself, and a
bowl of bread and milk for his daughter Marygold. At
all events, this is a breakfast fit to set before a king; and,
whether he had it or not, King Midas could not have
had a better.
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 67
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 tile passageway crying bitterly. This circum-
stance surprised him, because Marygold was one of the
cheerfullest little people whom you would see in a sum-
mer's day, and hardly shed a thimbleful of tears in a
twelvemonth. When Midas heard her sobs, he deter-
mined 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
Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened
the door, and showed herself with her apron at her eyes,
still sobbing as if her heart would break.
"How now, my little lady!" cried Midas. "Pray
what is the matter with you, this bright morning ?
Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes,
held out her hand, in which was one of the roses which
Midas had so recently transmuted.
"Beautiful! exclaimed her father. "And what is
there in this magnificent golden rose to make you cry ?"
Ah, dear father! answered the child, as well as her
sobs would let her; "it is not beautiful, but the ugliest
flower that ever grew! As soon as I was dressed, I ran
68 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
into the garden to gather some roses for you; because I
know you like them, and like them the better when gath-
ered by your little daughter. But, oh dear, dear me!
What do you think has happened ? Such a misfortune!
All the beautiful roses, that smelled so sweetly and had
so many lovely blushes, are blighted and spoilt They
are grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no
longer any fragrance! What can have been the matter
with them ?
Poh, my dear little girl, pray don't cry about it! "
said Midas, who was ashamed to confess that he himself
had wrought the change which so greatly afflicted her.
" Sit down and eat your bread and milk! You will find
it easy enough to exchange a golden rose like that (which
will last hundreds of years) for an ordinary one which
would wither in a day."
"I don't care for such roses as this cried Marygold,
tossing it contemptuously away. "It has no smell, and
the hard petals prick my nose "
The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied
with her grief for the blighted roses that she did not even
notice the wonderful transmutation of her China bowl.
Perhaps this was all the better; for Marygold was accus-
tomed to take pleasure in looking at the queer figures,
and strange trees and houses, that were painted on the
circumference of the bowl; and these ornaments were
now entirely lost in the yellow hue of the metal.
Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee;
and, as a matter of course, the coffee-pot, whatever metal
it may have been when he took it up, was gold when he
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 69
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 se-
cure place of deposit for articles so valuable as golden
bowls and coffee-pots.
Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee to
his lips, and, sipping it, was astonished to perceive that,
the instant his lips. touched the liquid, it became molten
gold, and, the next moment, hardened into a lump !
"Ha! exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.
What is the matter, father ?" asked little Marygold,
gazing at him, with the tears still standing in her eyes.
"Nothing, child, nothing! said Midas. "Eat your
milk, before.it gets quite cold."
He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and,
by way of experiment, touched its tail with his finger.
To his horror, it was immediately transmuted from an
admirably fried brook trout into a gold fish, though not
one of those gold-fishes which people often keep in glass
globes, as ornaments for the parlor. No; but it was
really a metallic fish, and looked as if it had been very
cunningly made by the nicest goldsmith in the world.
Its little bones were now golden wires; its fins and tail
were thin plates of gold; and there were the marks of
the fork in it, and all the delicate, frothy appearance of a
nicely fried fish, exactly imitated in metal. A very pretty
piece of work, as you may suppose; only King Midas,
just at that moment, would much rather have had a real
70 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
trout in his dish than this elaborate and valuable imita-
tion of one.
"I don't quite see," thought he to himself, "how I
am to get any breakfast!
He took one of the smoking-hot cakes, and had scarcely
broken it, when, to his cruel mortification, though, a mo-
ment 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 so-
lidity and increased weight made him too bitterly sensible
that it was gold. Almost in despair, lie helped himself
to a boiled egg, which immediately underwent a change
similar to those of the trout and the cake. Tle egg, in-
deed, might have been mistaken for one of those which
the famous goose, in the story-book, was in the habit of
laying; but King Midas was the only goose that had had
anything to do with the matter.
"Well, this is a quandary! thought he, leaning back
in his chair, and looking quite enviously at little Mary-
gold, 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 inconvenience,
King Midas next snatched a hot potato, and attempted to
cram it into his mouth, and swallow it in a hurry. But
the Golden Touch was too nimble for him. He found his
mouth full, not of mealy potato, but of solid metal, which
so burnt his tongue that he roared aloud, and, jumping
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 71
up from the table, began to dance and stamp about the
room, both with pain and affright.
"Father, dear father!" cried little Marygold, who
was a very affectionate child, "pray what is the matter?
Have you burnt your mouth ? "
"Ah, dear child," groaned Midas, dolefully, "I don't
know what is to become of your poor father! "
And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of
such a pitiable case, in all your lives? Here was liter-
ally the richest breakfast that could be set before a king,
and its very richness made it absolutely good for nothing.
The poorest laborer, sitting down to his crust of bread
and cup of water, was far better off than King Midas,
whose delicate food was really worth its weight in gold.
And what was to be done ? Already, at breakfast, Midas
was excessively hungry. Would he be less so by dinner-
time ? And how ravenous would be his appetite for sup-
per, 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 de-
sirable thing in the world, or even the most desirable.
But this was only a passing thought. So fascinated was
Midas with the glitter of the yellow metal, that he would
still have refused to give up the Golden Touch for so
paltry a consideration as a breakfast. Just imagine what
a price for one meal's victuals! It would have been the
same as paying millions and millions of money (and as
72 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
many millions more as would take forever to reckon up)
for some fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a
cup of coffee!
It would be quite too dear," thought Midas.
Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the 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 fatlier,
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 affec-
tionately 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
"My precious, precious Marygold cried lie.
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 yel-
low tear-drops congealing on her cheeks. Her beautiful
brown ringlets took the same tint. Her soft and tender
little form grew hard and inflexible within her father's
encircling arms. O, terrible misfortune! The victim of
his insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was a hu-
man child no longer, but a golden statue !
Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love,
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 73
grief, and pity, hardened into her face. It was the pret-
tiest and most woful sight that ever mortal saw. All
the features and tokens of Marygold were there; even
the beloved little dimple remained in her golden chin.
But, the more perfect was the resemblance, the greater
was the father's agony at beholding this golden image,
which was all that was left him of a daughter. It had
been a favorite phrase of Midas, whenever he felt par-
ticularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth her
weight in gold. And now the phrase had become lit-
erally true. And now, at last, when it was too late, he
felt how infinitely a warm and tender heart, that loved
him, exceeded in value all the wealth that could be piled
up betwixt the earth and sky !
It would be too sad a story, if I were to tell you how
Midas, in the fulness of all his gratified desires, began
to wring his hands and bemoan himself; and how he
could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor yet to look
away from her. Except when his eyes were fixed on the
image, he could not possibly believe that she was changed
to gold. But, stealing another glance, there was the
precious little figure, with a yellow tear-drop on its yel-
low cheek, and a look so piteous and tender, that it
seemed as if that very expression must needs soften the
gold, and make it flesh again. This, however, could not
be. So Midas had only to wring his hands, and to wish
that he were the poorest man in the wide world, if the
loss of all his wealth might bring back the faintest rose-
color to his dear child's face.
While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly
74 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
beheld a stranger, standing near the door. Midas bent
down his head, without speaking; for he recognized the
same figure which had appeared to him, the day before,
in the treasure-room, and had bestowed on him this dis-
astrous faculty of the Golden Touch. The stranger's
countenance still wore a smile, which seemed to shed a
yellow lustre all about the room, and gleamed on little
Marygold's image, and on the other objects that had been
transmuted by the touch of Midas.
"Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, "pray how
do you succeed with the Golden Touch ?"
Midas shook his head.
"I am very miserable," said he.
"Very miserable, indeed!" exclaimed the stranger.
"And how happens that ? Have I not faithfully kept
my promise with you ? Have you not everything that
your heart desired ?"
"Gold is not everything," answered Midas. "And I
have lost all that my heart really cared for."
"Ah So you have made a discovery, since 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 ? "
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. 75
The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, "or your
own little Marygold, warm, soft, and loving, as she was
an hour ago ?"
0 my child, my dear child!" cried poor Midas
wringing his hands. I would not have given that one
small dimple in her chin for the power of changing this
whole big earth into a solid lump of gold! "
You are wiser than you were, King Midas said
the stranger, looking seriously at him. "Your own
heart, I perceive, has not been entirely changed from
flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would indeed be
desperate. But you appear to be still capable of under-
standing that the commonest things, such as lie within
everybody's grasp, are more valuable than the riches
which so many mortals sigh and struggle after. Tell
me, now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this
Golden Touch ? "
"It is hateful to me! replied Midas.
A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the
floor; for it, too, had become gold. Midas shuddered.
Go, then," said the stranger, "and plunge into the
river that glides past the bottom of your garden. Take
likewise a vase of the same water, and sprinkle it over
any object that you may desire to change back again from
gold into its former substance. If you do this in earnest-
ness and sincerity, it may possibly repair the mischief
which your avarice has occasioned."
King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his head,
the lustrous stranger had vanished.
You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in
76 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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 forced
his way through the shrubbery, it was positively marvel-
lous 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, with-
out 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 pitch-
As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it gladdened
his very heart to see it change from gold into the same
good, honest earthen vessel which it had been before he
touched it. He was conscious, also, of a change within
himself. A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have
gone out of his bosom. No doubt, his heart had been
gradually losing its human substance, and transmuting
itself into insensible metal, but had now softened back
again into flesh. Perceiving a violet, that grew on the
bank of the river, Midas touched it with his finger, and
was overjoyed to find that the delicate flower retained its
purple hue, instead of undergoing a yellow blight. The
curse of the Golden Touch had, therefore, really been re-
moved from him.
King Midas hastened back to the palace; and, I sup-
pose, the servants knew not what to make of it when
they saw their royal master so carefully bringing
THE GOLDEN TOUCH. 77
home an earthen pitcher of water. But that water,
which was to undo all the mischief that his folly had
wrought, was more precious to Midas than an ocean of
molten gold could have been. The first thing he did, as
you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by handfuls
over the golden figure of little Marygold.
No sooner did it fall on her than you would have
laughed to see how the rosy color came back to the dear
child's cheek -and how she began to sneeze and sput-
ter! and how astonished she was to find herself drip-
ping wet, and her father still throwing more water over
"Pray do not, dear father!" cried she. "See how
you have wet my nice frock, which I put on only this
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 out-
stretched arms to comfort poor King Midas.
Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved
child how very foolish he had been, but contented himself
with showing how much wiser he had now grown. For
this purpose, he led little Marygold into the garden,
where he sprinkled all the remainder of the water over
the rose-bushes, and with such good effect that above
five thousand roses recovered their beautiful bloom.
There were two circumstances, however, which, as long
as he lived, used to put King Midas in mind of the Gold-
en Touch. One was, that the sands of the river sparkled
like gold; the other, that little Marygold's hair had now
78 THE GOLDEN TOUCH.
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, lie 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, like-
wise, had a rich shade of gold, which they had inherited
from their mother.
"And, to tell you the truth, my precious little folks,"
quoth King Midas, diligently trotting the children all the
while, ever since that morning, I have hated the very
sight of all other gold, save this! "
AFTER THE STORY.
rELL, children," inquired Eustace, who was
very fond of eliciting a definite opinion from
___ vhis 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 be-
fore 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 fin-
"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!
80 SHADOW BROOK.
What say you, Sweet Fern, Dandelion, Clover, Peri-
winkle ? Would any of you, after hearing this story, he
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 fore-
finger, and makethem all green again; so that we might
have the summer back at once, with no ugly winter in
the mean time."
0 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 through-
out. My best thoughts always come a little too late.
Why did not I tell you how old King Midas came to
America, and changed the dusky autumn, such as it is
in other countries, into the burnished beauty which it
here puts on ? He gilded the leaves of the great volume
"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 ?"
SHADOW BROOK. 8
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 hol-
low of the valley with its western radiance, so that it
seemed to be brimming with mellow light, and to spill
it over the surrounding hillsides, like golden wine
out of a bowl. It was such a day that you could
not help saying of it, "Thiere never was such a
day before although yesterday was just such a day,
and to-morrow will be just such another. Al, but
there are very few of them in a twelvemonth's cir-
cle! 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 can-
not, therefore, call the days long; but they appear, some-
how or other, to make up for their shortness by their
breadth;- and when the cool night comes, we are con-
scious of having enjoyed a big armful of life, since
"Come, children, come! cried Eustace Bright.
"More nuts, more nuts, more nuts Fill all your bas-
kets; and, at Christmas time, I will crack them for
you, and tell you beautiful stories!"
82 SHADOW BROOK.
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 uncomfort-
ably he must have felt!
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
INTRODUCTORY TO "THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN."
HE golden days of October passed away, as so
many other Octobers have, and brown Novem-
S'ber likewise, and the greater part of chill De-
cember, too. At last came merry Christmas, and Eus-
tace Bright along with it, making it all the merrier by
his presence. And, the day after his arrival from col-
lege, 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 vis-
age. 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
liad found a dandelion in bloom, on the margin of Shadow
Brook, where it glides out of the dell.
But no more green grass and dandelions now. This
was such a snow-storm Twenty miles of it might have
been visible at once, between the windows of Tangle-
wood and the dome of Taconic, had it been possible to
86 TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM.
see so far, among the eddying drifts that whitened all the
atmosphere. It seemed as if the hills were giants, and
were flinging monstrous handfuls of snow at one another,
in their enormous sport. So thick were the fluttering
snow-flakes, that even the trees, midway down the valley,
were hidden by them the greater part of the time. Some-
times, it is true, the little prisoners of Tanglewood could
discern a dim outline of Monument Mountain, and the
smooth whiteness of the frozen lake at its base, and the
black or gray tracts of woodland in the nearer landscape.
But these were merely peeps through the tempest.
Nevertheless, the children rejoiced greatly in the snow-
storm. They had already made acquaintance with it, by
tumbling heels over head into its highest drifts, and fling-
ing snow at one another, as we have just fancied the
Berkshire mountains to be doing. And now they had
come back to their spacious play-room, which was as big
as the great drawing-room, and was lumbered with all
sorts of playthings, large and small. The biggest was
a rocking-horse, that looked like a real pony; and there
was a whole family of wooden, waxen, plaster, and china
dolls, besides rag-babies; and blocks enough to build
Bunker Hill Monument, and nine-pins, and balls, and
humming-tops, and battledores, and grace-sticks, and
skipping-ropes, and more of such valuable property than
I could tell of in a printed page. But the children liked
the snow-storm better than them all. It suggested so many
brisk enjoyments for to-morrow, and all the remainder
of the winter. The sleigh-ride; the slides down hill
into the valley; the snow-images that were to be shaped
TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM. 87
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 heads.
"Why, we shall be blocked up till spring!" cried
they, with the hugest delight. "What a pity that the
house is too high to be quite covered up The little red
house, down yonder, will be buried up to its eaves."
"You silly children, what do you want of more
snow ? asked Eustace, who, tired of some novel that he
was skimming through, had strolled into the play-room.
" It has done mischief enough already, by spoiling the
only skating that I could hope for through the winter.
We shall see nothing more of the lake till April; and
this was to have been my first day upon it! Don't you
pity me, Primrose ? "
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
88 TANGLEWOOD PLAY-ROOM.
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 new as
Sweet Fern's bran-new humming-top. There was then
but one season in the year, and that was the delightful
summer; and but one age for mortals, and that was
I never heard of that before," said Primrose.
Of course, you never did," answered Eustace. "It
shall be a story of what nobody but myself ever dreamed
of, a Paradise of children, and how, by the naughti-
ness of just such a little imp as Primrose here, it all came
So Eustace Bright sat down in the chair which he had
just been skipping over, took Cowslip upon his knee, or-
dered silence throughout the auditory, and began a story
about a sad naughty child, whose name was Pandora, and
about her playfellow Epimetheus. You may read it, word
for word, in the pages that come next.
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
"ONG, long ago, when this old world was in its
tender infancy, there was a child, named Epime-
theus, who never had either father or mother;
and, that he might not be lonely, another child, fatherless
and motherless like himself, was sent from a far country,
to live with him, and be his playfellow and helpmate.
Her name was Pandora.
The first thing that Pandora saw, when she entered
the cottage where Epimetheus dwelt, was a great box.
And almost the first question which she put to him, after
crossing the threshold, was this,-
Epimetheus, what have you in that box ?"
"My dear little Pandora," answered Epimetheus,
"that is a secret, and you must be kind enough not to
ask any questions about it. The box was left here to be
kept safely, and I do not myself know what it contains."
"But who gave it to you?" asked Pandora. "And
where did it come from ? "
That is a secret, too," replied Epimetheus.
90 THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
"How provoking !" exclaimed Pandora, pouting her
lip. "I wish the great ugly box were out of the way !
"0 come, don't think of it any more," cried Epime-
theus. "Let us run out of doors, and have some nice
play with the other children."
It is thousands of years since Epimetheus and Pan-
dora were alive; and the world, nowadays, is a very
different sort of thing from what it was in their time.
Then, everybody was a child. There needed no fathers
and mothers to take care of the children; because there
was no danger, nor trouble of any kind, and no clothes
to be mended, and there was always plenty to eat and
drink. Whenever a child wanted his dinner, he found it
growing on a tree; and, if he looked at the tree in the
morning, he could see the expanding blossom of that
night's supper; or, at eventide, he saw the tender bud of
to-morrow's breakfast. It was a very pleasant life in-
deed. No labor to be done, no tasks to be studied;
nothing but sports and dances, and sweet voices of chil-
dren talking, or carolling like birds, or gushing out in
merry laughter, throughout the livelong day.
What was most wonderful of all, the children never
quarrelled among themselves; neither had they any cry-
ing fits; nor, since time first began, had a single one of
these little mortals ever gone apart into a corner, and
sulked. 0, wliat a good time was that to be alive in!
The truth is, those ugly little winged monsters, called
Troubles, which are now almost as numerous as mosqui-
toes, had never yet been seen on the earth. It is proba-
ble that the very greatest disquietude which a child had
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN. 91
ever experienced was Pandora's vexation at not being
able to discover the secret of the mysterious box.
This was at first only the faint shadow of a Trouble;
but, every day, it grew more and more substantial, until,
before a great while, the cottage of Epimetheus and
Pandora was less sunshiny than those of the other chil-
"Whence can the box have come ?" Pandora contin-
ually kept saying to herself and to Epimetheus. "And
what in the world can be inside of it ?"
Always talking about this box said Epimetheus, at
last; for lie had grown extremely tired of the subject.
"I wish, dear Pandora, you would try to talk of some-
thing else. Come, let us go and gather some ripe figs,
and eat them under the trees, for our supper. And I
know a vine that has the sweetest and juiciest grapes you
Always talking about grapes and figs cried Pan-
"Well, then," said Epimetheus, who was a very good-
tempered child, like a multitude of children in those
days, "let us run out and have a merry time with our
I am tired of merry times, mnd don't care if I never
have any more!" answered our pettish little Pandora.
" And, besides, I never do have any. This ugly box !
I am so taken up with thinking about it all the time. I
insist upon your telling me what is inside of it."
"As I have already said, fifty times over, I do not
know! replied Epimetheus, getting a little vexed.
"How, then, can I tell you what is inside? "
92 .THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
"You might open it," said Pandora, looking sideways
at Epimetheus, and then we could see for ourselves."
"Pandora, what are you thinking of? exclaimed Epi-
And his face expressed so much horror at the idea
of looking into a box, which had been confided to him
on the condition of his never opening it, that Pandora
thought it best not to suggest it any more. Still, how-
ever, she could not help thinking and talking about the
At least," said she, "you can tell me how it came
"It was left at the door," replied Epimetheus, "just
before you came, by a person who looked very smiling
and intelligent, and who could hardly forbear laughing,
as he put it down. He was dressed in an odd kind of a
cloak, and had on a cap that seemed to be made partly
of feathers, so that it looked almost as if it had wings."
What sort of a staff had he ? asked Pandora.
"O, the most curious staff you ever saw!" cried
Epimetheus. "It was like two serpents twisting around
a stick, and was carved so naturally that I, at first,
thought the serpents were alive."
"I know him," saicPandora, thoughtfully. "No-
body else has such a staff. It was Quicksilver; and he
brought me hither, as well as the box. No doubt lie
intended it for me; and, most probably, it contains pretty
dresses for me to wear, or toys for you and me to play
with, or something very nice for us both to eat!
"Perhaps so," answered Epimetheus, turning -away.
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN. 93
"But'until Quicksilver comes back and tells us so, we
have neither of us any right to lift the lid of the box."
What a dull boy he is!" muttered Pandora, as
Epimetheus left the cottage. "I do wish he had a little
more enterprise "
For the first time since her arrival, Epimetheus had
gone out without asking Pandora to accompany him.
He went to gather figs and grapes by himself, or to seek
whatever amusement he could find, in other society than
his little playfellow's. He was tired to death of hearing
about the box, and heartily wished that Quicksilver, or
whatever was the messenger's name, had left it at some
other child's door, where Pandora would never have set
.eyes on it. So perseveringly as she did babble about this
one thing! The box, the box, and nothing but the box!
It seemed as if the box were bewitched, and as if the
cottage were not big enough to hold it, without Pandora's
continually stumbling over it, and making Epimetheus
stumble over it likewise, and bruising all four of their
Well, it was really hard that poor Epimetheus should
have a box in his ears from morning till night ; especially
as the little people of the earth were so unaccustomed to
vexations, in those happy days, that they knew not how
to deal with them. Thus, a small vexation made as
much disturbance, then, as a far bigger one would, in
our own times.
After Epimetheus was gone, Pandora stood gazing at
the box. She had called it ugly, above a hundred times;
but, in spite of all that she had said against it, it was
94 THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
positively a very handsome article of furniture, and would
have been quite an ornament to any room in which it
should be placed. It was made of a beautiful kind of
wood, with dark and rich veins spreading over its sur-
face, which was so highly polished that little Pandora
could see her face in it. As the child had no other look-
ing-glass, it is odd that she did not value the box, merely
on this account.
The edges and corners of the box were carved with
most wonderful skill. Around the margin there were
figures of graceful men and women, and the prettiest
children ever seen, reclining or sporting amid a profusion
of flowers and foliage; and these various objects were so
exquisitely represented, and were wrought together in
such harmony, that flowers, foliage, and human beings
seemed to combine into a wreath of mingled beauty. But
here and there, peeping forth from behind the carved
foliage, Pandora once or twice fancied that she saw a face
not so lovely, or something or other that was disagree-
able, and which stole the beauty out of all the rest.
Nevertheless, on looking more closely, and touching the
spot with her finger, she could discover nothing of the
kind. Some face, that was really beautiful, had been
made to look ugly by her catching a sideway glimpse
The most beautiful face of all was done in what is called
high relief, in the centre of the lid. There was nothing
else, save the dark, smooth richness of the polished wood,
and this one face in the centre, with a garland of flowers
about its brow. Pandora had looked at this face a great
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN. 95
many times, and imagined that the mouth could smile if
it liked, or be grave when it chose, the same as any living
mouth. The features, indeed, all wore a very lively and
rather mischievous expression, which looked almost as if
it needs must burst out of the carved lips, and utter itself
Had the mouth spoken, it would probably have been
something like this:
"Do not be afraid, Pandora! What harm can there
be in opening the box ? Never mind that poor, simple
Epimetheus You are wiser than he, and liave ten times
as much spirit. Open the box, and see if you do not find
something very pretty !"
The box, I had almost forgotten to say, was fastened;
not by a lock, nor by any other such contrivance, but by
a very intricate knot of gold cord. There appeared to be
no end to this knot, and no beginning. Never was a knot
so cunningly twisted, nor with so many ins and outs,
which roguishly defied the skilfullest fingers to disentan-
gle th.em. And yet, by the very difficulty that there was
in it, Pandora was the more tempted to examine the knot,
and just see how it was made. Two or three times, al-
ready, she had stooped over the box, and taken the knot
between her thumb and forefinger, but without positively
trying to undo it.
"I really believe," said she to herself, that I begin
to see how it was done. Nay, perhaps I could tie it up
again, after undoing it. There would be no harm in that,
surely. Even Epimetheus would not blame me for that.
I need not open the box, and should not, of course, with-
96 THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN.
out the foolish boy's consent, even if the knot were un-
It might have been better for Pandora if she had had a
little work to do, or anything to employ her mind upon,
so as not to be-so constantly thinking of this one subject.
But children led so easy a life, before any Troubles came
into the world, that they had really a great deal too much
leisure. They could not be forever playing at hide-and-
seek among the flower-shrubs, or at blind-man's-buff with
garlands over their eyes, or at whatever other games had
been found out, while Mother Earth was in ler babyhood.
When life is all sport, toil is the real play. There was
absolutely nothing to do. A little sweeping and dusting
about the cottage, I suppose, and the gathering of fresh
flowers (which were only too abundant everywhere), and
arranging them in vases,- and poor little Pandora's day's
work was over. And then, for the rest of the day, there
was the box !
After all, I am not quite sure that the box was not a
blessing to her in its way. It supplied her with such a
variety of ideas to think of, and to talk about, whenever
she had anybody to listen! When she was in good-
humor, she could admire the bright polish of its sides,
and the rich border of beautiful faces and foliage that ran
all around it. Or, if she chanced to be ill-tempered, she
could give it a push, or kick it with her naughty little
foot. And many a kick did the box (but it was a
mischievous box, as we shall see, and deserved all it got)
- many a kick did it receive. But, certain it is, if it had
not been for the box, our active-minded little Pandora
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN. 97
would not have known half so well how to spend her
time as she now did.
For it was really an endless employment to guess what
was inside. What could it be, indeed? Just imagine, my
little hearers, how busy your wits would be, if there were
a great box in the house, which, as you might have rea-
son to suppose, contained something new and pretty for
your Christmas or New-Year's gifts. Do you think that
you should be less curious than Pandora ? If you were
left alone with the box, might you not feel a little tempted
to lift the lid ? But you would not do it. 0, fie! No,
no Only, if you thought there were toys in it, it would
be so very hard to let slip an opportunity of taking just
one peep! I know not whether Pandora expected any
toys; for none had yet begun to be made, probably, in
those days, when the world itself was one great play-
thing for the children that dwelt upon it. But Pandora
was convinced that there was something very beautiful
and valuable in the box; and therefore she felt just as
anxious to take a peep as any of these little girls, here
around me, would have felt. And, possibly, a little more
so; but of that I am not quite so certain.
On this particular day, however, which we have so
long been talking about, her curiosity grew so much
greater than it usually was, that, at last, she approached
the box. She was more than half determined to open it,
if she could. Ah, naughty Pandora!
First, however, she tried to lift it. It was heavy;
quite too heavy for the slender strength of a child, like
Pandora. She raised one end of the box a few inches
"98 THE PARADISE OF CIIILDREN.
from the floor, and let it fall again, with a pretty loud
thump. A moment afterwards, she almost fancied that
she heard something stir, inside of the box. She applied
her ear as closely as possible, and listened. Positively,
there did seem to be a kind of stifled murmur, within !
Or was it merely the singing in Pandora's ears ? Or
could it be the beating of her heart? The child could
not quite satisfy herself whether she had heard anything
or no. But, at all events, her curiosity was stronger
As she drew back her head, her eyes fell upon the knot
of gold cord.
"It must have been a very ingenious person who tied
this knot," said Pandora to herself. "But I think I
could untie it, nevertheless. I am resolved, at least, to
find the two ends of the cord."
So she took the golden knot in her fingers, and pried
into its intricacies as sharply as she could. Almost
without intending it, or quite knowing what she was
about, she was soon busily engaged in attempting to undo
it. Meanwhile, the bright sunshine came through the
open window; as did likewise the merry voices of the
children, playing at a distance, and perhaps the voice of
Epimetheus among them. Pandora stopped to listen.
What a beautiful day it was! Would it not be wiser, if
she were to let the troublesome knot alone, and think no
more about the box, but run and join her little playfel-
lows, and be happy ?
All this time, however, her fingers were half uncon-
sciously busy with the knot; and happening to glance at