Part 3 out of 8
upon its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay again, and then he had
forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home.
"Now you shall have no more kisses," said she, "for if you did I should
kiss you to death."
Kay looked at her. She was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more
sensible or lovely face; she did not appear to him to be made of ice
now, as she did when she sat at the window and beckoned to him. In his
eyes she was perfect; he did not feel at all afraid. He told her that he
could do mental arithmetic as far as fractions; that he knew the number
of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the country. And she
always smiled, and then it seemed to him that what he knew was not
enough. And he looked up into the wide sky, and she flew with him high
up upon the black cloud, and the storm blew and whistled; it seemed as
though the wind sang old songs. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea
and land; below them the cold wind roared, the wolves howled, the snow
crackled; over them flew the black, screaming crows; but above all the
moon shone bright and clear, and Kay looked at the long, long winter
night; by day he slept at the feet of the Queen.
THE THIRD STORY
THE FLOWER GARDEN OF THE WOMAN WHO COULD CONJURE
But how did it fare with little Gerda when Kay did not return? What
could have become of him? No one knew, no one could give information.
The boys only told that they had seen him bind his sledge to another
very large one, which had driven along the street and out at the town
gate. Nobody knew what had become of him; many tears were shed, and
little Gerda especially wept long and bitterly. Then she said he was
dead--he had been drowned in the river which flowed close by their
school. Oh, those were very dark, long winter days! But now spring came,
with warmer sunshine.
"Kay is dead and gone," said little Gerda.
"I don't believe it," said the Sunshine.
"He is dead and gone," said she to the Sparrows. "We don't believe it,"
they replied; and at last little Gerda did not believe it herself.
"I will put on my new red shoes," she said one morning--"those that Kay
has never seen; and then I will go down to the river, and ask for him."
It was still very early; she kissed the old grandmother, who was still
asleep, put on her red shoes, and went quite alone out of the town gate
toward the river.
"Is it true that you have taken my little playmate from me? I will give
you my red shoes if you will give him back to me."
And it seemed to her as if the waves nodded quite strangely; and then
she took her red shoes, which she liked best of anything she possessed,
and threw them both into the river; but they fell close to the shore,
and the little wavelets carried them back to her, to the land. It seemed
as if the river would not take from her the dearest things she possessed
because he had not her little Kay. But she thought she had not thrown
the shoes far enough out, so she crept into a boat that lay among the
reeds, went to the other end of the boat, and threw the shoes from
thence into the water; but the boat was not bound fast, and at the
movement she made it glided away from the shore. She noticed it, and
hurried to get back; but before she reached the other end, the boat was
a yard from the bank, and it drifted away faster than before.
Then little Gerda was very much frightened, and began to cry; but no one
heard her except the Sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but
they flew along the shore, and sang, as if to console her, "Here we are!
here we are!" The boat drove on with the stream, and little Gerda sat
quite still, with only her stockings on her feet; her little red shoes
floated along behind her, but they could not come up to the boat, for
that made more way.
It was very pretty on both shores. There were beautiful flowers, old
trees, and slopes with sheep and cows; but not ONE person was to be
"Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay," thought Gerda.
And then she became more cheerful, and rose up, and for many hours she
watched the charming green banks; then she came to a great cherry
orchard, in which stood a little house with remarkable blue and red
windows; it had a thatched roof, and without stood two wooden soldiers,
who presented arms to those who sailed past.
[Illustration: THEY FLEW OVER WOODS AND LAKES]
Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive, but of course
they did not answer. She came quite close to them. The river carried the
boat toward the shore.
Gerda called still louder, and then there came out of the house an old
woman leaning on a crutch; she had on a great velvet hat, painted over
with the finest flowers.
"You poor little child!" said the old woman. "How did you manage to come
on the great rolling river, and to float thus far out into the world?"
And then the old woman went quite into the water, seized the boat with
her crutch stick, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out. And
Gerda was glad to be on dry land again, though she felt a little afraid
of the strange old woman.
"Come and tell me who you are, and how you came here," said the old
lady. And Gerda told her everything; and the old woman shook her head,
and said, "Hem! hem!" And when Gerda had told everything, and asked if
she had not seen little Kay, the woman said that he had not yet come by,
but that he probably would soon come. Gerda was not to be sorrowful, but
to look at the flowers and taste the cherries, for they were better than
any picture book, for each one of them could tell a story. Then she took
Gerda by the hand and led her into the little house, and locked the
The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue and yellow; the
daylight shone in a remarkable way, with different colors. On the table
stood the finest cherries, and Gerda ate as many of them as she liked,
for she had leave to do so. While she was eating them, the old lady
combed Gerda's hair with a golden comb, and the yellow hair hung softly
round the friendly little face, which looked as blooming as a rose.
"I have long wished for such a dear little girl as you," said the old
lady. "Now you shall see how well we shall live with one another."
And as the ancient dame combed her hair, Gerda forgot her adopted
brother Kay more and more; for this old woman could conjure, but she was
not a wicked witch. She only practiced a little magic for her own
amusement, and wanted to keep little Gerda. Therefore she went into the
garden, stretched out her crutch toward all the rosebushes, and,
beautiful as they were, they all sank into the earth, and one could not
tell where they had stood. The old woman was afraid that, if the little
girl saw roses, she would think of her own, and remember little Kay, and
Now Gerda was led out into the flower garden. What fragrance was there,
and what loveliness! Every conceivable flower was there in full bloom;
there were some for every season; no picture book could be gayer and
prettier. Gerda jumped high for joy, and played till the sun went down
behind the high cherry trees; then she was put into a lovely bed, with
red silk pillows stuffed with blue violets, and she slept there, and
dreamed as gloriously as a queen on her wedding day.
Next day she played again with the flowers in the warm sunshine; and
thus many days went by. Gerda knew every flower; but, many as there were
of them, it still seemed to her as if one were wanting, but which one
she did not know. One day she sat looking at the old lady's hat with the
painted flowers, and the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old lady
had forgotten to efface it from her hat when she caused the others to
disappear. But so it always is when one does not keep one's wits about
"What, are there no roses here?" cried Gerda.
And she went among the beds, and searched and searched, but there was
not one to be found. Then she sat down and wept; her tears fell just
upon a spot where a rosebush lay buried, and when the warm tears
moistened the earth, the tree at once sprouted up as blooming as when it
had sunk; and Gerda embraced it, kissed the roses, and thought of the
beautiful roses at home, and also of little Kay.
"Oh, how I have been detained!" said the little girl. "I wanted to seek
for little Kay! Do you not know where he is?" she asked the roses. "Do
you think he is dead?"
"He is not dead," the roses answered. "We have been in the ground. All
the dead people are there, but Kay is not there."
"Thank you," said little Gerda, and she went to the other flowers,
looked into their cups, and asked, "Do you know where little Kay is?"
But every flower stood in the sun thinking only of her own story, or
fancy tale. Gerda heard many, many, of them; but not one knew anything
And what did the Tiger Lily say?
"Do you hear the drum, 'Rub-dub'? There are only two notes, always 'rub-
dub'! Hear the mourning song of the women; hear the call of the priests.
The Hindoo widow stands in her long red mantle on the funeral pile; the
flames rise up around her and her dead husband; but the Hindoo woman is
thinking of the living one here in the circle, of him whose eyes burn
hotter than flames, whose fiery glances have burned into her soul more
ardently than the flames themselves, which are soon to burn her body to
ashes. Can the flame of the heart die in the flame of the funeral pile?"
"I don't understand that at all!" said little Gerda.
"That's my story," said the Lily.
What says the Convolvulus?
"Over the narrow road looms an old knightly castle; thickly the ivy
grows over the crumbling red walls, leaf by leaf up to the balcony,
where stands a beautiful girl; she bends over the balustrade and glances
up the road. No rose on its branch is fresher than she; no apple blossom
wafted onward by the wind floats more lightly along. How her costly
silks rustle! 'Comes he not yet?'"
"Is it Kay whom you mean?" asked little Gerda.
"I'm only speaking of a story--my dream," replied the Convolvulus.
What said the little Snowdrop?
"Between the trees a long board hangs by ropes; that is a swing. Two
pretty little girls, with clothes white as snow and long green silk
ribbons on their hats, are sitting upon it, swinging. Their brother, who
is greater than they, stands in the swing, and has slung his arm round
the rope to hold himself, for in one hand he has a little saucer, and in
the other a clay pipe. He is blowing bubbles. The swing flies, and the
bubbles rise with beautiful, changing colors; the last still hangs from
the pipe bowl, swaying in the wind. The swing flies on; the little black
dog, light as the bubbles, stands up on his hind legs, and wants to be
taken into the swing: it flies on, and the dog falls, barks, and grows
angry, for he is teased, and the bubble bursts. A swinging board and a
bursting bubble--that is my song."
"It may be very pretty, what you're telling, but you speak it so
mournfully, and you don't mention little Kay at all."
[Illustration: "HE IS BLOWING BUBBLES"]
What do the Hyacinths say?
"There were three beautiful sisters, transparent and delicate. The dress
of one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third quite
white; hand in hand they danced by the calm lake in the bright
moonlight. They were not elves; they were human beings. It was so sweet
and fragrant there! The girls disappeared in the forest, and the sweet
fragrance became stronger: three coffins, with three beautiful maidens
lying in them, glided from the wood-thicket across the lake; the
glowworms flew gleaming about them like little hovering lights. Are the
dancing girls sleeping, or are they dead? The flower scent says they are
dead, and the evening bell tolls their knell."
"You make me quite sorrowful," said little Gerda. "You scent so
strongly, I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Ah! is little Kay
really dead? The Roses have been down in the earth, and they say he is
"Kling! klang!" tolled the Hyacinth bells. "We are not tolling for
little Kay--we don't know him; we only sing our song, the only one we
And Gerda went to the Buttercup, gleaming forth from the green leaves.
"You are a little bright sun," said Gerda. "Tell me, if you know, where
I may find my companion."
And the Buttercup shone so gaily, and looked back at Gerda. What song
might the Buttercup sing? It was not about Kay.
"In a little courtyard the clear sun shone warm on the first day of
spring. The sunbeams glided down the white wall of the neighboring
house; close by grew the first yellow flower, glancing like gold in the
bright sun's ray. The old grandmother sat out of doors in her chair; her
granddaughter, a poor, handsome maid-servant, was coming home for a
short visit. She kissed her grandmother. There was gold, heart's gold,
in that blessed kiss--gold in the mouth, gold in the south, gold in the
morning hour. See, that's my little story," said the Buttercup.
"My poor old grandmother!" sighed Gerda. "Yes, she is surely longing for
me and grieving for me, just as she did for little Kay. But I shall soon
go home and take Kay with me. There is no use of my asking the flowers;
they know only their own song, and give me no information." And then she
tied her little frock round her, that she might run the faster; but the
Jonquil struck against her leg as she sprang over it, and she stopped to
look at the tall yellow flower, and asked, "Do you, perhaps, know
anything of little Kay?"
And she bent quite down to the flower, and what did it say?
"I can see myself! I can see myself!" said the Jonquil. "Oh! oh! how I
smell! Up in the little room in the gable stands a little dancing girl.
She stands sometimes on one foot, sometimes on both; she seems to tread
on all the world. She's nothing but an ocular delusion: she pours water
out of a teapot on a bit of stuff--it is her bodice. 'Cleanliness is a
fine thing,' she says; her white frock hangs on a hook; it has been
washed in the teapot too, and dried on the roof. She puts it on and ties
her saffron handkerchief round her neck, and the dress looks all the
whiter. Point your toes! look how she seems to stand on a stalk. I can
see myself! I can see myself!"
"I don't care at all about that," said Gerda. "You need not tell me
And then she ran to the end of the garden. The door was locked, but she
pressed against the rusty lock, and it broke off, the door sprang open,
and little Gerda ran with naked feet out into the wide world. She looked
back three times, but no one was there to pursue her. At last she could
run no longer, and seated herself on a great stone; and when she looked
round the summer was over--it was late in autumn. One could not notice
that in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and where
the flowers of every season always bloomed.
"Alas! how I have loitered!" said little Gerda. "Autumn has come. I may
not rest again."
And she rose up to go on. Oh! how sore and tired her little feet were.
All around it looked cold and bleak; the long willow leaves were quite
yellow, and the dew fell down like water; one leaf after another
dropped; only the sloe-thorn still bore fruit, but the sloes were sour,
and set the teeth on edge. Oh! how gray and gloomy it looked--the wide
THE FOURTH STORY
THE PRINCE WHO MIGHT HAVE BEEN KAY
Gerda was compelled to rest again; then there came hopping across the
snow, just opposite the spot where she was sitting, a great Crow. This
Crow stopped a long time to look at her, nodding its head, and then it
said, "Krah! krah! Good day! good day!" It could not pronounce better,
but it felt friendly toward the little girl, and asked where she was
going all alone in the wide world. The word "alone" Gerda understood
very well, and felt how much it expressed; and she told the Crow the
story of her whole life and fortunes, and asked if it had not seen Kay.
[Illustration: THE CROW STOPPED TO LOOK]
And the Crow nodded very gravely, and said:
"That may be! that may be!"
"What? do you think so?" cried the little girl, and nearly pressed the
Crow to death, she kissed it so.
"Gently, gently!" said the Crow. "I think I know. I believe it may be
little Kay; but he has certainly forgotten you, with the princess."
"Does he live with a princess?" asked Gerda.
"Yes; listen," said the Crow. "But it's so difficult for me to speak
your language. If you know the Crow's language, I can tell it much
"No, I never learned it," said Gerda; "but my grandmother understood it,
and could speak the language, too. I only wish I had learned it."
"That doesn't matter," said the Crow. "But it will go badly."
And then the Crow told what it knew.
"In the country in which we now are lives a princess who is quite
wonderfully clever; but then she has read all the newspapers in the
world, and has forgotten them again, she is so clever. Lately she was
sitting on the throne--and that's not so pleasant as is generally
supposed--and she began to sing a song, and it was just this: 'Why
should I not marry now?' You see, there was something in that," said the
Crow. "And so she wanted to marry, but she wished for a husband who
could answer when he was spoken to, not one who only stood and looked
handsome, for that was wearisome. And so she had all her maids of honor
summoned, and when they heard her intention they were very glad. 'I like
that,' said they; 'I thought the very same thing the other day.' You may
be sure that every word I am telling you is true," added the Crow. "I
have a tame sweetheart who goes about freely in the castle, and she told
Of course the sweetheart was a crow, for one crow always finds out
another, and birds of a feather flock together.
"Newspapers were published directly, with a border of hearts and the
princess's initials. One could read in them that every young man who was
good-looking might come to the castle and speak with the princess, and
him who spoke so that one could hear he was at home there, and who spoke
best, the princess, would choose for her husband. Yes, yes," said the
Crow, "you may believe me. It's as true as that I sit here. Young men
came flocking in; there was a great crowding and much running to and
fro, but no one succeeded the first or second day. They could all speak
well when they were out in the streets, but when they entered at the
palace gates, and saw the guards standing in their silver lace, and went
up the staircase, and saw the lackeys in their golden liveries, and the
great lighted halls, they became confused. And when they stood before
the throne itself, on which the princess sat, they could do nothing but
repeat the last word she had spoken, and she did not care to hear her
own words again. It was just as if the people in there had taken some
narcotic and fallen asleep till they got into the street again, for not
till then were they able to speak. There stood a whole row of them, from
the town gate to the palace gate. I went out myself to see it," said the
Crow. "They were hungry and thirsty, but in the palace they did not
receive so much as a glass of lukewarm water. A few of the wisest had
brought bread and butter with them, but they would not share with their
neighbors, for they thought, 'Let him look hungry, and the princess
won't have him.'"
"But Kay, little Kay?" asked Gerda. "When did he come? Was he among the
"Wait! wait! We're just coming to him. It was on the third day that
there came a little personage, without horse or carriage, walking quite
merrily up to the castle. His eyes sparkled like yours; he had fine long
hair, but his clothes were shabby."
"That was Kay!" cried Gerda, rejoicing. "Oh, then, I have found him!"
And she clapped her hands.
"He had a little knapsack on his back," observed the Crow.
"No, that must certainly have been his sledge," said Gerda, "for he went
away with a sledge."
"That may well be," said the Crow, "for I did not look at it very
closely. But this much I know from my tame sweetheart, that when he
passed under the palace gate and saw the life guards in silver, and
mounted the staircase and saw the lackeys in gold, he was not in the
least embarrassed. He nodded, and said to them, 'It must be tedious work
standing on the stairs--I'd rather go in.' The halls shone full of
light; privy councilors and Excellencies walked about with bare feet,
and carried golden vessels; any one might have become solemn; and his
boots creaked most noisily, but he was not embarrassed."
"That is certainly Kay!" cried Gerda. "He had new boots on; I've heard
them creak in grandmother's room."
"Yes, certainly they creaked," resumed the Crow. "And he went boldly in
to the princess herself, who sat on a pearl that was as big as a
spinning wheel, and all the maids of honor with their attendants, and
all the cavaliers with their followers, and the followers of their
followers, who themselves kept a page apiece, were standing round; and
the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. The
followers' followers' pages could hardly be looked at, so proudly did
they stand in the doorway!"
"That must be terrible!" faltered little Gerda. "And yet Kay won the
"If I had not been a crow, I would have married her myself,
notwithstanding that I am engaged. They say he spoke as well as I can
when I speak the crows' language; I heard that from my tame sweetheart.
He was merry and agreeable; he had not come to marry, only to hear the
wisdom of the princess; and he approved of her, and she of him."
"Yes, certainly that was Kay!" said Gerda. "He was so clever; he could
do mental arithmetic up to fractions. Oh! won't you lead me to the
"That's easily said," replied the Crow. "But how are we to manage it?
I'll talk it over with my tame sweetheart: she can probably advise us;
for this I must tell you--a little girl like yourself will never get
leave to go completely in."
"Yes, I shall get leave," said Gerda. "When Kay hears that I'm there
he'll come out directly, and bring me in."
"Wait for me yonder at the grating," said the Crow; and it wagged its
head and flew away.
It was late in the evening when the Crow came back.
"Rax! rax!" it said. "I'm to greet you kindly from my sweetheart, and
here's a little loaf for you. She took it from the kitchen. There's
plenty of bread there, and you must be hungry. You can't possibly get
into the palace, for you are barefooted, and the guards in silver and
the lackeys in gold would not allow it. But don't cry; you shall go up.
My sweetheart knows a little back staircase that leads up to the
bedroom, and she knows where she can get the key."
And they went into the garden, into the great avenue, where one leaf was
falling down after another; and when the lights were extinguished in the
palace, one after the other, the Crow led Gerda to a back door, which
Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with fear and longing! It was just as if she
had been going to do something wicked; and yet she only wanted to know
whether it was little Kay. Yes, it must be he. She thought so deeply of
his clear eyes and his long hair; she could fancy she saw how he smiled,
as he had smiled at home when they sat among the roses. He would
certainly be glad to see her; to hear what a long distance she had come
for his sake; to know how sorry they had all been at home when he did
not come back. Oh, what a fear and what a joy that was!
Now they were on the staircase. A little lamp was burning upon a
cupboard, and in the middle of the floor stood the tame Crow, turning
her head on every side and looking at Gerda, who courtesied as her
grandmother had taught her to do.
"My betrothed has spoken to me very favorably of you, my little lady,"
said the tame Crow. "Your history, as it may be called, is very moving.
Will you take the lamp? then I will precede you. We will go the straight
way, and then we shall meet nobody."
"I feel as if some one were coming after us," said Gerda, as something
rushed by her. It seemed like a shadow on the wall; horses with flying
manes and thin legs, hunters, and ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
"These are only dreams," said the Crow; "they are coming to carry the
high masters' thoughts out hunting. That's all the better, for you may
look at them the more closely, in bed. But I hope, when you are taken
into favor and get promotion, you will show a grateful heart."
"Of that we may be sure!" observed the Crow from the wood.
Now they came into the first hall; it was hung with rose-colored satin,
and artificial flowers were worked on the walls. And here the dreams
again came flitting by them, but they moved so quickly that Gerda could
not see the high-born lords and ladies. Each hall was more splendid than
the last; yes, one could almost become bewildered! Now they were in the
bedchamber. Here the ceiling was like a great palm tree with leaves of
glass, of costly glass, and in the middle of the floor two beds hung on
a thick stalk of gold, and each of them looked like a lily. One of them
was white, and in that lay the princess; the other was red, and in that
Gerda was to seek little Kay. She bent one of the red leaves aside, and
then she saw a little brown neck. Oh, that was Kay! She called out his
name quite loud, and held the lamp toward him. The dreams rushed into
the room again on horseback--he awoke, turned his head, and--it was not
The prince was only like him in the neck, but he was young and good-
looking; and the princess looked up, blinking, from the white lily, and
asked who was there. Then little Gerda wept, and told her history, and
all that the Crows had done for her.
"You poor child!" said the prince and princess.
And they praised the Crows, and said that they were not angry with them
at all, but the Crows were not to do it again. However, they should be
"Will you fly out free," asked the princess, "or will you have fixed
positions as court Crows, with the right to everything that is left in
And the two Crows bowed, and begged for fixed positions, for they
thought of their old age, and said, "It is so good to have some
provisions for one's old days," as they called them.
And the prince got up out of his bed, and let Gerda sleep in it, and he
could not do more than that. She folded her little hands and thought,
"How good men and animals are!" and then she shut her eyes and went
quietly to sleep. All the dreams came flying in again, looking like
angels, and they drew a little sledge, on which Kay sat nodding; but all
this was only a dream, and therefore it was gone again as soon as she
The next day she was clothed from head to foot in velvet; and an offer
was made to her that she should stay in the castle and enjoy pleasant
times, but she only begged for a little carriage, with a horse to draw
it, and a pair of little boots; then she would drive out into the world
and seek for Kay.
And she received not only boots, but a muff likewise, and was neatly
dressed; and when she was ready to depart, a coach, made of pure gold,
stopped before the door. Upon it shone like a star the coat of arms of
the prince and princess; coachmen, footmen, and outriders--for there
were outriders, too--sat on horseback, with gold crowns on their heads.
The prince and princess themselves helped her into the carriage, and
wished her all good fortune. The forest Crow, who was now married,
accompanied her the first three miles; he sat by Gerda's side, for he
could not bear riding backward; the other Crow stood in the doorway,
flapping her wings; she did not go with them, for she suffered from
headache that had come on since she had obtained a fixed position and
was allowed to eat too much. The coach was lined with sugar biscuits,
and in the seat there were gingerbread, nuts, and fruit.
"Farewell, farewell!" cried the prince and princess; and little Gerda
wept, and the Crow wept.
So they went on for the first three miles, and then the Crow said good-
bye, and that was the heaviest parting of all. The Crow flew up on a
tree, and beat his black wings as long as he could see the coach, which
glittered like the bright sunshine.
THE FIFTH STORY
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
They drove on through the thick forest, but the coach gleamed like a
torch. It dazzled the robbers' eyes, and they could not bear it.
"That is gold! that is gold!" cried they; and they rushed forward,
seized the horses, killed the postilions, the coachmen, and the footmen,
and then pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.
"She is fat--she is pretty--she is fed with nut kernels!" said the old
robber woman, who had a very long matted beard and shaggy eyebrows that
hung down over her eyes. "She's as good as a little pet lamb; how I
shall relish her!"
And she drew out her shining knife, that gleamed in a horrible way.
"Oh!" screamed the old woman at the same moment: for her own daughter,
who hung at her back, bit her ear in a very naughty and spiteful manner.
"You ugly brat!" screamed the old woman; and she had not time to kill
"She shall play with me!" said the little robber girl. "She shall give
me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed!"
And then the girl gave another bite, so that the woman jumped high up,
and turned right round, and all the robbers laughed, and said:
"Look how she dances with her calf."
"I want to go into the carriage," said the little robber girl,
And she would have her own way, for she was spoiled and very obstinate;
and she and Gerda sat in the carriage, and drove over stock and stone
deep into the forest. The little robber girl was as big as Gerda, but
stronger and more broad-shouldered, and she had a brown skin; her eyes
were quite black, and they looked almost mournful. She clasped little
Gerda round the waist, and said:
"They shall not kill you as long as I am not angry with you. I suppose
you are a princess?"
"No," replied Gerda. And she told all that had happened to her, and how
fond she was of little Kay.
The robber girl looked at her seriously, nodded slightly, and said:
"They shall not kill you, even if I do get angry with you, for then I
will do it myself."
And then she dried Gerda's eyes, and put her two hands into the
beautiful muff that was so soft and warm.
Now the coach stopped, and they were in the courtyard of a robber
castle. It had burst from the top to the ground; ravens and crows flew
out of the great holes, and big bulldogs--each of which looked as if he
could devour a man--jumped high up, but did not bark, for that was
In the great, old, smoky hall, a bright fire burned upon the stone
floor; the smoke passed along under the ceiling, and had to seek an exit
for itself. A great cauldron of soup was boiling and hares and rabbits
were roasting on the spit.
"You shall sleep to-night with me and all my little animals," said the
They had something to eat and drink, and then went to a corner, where
straw and carpets were spread out. Above these sat on laths and perches
more than a hundred pigeons, and all seemed asleep, but they turned a
little when the two little girls came.
"All these belong to me," said the little robber girl; and she quickly
seized one of the nearest, held it by the feet, and shook it so that it
flapped its wings. "Kiss it!" she cried, and beat it in Gerda's face.
"There sit the wood rascals," she continued, pointing to a number of
laths that had been nailed in front of a hole in the wall, "Those are
wood rascals, those two; they fly away directly if one does not keep
them well locked up. And here's my old sweetheart 'Ba.'" Arid she pulled
out by the horn a Reindeer, that was tied up, and had a polished copper
ring round its neck. "We're obliged to keep him tight, too, or he'd run
away from us. Every evening I tickle his neck with a sharp knife, and
he's badly frightened at that."
And the little girl drew a long knife from a cleft in the wall, and let
it glide over the Reindeer's neck; the poor creature kicked out its
legs, and the little robber girl laughed, and drew Gerda into bed with
"Do you keep the knife while you're asleep?" asked Gerda, and looked at
it in a frightened way.
"I always sleep with my knife," replied the robber girl. "One does not
know what may happen. But now tell me again what you told me just now
about little Kay, and why you came out into the wide world."
And Gerda told it again from the beginning; and the Wood Pigeons cooed
above them in their cage, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber
girl put her arm round Gerda's neck, held her knife in the other hand,
and slept so that one could hear her; but Gerda could not close her eyes
at all--she did not know whether she was to live or die.
The robbers sat round the fire, sang and drank, and the old robber woman
tumbled about. It was quite terrible for a little girl to behold. Then
the Wood Pigeons said: "Coo! coo! we have seen little Kay. A white owl
was carrying his sledge; he sat in the Snow Queen's carriage, which
drove close by the forest as we lay in our nests. She blew upon us young
pigeons, and all died except us two. Coo! coo!"
"What are you saying there?" asked Gerda. "Whither was the Snow Queen
traveling? Do you know anything about it?"
"She was probably journeying to Lapland, for there they have always ice
and snow. Ask the Reindeer that is tied to the cord."
[Illustration: THE REINDEER RAN AS FAST AS IT COULD GO]
"There is ice and snow yonder, and it is glorious and fine," said the
Reindeer. "There one may run about free in great glittering plains.
There the Snow Queen has her summer tent; but her strong castle is up
toward the North Pole, on the island that's called Spitzbergen."
"O Kay, little Kay!" cried Gerda.
"You must lie still," exclaimed the robber girl, "or I shall thrust my
knife into your body."
In the morning Gerda told her all that the Wood Pigeons had said, and
the robber girl looked quite serious, and nodded her head and said,
"That's all the same, that's all the same!"
"Do you know where Lapland is?" she asked the Reindeer.
"Who should know better than I?" the creature replied, and its eyes
sparkled in its head. "I was born and bred there; I ran about there in
the snow fields."
"Listen!" said the robber girl to Gerda. "You see all our men have gone
away. Only mother is here still, and she'll stay; but toward noon she
drinks out of the big bottle, and then she sleeps for a little while;
then I'll do something for you."
Then she sprang out of bed, and clasped her mother round the neck and
pulled her beard, crying:
"Good morning, my own old nanny goat." And her mother filliped her nose
till it was red and blue; and it was all done for pure love.
When the mother had drunk out of her bottle and had gone to sleep upon
it, the robber girl went to the Reindeer, and said:
"I should like very much to tickle you a few times more with the knife,
for you are very funny then; but it's all the same. I'll loosen your
cord and help you out, so that you may run to Lapland; but you must use
your legs well, and carry this little girl to the palace of the Snow
Queen, where her playfellow is. You've heard what she told me, for she
spoke loud enough, and you were listening."
The Reindeer sprang up high for joy. The robber girl lifted little Gerda
on its back, and had the forethought to tie her fast, and even to give
her her own little cushion as a saddle.
"There are your fur boots for you," she said, "for it's growing cold;
but I shall keep the muff, for that's so very pretty. Still, you shall
not be cold, for all that; here's my mother's big muffles--they'll just
reach up to your elbows. Now you look just like my ugly mother."
And Gerda wept for joy.
"I can't bear to see you whimper," said the little robber girl. "No, you
just ought to look very glad. And here are two loaves and a ham for you;
now you won't be hungry."
These were tied on the Reindeer's back. The little robber girl opened
the door, coaxed in all the big dogs, and then cut the rope with her
sharp knife, and said to the Reindeer:
"Now run, but take good care of the little girl."
And Gerda stretched out her hands with the big muffles toward the little
robber girl, and said, "Farewell."
And the Reindeer ran over stock and stone, away through the great
forest, over marshes and steppes, as fast as it could go. The wolves
howled, and the ravens croaked. "Hiss! hiss!" sounded through the air.
It seemed as if the sky were flashing fire.
"Those are my old Northern Lights," said the Reindeer. "Look how they
glow!" And then it ran on faster than ever, day and night.
THE SIXTH STORY
THE LAPLAND WOMAN AND THE FINLAND WOMAN
At a little hut they stopped. It was very humble; the roof sloped down
almost to the ground, and the door was so low that the family had to
creep on their stomachs when they wanted to go in or out. No one was in
the house but an old Lapland woman, cooking fish by the light of a
train-oil lamp; and the Reindeer told Gerda's whole history, but it
related its own first, for this seemed to the Reindeer the more
important of the two. Gerda was so exhausted by the cold that she could
"Oh, you poor things," said the Lapland woman; "you've a long way to run
yet! You must go more than a hundred miles into Finmark, for the Snow
Queen is there, staying in the country, and burning Bengal Lights every
evening. I'll write a few words on a dried cod, for I have no paper, and
I'll give you that as a letter to the Finland woman; she can give you
better information than I."
And when Gerda had been warmed and refreshed with food and drink, the
Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried codfish, and telling Gerda to
take care of these, tied her again on the Reindeer, and the Reindeer
sprang away. Flash! flash! The whole night long the most beautiful blue
Northern Lights were burning.
And then they got to Finmark, and knocked at the chimney of the Finland
woman; for she had not even a hut.
There was such a heat in the chimney that the woman herself went about
almost naked. She at once loosened little Gerda's dress and took off the
child's muffles and boots; otherwise it would have been too hot for her
to bear. Then she laid a piece of ice on the Reindeer's head, and read
what was written on the codfish; she read it three times, and when she
knew it by heart, she popped the fish into the soup-cauldron, for it was
eatable, and she never wasted anything.
Now the Reindeer first told his own story, and then little Gerda's; and
the Finland woman blinked with her clever eyes, but said nothing.
"You are very clever," said the Reindeer. "I know you can tie all the
winds of the world together with a bit of twine; if the seaman unties
one knot, he has a good wind; if he loosens the second, it blows hard;
but if he unties the third and fourth, there comes such a tempest that
the forests are thrown down. Won't you give the little girl a draught,
so that she may get twelve men's power, and overcome the Snow Queen?"
"Twelve men's power!" repeated the Finland woman. "Great use that would
And she went to a bed and brought out a great rolled-up fur, and
unrolled it; wonderful characters were written upon it, and the Finland
woman read until the perspiration ran down her forehead.
But the Reindeer again begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked
at the Finland woman with such beseeching eyes, full of tears, that she
began to blink again with her own, and drew the Reindeer into a corner,
and whispered to him, while she laid fresh ice upon his head.
"Little Kay is certainly at the Snow Queen's, and finds everything there
to his taste and thinks it is the best place in the world; but that is
because he has a splinter of glass in his eye, and a little fragment in
his heart; but these must be got out, or he will never be a human being
again, and the Snow Queen will keep her power over him."
"But cannot you give something to little Gerda, so as to give her power
over all this?"
"I can give her no greater power than she possesses already; don't you
see how great that is? Don't you see how men and animals are obliged to
serve her, and how she gets on so well in the world, with her naked
feet? She cannot receive her power from us; it consists in this--that
she is a dear, innocent child. If she herself cannot penetrate to the
Snow Queen and get the glass out of little Kay, we can be of no use! Two
miles from here the Snow Queen's garden begins; you can carry the little
girl thither; set her down by the great bush that stands with its red
berries in the snow. Don't stand gossiping, but make haste, and get back
And then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda on the Reindeer, which
ran as fast as it could.
"Oh, I haven't my boots! I haven't my muffles!" cried Gerda.
She soon noticed that in the cutting cold; but the Reindeer dared not
stop. It ran till it came to the bush with the red berries; there it set
Gerda down, and kissed her on the mouth, and great big tears ran down
the creature's cheeks; and then it ran back, as fast as it could. There
stood poor Gerda without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of the
terrible, cold Finmark.
She ran forward as fast as possible; then came a whole regiment of
snowflakes; but they did not fall down from the sky, for that was quite
bright, and shone with the Northern Lights: the snowflakes ran along the
ground, and the nearer they came, the larger they grew. Gerda still
remembered how large and beautiful the snowflakes had appeared when she
had looked at them through the burning glass. But here they were
certainly far larger and much more terrible--they were alive. They were
advance posts of the Snow Queen, and had the strangest shapes. A few
looked like ugly great porcupines; others like knots formed of snakes,
which stretched forth their heads; and others like little fat bears,
whose hair stood up on end; all were brilliantly white, all were living
Then little Gerda said her prayer; and the cold was so great that she
could see her own breath, which went forth out of her mouth like smoke.
The breath became thicker and thicker, and formed itself into little
angels, who grew and grew whenever they touched the earth; and all had
helmets on their heads, and shields and spears in their hands. Their
number increased, and when Gerda had finished her prayer a whole legion
stood round about her, and struck with their spears at the terrible
snowflakes, so that these were shattered into a thousand pieces; and
little Gerda could go forward afresh, with good courage. The angels
stroked her hands and feet, and then she felt less how cold it was, and
hastened on to the Snow Queen's palace.
But now we must see what Kay was doing. He was not thinking of little
Gerda, and least of all that she was standing in front of the palace.
[Illustration: THE SNOW QUEEN'S CASTLE]
THE SEVENTH STORY
OF THE SNOW QUEEN'S CASTLE, AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT LAST
The walls of the palace were formed of the drifting snow, and the
windows and doors of the cutting winds. There were more than a hundred
halls, all blown together by the snow; the greatest of these extended
for several miles; the strong Northern Lights illuminated them all, and
how great and empty, how icily cold and shining they all were! Never was
merriment there--not even a little bear's ball, at which the storm could
have played the music, while the bears walked about on their hind legs
and showed off their pretty manners; never any little sport of mouth-
slapping or bars-touch; never any little coffee gossip among the young
lady white foxes. Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow
Queen. The Northern Lights flamed so brightly that one could count them
where they stood highest and lowest. In the midst of this immense empty
snow hall was a frozen lake, which had burst into a thousand pieces; but
each piece was like the rest, so that it was a perfect work of art; and
in the middle of the lake sat the Snow Queen, when she was at home, and
then she said that she sat in the Mirror of Reason, and that this was
the only one, and the best in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue with cold--indeed, almost black! but he did
not notice it, for she had kissed the cold shudderings away from him,
and his heart was like a lump of ice. He dragged a few sharp, flat
pieces of ice to and fro, joining them together in all kinds of ways,
for he wanted to achieve something with them. It was just like when we
have little tablets of wood, and lay them together to form figures--what
we call the Chinese game. Kay also went and laid figures, and, indeed,
very artistic ones. That was the icy game of Reason. In his eyes these
figures were very remarkable and of the highest importance; that was
because of the fragment of glass sticking in his eye. He laid out the
figures so that they formed a word--but he could never manage to lay
down the word as he wished to have it--the word eternity. The Snow Queen
"If you can find out this figure, you shall be your own master, and I
will give you the whole world and a pair of new skates."
But he could not.
"Now I'll hasten away to the warm lands," said the Snow Queen. "I will
go and look into the black spots." These were the volcanoes, Etna and
Vesuvius, as they are called. "I shall whiten them a little! That's
necessary; that will do the grapes and lemons good."
And the Snow Queen flew away, and Kay sat quite alone in the great icy
hall that was miles in extent, and looked at his pieces of ice, and
thought so deeply that cracks were heard inside him; one would have
thought that he was frozen.
Then it happened that little Gerda stepped through the great gate into
the wide hall. Here reigned cutting winds, but she prayed a prayer, and
the winds lay down as if they would have gone to sleep; and she stepped
into the great, empty, cold halls, and beheld Kay; she knew him, and
flew to him, and embraced him, and held him fast, and called out:
"Kay, dear little Kay! I have found you!"
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold. Then little Gerda wept hot
tears, that fell upon his breast; they penetrated into his heart, they
thawed the lump of ice, and consumed the little piece of glass in it. He
looked at her, and she sang:
"The roses will fade and pass away,
But we the Christ-child shall see one day."
Then Kay burst into tears; he wept so that the splinter of glass came
out of his eye. Now he recognized her, and cried rejoicingly:
"Gerda, dear Gerda! where have you been all this time? And where have I
been?" And he looked all around him. "How cold it is here! How large and
And he clung to Gerda, and she laughed and wept for joy. It was so
glorious that even the pieces of ice round about danced for joy; and
when they were tired and lay down, they formed themselves into just the
letters of which the Snow Queen had said that if he found them out he
should be his own master, and she would give him the whole world and a
new pair of skates.
And Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; she kissed his
eyes, and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he
then became well and merry. The Snow Queen might now come home; his word
of release stood written in shining characters of ice.
And they took one another by the hand, and wandered forth from the great
palace of ice. They spoke of the grandmother and of the roses on the
roof; and where they went the winds rested and the sun burst forth; and
when they came to the bush with the red berries, the Reindeer was
standing there waiting; it had brought another young Reindeer, which
gave the children warm milk, and kissed them on the mouth. Then they
carried Kay and Gerda, first to the Finnish woman, where they warmed
themselves thoroughly in the hot room, and received instructions for
their journey home; and then to the Lapland woman, who had made them new
clothes and put their sledge in order.
The Reindeer and the young one sprang at their side, and followed them
as far as the boundary of the country. There the first green sprouted
forth, and there they took leave of the two Reindeer and the Lapland
woman. "Farewell!" said all. And the first little birds began to
twitter, the forest was decked with green buds, and out of it, on a
beautiful horse (which Gerda knew, for it was the same that had drawn
her golden coach) a young girl came riding, with a shining red cap on
her head and a pair of pistols in the holsters. This was the little
robber girl, who had grown tired of staying at home, and wished to go
first to the north, and if that did not suit her, to some other region.
She knew Gerda at once, and Gerda knew her too; and it was a right merry
"You are a fine fellow to gad about!" she said to little Kay. "I should
like to know if you deserve that one should run to the end of the world
But Gerda patted her cheeks, and asked after the prince and princess.
"They've gone to foreign countries," said the robber girl.
"But the Crow?" said Gerda.
"The Crow is dead," answered the other. "The tame one has become a
widow, and goes about with an end of black worsted thread round her leg.
She complains most lamentably, but it's all talk. But now tell me how
you have fared, and how you caught him."
And Gerda and Kay told their story.
"Snipp-snapp-snurre-purre-basellurre!" said the robber girl.
And she took them both by the hand, and promised that if she ever came
through their town, she would come up and pay them a visit. And then she
rode away into the wide world.
But Gerda and Kay went hand in hand, and as they went it became
beautiful spring, with green and with flowers. The church bells sounded,
and they recognized the high steeples and the great town; it was the one
in which they lived, and they went to the grandmother's door, and up the
stairs, and into the room, where everything remained in its usual place.
The big clock was going "Tick! tack!" and the hands were turning; but as
they went through the rooms they noticed that they had become grown-up
people. The roses out on the roof-gutter were blooming in at the open
window, and there stood the children's chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat
upon the chairs, and held each other by the hand. They had forgotten the
cold, empty splendor at the Snow Queen's like a heavy dream. The
grandmother was sitting in God's bright sunshine, and read aloud out of
the Bible, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise
enter into the kingdom of God."
And Kay and Gerda looked into each other's eyes, and all at once they
understood the old song:
"The roses will fade and pass away,
But we the Christ-child shall see one day."
There they both sat, grown up, and yet children--children in heart; and
it was summer--warm, delightful summer.
HOW TO REMEMBER THE STORY
When we read a good long story like The Snow Queen, we enjoy it and
think we should like to remember it. If it is really good we ought to
remember it, not only because of its excellence, but, in the case of an
old story, because we so often find allusions to it in our other
reading. The best way to fix a story in mind is to make an outline of
the incidents, or plot. Then we can see the whole thing almost at a
glance, and so remembrance is made easy.
A good outline of The Snow Queen would appear something like this:
I. The Goblin's Mirror. (Enlarges evil; distorts and diminishes good.)
1. The Mirror is broken.
II. Kay and Gerda.
1. The little rose garden.
2. Pieces of the mirror find their way into Kay's eye and heart.
3. The Snow Queen.
a. Finds Kay.
b. Carries him away.
c. Makes him forget Gerda.
III. Gerda's Search for Kay.
1. Carried away by the river.
2. Rescued by the old witch.
IV. In the Flower garden.
1. The rose reminds Gerda of Kay.
2. Gerda questions the flowers.
a. The Tiger Lily.
b. The Convolvulus.
c. The Snowdrop.
d. The Hyacinth.
e. The Buttercup.
f. The Jonquil.
V. Gerda Continues Her Search in Autumn.
1. Gerda meets the Crow and follows him.
a. The princess's castle,
b. The prince is not Kay.
c. Gerda in rich clothes continues her search in a carriage.
VI. Gerda meets the Robbers.
1. The old woman claims Gerda.
2. The robber girl fancies Gerda.
3. The Wood Pigeons tell about Kay.
4. The Reindeer carries Gerda on her search.
VII. Gerda's Journey on the Reindeer.
1. The Lapland woman,
a. Cares for Gerda.
b. Sends message on a codfish.
2. The Finland woman.
a. Cares for Gerda.
b. Tells what has happened to Kay.
c. Tells what ails Kay and says Kay may be saved by the power of
VIII. Kay's Rescue.
1. At the Snow Queen's palace.
a. Kay cannot write eternity.
b. The Snow Queen leaves for Italy.
c. Gerda finds Kay.
d. Her tears melt his icy heart.
e. Her song brings tears that clear his eyes.
f. Kay knows Gerda.
g. Pieces of ice spell the word eternity.
h. Gerda's kisses restore Kay to warmth and health.
2. The return journey.
a. The reindeer.
b. The Finland woman.
c. The Lapland woman.
d. The prince and princess.
e. The robber girl.
3. Gerda and Kay at home.
A GOOD LESSON TO LEARN
There is little use in reading if we do not get from it something that
makes us wiser, better or nobler, or that gives us an inspiration to
work harder and make more of ourselves. I think the author of The Snow
Queen meant that we should get something more than a half-hour's
enjoyment out of his beautiful story.
He makes us like little Kay and his sweet friend Gerda, and then saddens
us with Kay's misfortunes. We do not like to see him become
crossgrained, mean in disposition and stony hearted.
Then we learn to admire the faithfulness and courage and bravery of
Gerda, and follow her to the Snow Queen's palace, afraid every moment
she will not find Kay.
When she does find him, it is her tears of sympathy that melt his icy
heart, her sweet faith in the Christ-child that clears his eyes, and her
love that brings him back to life.
Of course this is all a fairy story; but children and all the race of
grownups, even, may learn that it is only by innocence, sympathy and
love that the wickedness in the world can be overcome.
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Once, in the old, old times (for all the strange things which I tell you
about happened long before anybody can remember), a fountain gushed out
of a hillside in the marvelous land of Greece. And, for aught I know,
after so many thousand years it is still gushing out of the very
selfsame spot. At any rate, there was the pleasant fountain welling
freshly forth and sparkling adown the hillside in the golden sunset when
a handsome young man named Bellerophon drew near its margin. In his hand
he held a bridle studded with brilliant gems and adorned with a golden
bit. Seeing an old man and another of middle age and a little boy near
the fountain, and likewise a maiden who was dipping up some of the water
in a pitcher, he paused and begged that he might refresh himself with a
"This is very delicious water," he said to the maiden as he rinsed and
filled her pitcher after drinking out of it. "Will you be kind enough to
tell me whether the fountain has any name?"
"Yes, it is called the Fountain of Pirene," answered the maiden; and
then she added, "My grandmother has told me that this clear fountain was
once a beautiful woman; and when her son was killed by the arrows of the
huntress Diana, she melted all away into tears. And so the water which
you find so cool and sweet is the sorrow of that poor mother's heart!"
"I should not have dreamed," observed the young stranger, "that so clear
a wellspring, with its gush and gurgle and its cheery dance out of the
shade into the sunlight, had so much as one tear-drop in its bosom. And,
this, then, is Pirene? I thank you, pretty maiden, for telling me its
name. I have come from a far-away country to find this very spot."
A middle-aged country fellow (he had driven his cow to drink out of the
spring) stared hard at young Bellerophon and at the handsome bridle
which he carried in his hand.
"The watercourses must be getting low, friend, in your part of the
world," remarked he, "if you come so far only to find the Fountain of
Pirene. But pray, have you lost a horse? I see you carry the bridle in
your hand; and a very pretty one it is, with that double row of bright
stones upon it. If the horse was as fine as the bridle, you are much to
be pitied for losing him."
"I have lost no horse," said Bellerophon with a smile, "but I happen to
be seeking a very famous one, which, as wise people have informed me,
must be found hereabouts if anywhere. Do you know whether the winged
horse Pegasus still haunts the Fountain of Pirene, as he used to do?"
But then the country fellow laughed.
Some of you, my little friends, have probably heard that this Pegasus
was a snow-white steed with beautiful silvery wings, who spent most of
his time on the summit of Mount Helicon. He was as wild and as swift and
as buoyant in his flight through the air as any eagle that ever soared
into the clouds. There was nothing else like him in the world. He had no
mate, he had never been backed or bridled by a master, and for many a
long year he led a solitary and a happy life.
Oh, how fine a thing it is to be a winged horse! Sleeping at night, as
he did, on a lofty mountain top, and passing the greater part of the day
in the air, Pegasus seemed hardly to be a creature of the earth.
Whenever he was seen up very high above people's heads, with the
sunshine on his silvery wings, you would have thought that he belonged
to the sky, and that, skimming a little too low, he had got astray among
our mists and vapors and was seeking his way back again. It was very
pretty to behold him plunge into the fleecy bosom of a bright cloud and
be lost in it for a moment or two, and then break forth from the other
side. Or in a sullen rainstorm, when there was a gray pavement of clouds
over the whole sky, it would sometimes happen that the winged horse
descended right through it, and the glad light of the upper region would
gleam after him. In another instant, it is true, both Pegasus and the
pleasant light would be gone away together. But any one that was
fortunate enough to see this wondrous spectacle felt cheerful the whole
day afterward, and as much longer as the storm lasted.
In the summer time and in the most beautiful of weather Pegasus often
alighted on the solid earth, and, closing his silvery wings, would
gallop over hill and dale for pastime as fleetly as the wind. Oftener
than in any other place he had been seen near the Fountain of Pirene,
drinking the delicious water or rolling himself upon the soft grass of
the margin. Sometimes, too (but Pegasus was very dainty in his food), he
would crop a few of the clover-blossoms that happened to be sweetest. To
the Fountain of Pirene, therefore, people's great-grandfathers had been
in the habit of going (as long as they were youthful and retained their
faith in winged horses) in hopes of getting a glimpse at the beautiful
Pegasus. But of late years he had been very seldom seen. Indeed, there
were many of the country folks dwelling within half an hour's walk of
the fountain who had never beheld Pegasus, and did not believe that
there was any such creature in existence. The country fellow to whom
Bellerophon was speaking chanced to be one of those incredulous persons.
[Illustration: PEGASUS AT THE FOUNTAIN]
And that was the reason why he laughed.
"Pegasus, indeed!" cried he, turning up his nose as high as such a flat
nose could be turned up. "Pegasus, indeed! A winged horse, truly! Why,
friend, are you in your senses? Of what use would wings be to a horse?
Could he drag the plow so well, think you? To be sure, there might be a
little saving in the expense of shoes, but then how would a man like to
see his horse flying out of the stable window?--yes, or whisking him up
above the clouds when he only wanted to ride to mill? No, no! I don't
believe in Pegasus. There never was such a ridiculous kind of a horse-
"I have reason to think otherwise," said Bellerophon quietly.
And then he turned to an old gray man who was leaning on a staff and
listening very attentively with his head stretched forward and one hand
at his ear, because for the last twenty years he had been getting rather
"And what say you, venerable sir?" inquired he. "In your younger days, I
should imagine, you must frequently have seen the winged steed."
"Ah, young stranger, my memory is very poor," said the aged man. "When I
was a lad, if I remember rightly, I used to believe there was such a
horse, and so did everybody else. But nowadays I hardly know what to
think, and very seldom think about the winged horse at all. If I ever
saw the creature, it was a long, long while ago; and, to tell you the
truth, I doubt whether I ever did see him. One day, to be sure, when I
was quite a youth, I remember seeing some hoof-prints round about the
brink of the fountain. Pegasus might have made those hoof-marks, and so
might some other horse."
"And have you never seen him, my fair maiden?" asked Bellerophon of the
girl, who stood with the pitcher on her head while this talk went on.
"You surely could see Pegasus if anybody can, for your eyes are very
"Once I thought I saw him," replied the maiden, with a smile and a
blush. "It was either Pegasus or a large white bird a very great way up
in the air. And one other time, as I was coming to the fountain with my
pitcher, I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that
was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. But it startled me,
nevertheless, so that I ran home without filling my pitcher."
"That was truly a pity!" said Bellerophon.
And he turned to the child whom I mentioned at the beginning of the
story, and who was gazing at him, as children are apt to gaze at
strangers, with his rosy mouth wide open.
"Well, my little fellow," cried Bellerophon, playfully pulling one of
his curls, "I suppose you have often seen the winged horse."
"That I have," answered the child very readily. "I saw him yesterday and
many times before."
"You are a fine little man!" said Bellerophon, drawing the child closer
to him. "Come, tell me all about it."
"Why," replied the child, "I often come here to sail little boats in the
fountain and to gather pretty pebbles out of its basin. And sometimes,
when I look down into the water, I see the image of the winged horse in
the picture of the sky that is there. I wish he would come down and take
me on his back and let me ride him up to the moon. But if I so much as
stir to look at him, he flies far away, out of sight."
And Bellerophon put his faith in the child who had seen the image of
Pegasus in the water, and in the maiden who had heard him neigh so
melodiously, rather than in the middle-aged clown who believed only in
cart horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the beautiful things of
Therefore he haunted about the Fountain of Pirene for a great many days
afterward. He kept continually on the watch, looking upward at the sky
or else down into the water, hoping forever that he should see either
the reflected image of the winged horse or the marvelous reality. He
held the bridle with its bright gems and golden bit always ready in his
hand. The rustic people who dwelt in the neighborhood and drove their
cattle to the fountain to drink would often laugh at poor Bellerophon,
and sometimes take him pretty severely to task. They told him that an
able-bodied young man like himself ought to have better business than to
be wasting his time in such an idle pursuit. They offered to sell him a
horse if he wanted one, and when Bellerophon declined the purchase they
tried to drive a bargain with him for his fine bridle.
Even the country boys thought him so very foolish that they used to have
a great deal of sport about him, and were rude enough not to care a fig
although Bellerophon saw and heard it. One little urchin, for example,
would play Pegasus, and cut the oddest imaginable capers by way of
flying, while one of his schoolfellows would scamper after him holding
forth a twist of bulrushes which was intended to represent Bellerophon's
ornamental bridle. But the gentle child who had seen the picture of
Pegasus in the water comforted the young stranger more than all the
naughty boys could torment him. The dear little fellow in his play-hours
often sat down beside him, and, without speaking a word, would look down
into the fountain and up toward the sky with so innocent a faith that
Bellerophon could not help feeling encouraged.
Now, you will perhaps wish to be told why it was that Bellerophon had
undertaken to catch the winged horse, and we shall find no better
opportunity to speak about this matter than while he is waiting for
Pegasus to appear.
If I were to relate the whole of Bellerophon's previous adventures, they
might easily grow into a very long story. It will be quite enough to say
that in a certain country of Asia a terrible monster called a Chimera
had made its appearance, and was doing more mischief than could be
talked about between now and sunset. According to the best accounts
which I have been able to obtain, this Chimera was nearly, if not quite,
the ugliest and most poisonous creature, and the strangest and
unaccountablest, and the hardest to fight with and the most difficult to
run away from, that ever came out of the earth's inside. It had a tail
like a boa constrictor, its body was like I do not care what, and it had
three separate heads, one of which was a lion's, the second a goat's,
and the third an abominably great snake's; and a hot blast of fire came
flaming out of each of its three mouths. Being an earthly monster, I
doubt whether it had any wings; but, wings or no, it ran like a goat and
a lion, and wriggled along like a serpent, and thus contrived to make
about as much speed as all the three together.
Oh, the mischief and mischief and mischief that this naughty creature
did! With its flaming breath it could set a forest on fire or burn up a
field of grain, or, for that matter, a village with all its fences and
houses. It laid waste the whole country round about, and used to eat up
people and animals alive, and cook them afterwards in the burning oven
of its stomach. Mercy on us, little children! I hope neither you nor I
will ever happen to meet a Chimera.
While the hateful beast (if a beast we can anywise call it) was doing
all these horrible things, it so chanced that Bellerophon came to that
part of the world on a visit to the king. The king's name was Iobates,
and Lycia was the country which he ruled over. Bellerophon was one of
the bravest youths in the world, and desired nothing so much as to do
some valiant and beneficent deed, such as would make all mankind admire
and love him. In those days the only way for a young man to distinguish
himself was by fighting battles, either with the enemies of his country
or with wicked giants or with troublesome dragons or with wild beasts,
when he could find nothing more dangerous to encounter. King Iobates,
perceiving the courage of his youthful visitor, proposed to him to go
and fight the Chimera, which everybody else was afraid of, and which,
unless it should be soon killed, was likely to convert Lycia into a
desert. Bellerophon hesitated not a moment, but assured the king that he
would either slay this dreaded Chimera or perish in the attempt.
But, in the first place, as the monster was so prodigiously swift, he
bethought himself that he should never win the victory by fighting on
foot. The wisest thing he could do, therefore, was to get the very best
and fleetest horse that could anywhere be found. And what other horse in
all the world was half so fleet as the marvelous horse Pegasus, who had
wings as well as legs, and was even more active in the air than on the
earth? To be sure, a great many people denied that there was any such
horse with wings, and said that the stories about him were all poetry
and nonsense. But, wonderful as it appeared, Bellerophon believed that
Pegasus was a real steed, and hoped that he himself might be fortunate
enough to find him; and once fairly mounted on his back, he would be
able to fight the Chimera at better advantage.
And this was the purpose with which he had traveled from Lycia to Greece
and had brought the beautifully ornamented bridle in his hand. It was an
enchanted bridle. If he could only succeed in putting the golden bit
into the mouth of Pegasus, the winged horse would be submissive, and
would own Bellerophon for his master, and fly whithersoever he might
choose to turn the rein.
But, indeed, it was a weary and anxious time while Bellerophon waited
and waited for Pegasus, in hopes that he would come and drink at the
fountain of Pirene. He was afraid lest King Iobates should imagine that
he had fled from the Chimera. It pained him, too, to think how much
mischief the monster was doing, while he himself, instead of fighting
with it, was compelled to sit idly poring over the bright waters of
Pirene as they gushed out of the sparkling sand. And as Pegasus came
thither so seldom in these latter years, and scarcely alighted there
more than once in a lifetime, Bellerophon feared that he might grow an
old man, and have no strength left in his arms nor courage in his heart,
before the winged horse would appear. Oh, how heavily passes the time
while an adventurous youth is yearning to do his part in life and to
gather in the harvest of his renown! How hard a lesson it is to wait!
Our life is brief, and how much of it is spent in teaching us only this!
Well was it for Bellerophon that the gentle child had grown so fond of
him and was never weary of keeping him company. Every morning the child
gave him a new hope to put in his bosom instead of yesterday's withered
"Dear Bellerophon," he would cry, looking up hopefully into his face, "I
think we shall see Pegasus to-day."
And at length, if it had not been for the little boy's unwavering faith,
Bellerophon would have given up all hope, and would have gone back to
Lycia and have done his best to slay the Chimera without the help of the
winged horse. And in that case poor Bellerophon would at least have been
terribly scorched by the creature's breath, and would most probably have
been killed and devoured. Nobody should ever try to fight an earthborn
Chimera unless he can first get upon the back of an aerial steed.
One morning the child spoke to Bellerophon even more hopefully than
"Dear, dear Bellerophon," cried he, "I know not why it is, but I feel as
if we should certainly see Pegasus to-day."
And all that day he would not stir a step from Bellerophon's side; so
they ate a crust of bread together, and drank some of the water of the
fountain. In the afternoon, there they sat, and Bellerophon had thrown
his arm around the child, who likewise had put one of his little hands
into Bellerophon's. The latter was lost in his own thoughts, and was
fixing his eyes vacantly on the trunks of the trees that over-shadowed
the fountain. But the gentle child was gazing down into the water; he
was grieved, for Bellerophon's sake, that the hope of another day should
be deceived like so many before it, and two or three quiet teardrops
fell from his eyes and mingled with what were said to be the many tears
of Pirene, when she wept for her slain children.
But, when he least thought of it, Bellerophon felt the pressure of the
child's little hand and heard a soft, almost breathless, whisper:
"See there, dear Bellerophon! There is an image in the water."
The young man looked down into the dimpling mirror of the fountain, and
saw what he took to be the reflection of a bird which seemed to be
flying at a great height in the air, with a gleam of sunshine on its
snowy or silvery wings.
"What a splendid bird it must be!" said he. "And how very large it
looks, though it must really be flying higher than the clouds!"
"It makes me tremble," whispered the child. "I am afraid to look up into
the air. It is very beautiful, and yet I dare only look at its image in
the water. Dear Bellerophon, do you not see that it is no bird? It, is
the winged horse Pegasus."
Bellerophon's heart began to throb. He gazed keenly upward, but could
not see the winged creature, whether bird or horse, because just then it
had plunged into the fleecy depths of a summer cloud. It was but a
moment, however, before the object reappeared, sinking lightly down out
of the cloud, although still at a vast distance from the earth.
Bellerophon caught the child in his arms and shrank back with him, so
that they were both hidden among the thick shrubbery which grew all
around the fountain. Not that he was afraid of any harm, but he dreaded
lest, if Pegasus caught a glimpse of them, he would fly far away and
alight in some inaccessible mountain top. For it was really the winged
horse. After they had expected him so long, he was coming to quench his
thirst with the water of Pirene.
Nearer and nearer came the aerial wonder, flying in great circles, as
you may have seen a dove when about to alight. Downward came Pegasus, in
those wide, sweeping circles which grew narrower and narrower still as
he gradually approached the earth. The nigher the view of him, the more
beautiful he was and the more marvelous the sweep of his silvery wings.
At last, with so light a pressure as hardly to bend the grass about the
fountain or imprint a hoof-tramp in the sand of its margin, he alighted,
and, stooping his wild head, began to drink. He drew in the water with
long and pleasant sighs and tranquil pauses of enjoyment, and then
another draught, and another, and another. For nowhere in the world or
up among the clouds did Pegasus love any water as he loved this of
Pirene. And when his thirst was slaked he cropped a few of the honey-
blossoms of the clover, delicately tasting them, but not caring to make
a hearty meal, because the herbage just beneath the clouds on the lofty
sides of Mount Helicon suited his palate better than this ordinary
After thus drinking to his heart's content, and in his dainty fashion
condescending to take a little food, the winged horse began to caper to
and fro, and dance, as it were, out of mere idleness and sport. There
never was a more playful creature made than this very Pegasus. So there
he frisked in a way that it delights me to think about, fluttering his
great wings as lightly as ever did a linnet, and running little races
half on earth and half in air, and which I know not whether to call a
flight or a gallop. When a creature is perfectly able to fly, he
sometimes chooses to run just for the pastime of the thing; and so did
Pegasus, although it cost him some little trouble to keep his hoofs so
near the ground. Bellerophon, meanwhile, holding the child's hand,
peeped forth from the shrubbery, and thought that never was any sight so
beautiful as this, nor ever a horse's eyes so wild and spirited as those
Once or twice Pegasus stopped and snuffed the air, pricking up his ears,
tossing his head, and turning it on all sides, as if he partly suspected
some mischief or other. Seeing nothing, however, and hearing no sound,
he soon began his antics again. At length--not that he was weary, but
only idle and luxurious--Pegasus folded his wings and lay down on the
soft green turf. But, being too full of aerial life to remain quiet for
many moments together, he soon rolled over on his back with his four
slender legs in the air. It was beautiful to see him, this one solitary
creature whose mate had never been created, but who needed no companion,
and, living a great many hundred years, was as happy as the centuries
were long. The more he did such things as mortal horses are accustomed
to do, the less earthly and the more wonderful he seemed. Bellerophon
and the child almost held their breath, partly from a delightful awe,
but still more because they dreaded lest the slightest stir or murmur
should send him up with the speed of an arrow-flight into the farthest
blue of the sky. Finally, when he had had enough of rolling over and
over, Pegasus turned himself about, and, indolently, like any other
horse, put out his forelegs in order to rise from the ground; and
Bellerophon, who had guessed that he would do so, darted suddenly from
the thicket and leaped astride of his back.
Yes, there he sat, on the back of the winged horse!
But what a bound did Pegasus make when, for the first time, he felt the
weight of a mortal man upon his loins! A bound, indeed! Before he had
time to draw a breath Bellerophon found himself five hundred feet aloft,
and still shooting upward, while the winged horse snorted and trembled
with terror and anger. Upward he went, up, up, up, until he plunged into
the cold, misty bosom of a cloud at which, only a little while before,
Bellerophon had been gazing and fancying it a very pleasant spot. Then
again, out of the heart of the cloud, Pegasus shot down like a
thunderbolt, as if he meant to dash both himself and his rider head-long
against a rock. Then he went through about a thousand of the wildest
caprioles that had ever been performed either by a bird or a horse.
I cannot tell you half that he did. He skimmed straight forward, and
sideways, and backward. He reared himself erect, with his forelegs on a
wreath of mist and his hind legs on nothing at all. He flung out his
heels behind and put down his head between his legs, with his wings
pointing right upward. At about two miles' height above the earth he
turned a somersault, so that Bellerophon's heels were where his head
should have been, and he seemed to look down into the sky, instead of
up. He twisted his head about, and, looking Bellerophon in the face,
with fire flashing from his eyes, made a terrible attempt to bite him.
He fluttered his pinions so wildly that one of the silver feathers was
shaken out, and, floating earthward, was picked up by the child, who
kept it as long as he lived in memory of Pegasus and Bellerophon.
But the latter (who, as you may judge, was as good a horseman as ever
galloped) had been watching his opportunity, and at last clapped the
golden bit of the enchanted bridle between the winged steed's jaws. No
sooner was this done than Pegasus became as manageable as if he had
taken food all his life out of Bellerophon's hand. To speak what I
really feel, it was almost a sadness to see so wild a creature grow
suddenly so tame. And Pegasus seemed to feel it so likewise. He looked
round to Bellerophon with tears in his beautiful eyes, instead of the
fire that so recently flashed from them. But when Bellerophon patted his
head and spoke a few authoritative, yet kind and soothing words, another
look came into the eyes of Pegasus; for he was glad at heart, after so
many lonely centuries, to have found a companion and a master. Thus it
always is with winged horses and with all such wild and solitary
creatures. If you can catch and overcome them, it is the surest way to
win their love.
While Pegasus had been doing his utmost to shake Bellerophon off his
back, he had flown a very long distance, and they had come within sight
of a lofty mountain by the time the bit was in his mouth. Bellerophon
had seen this mountain before, and knew it to be Helicon, on the summit
of which was the winged horse's abode. Thither (after looking gently
into his rider's face, as if to ask leave) Pegasus now flew, and,
alighting, waited patiently until Bellerophon should please to dismount.
The young man accordingly leaped from his steed's back, but still held
him fast by the bridle. Meeting his eyes, however, he was so affected by
the gentleness of his aspect and by his beauty, and by the thought of
the free life which Pegasus had heretofore lived, that he could not bear
to keep him a prisoner if he really desired his liberty.
Obeying this generous impulse, he slipped the enchanted bridle off the
head of Pegasus and took the bit from his mouth.
"Leave me, Pegasus!" said he. "Either leave me or love me."
In an instant the winged horse shot almost out of sight, soaring
straight upward from the summit of Mount Helicon. Being long after
sunset, it was now twilight on the mountain top and dusky evening over
all the country round about. But Pegasus flew so high that he overtook
the departed day, and was bathed in the upper radiance of the sun.
Ascending higher and higher, he looked like a bright speck, and at last
could no longer be seen in the hollow waste of the sky. And Bellerophon
was afraid that he should never behold him more. But while he was
lamenting his own folly the bright speck reappeared, and drew nearer and
nearer until it descended lower than the sunshine; and behold, Pegasus
had come back! After this trial there was no more fear of the winged
horse's making his escape. He and Bellerophon were friends, and put
loving faith in one another.
That night they lay down and slept together, with Bellerophon's arm
about the neck of Pegasus, not as a caution, but for kindness. And they
awoke at peep of day and bade one another good morning, each in his own
In this manner Bellerophon and the wondrous steed spent several days,
and grew better acquainted and fonder of each other all the time. They
went on long aerial journeys, and sometimes ascended so high that the
earth looked hardly bigger than the moon. They visited different
countries and amazed the inhabitants, who thought that the beautiful
young man on the back of the winged horse must have come down out of the
sky. A thousand miles a day was no more than an easy space for the fleet
Pegasus to pass over. Bellerophon was delighted with this kind of life,
and would have liked nothing better than to live always in the same way,
aloft in the clear atmosphere; for it was always sunny weather up there,
however cheerless and rainy it might be in the lower region. But he
could not forget the horrible Chimera which he had promised King Iobates
to slay. So at last, when he had become well accustomed to feats of
horsemanship in the air, and could manage Pegasus with the least motion
of his hand, and had taught him to obey his voice, he determined to
attempt the performance of this perilous adventure.
At daybreak, therefore, as soon as he unclosed his eyes, he gently
pinched the winged horse's ear in order to arouse him. Pegasus
immediately started from the ground and pranced about a quarter of a
mile aloft, and made a grand sweep around the mountain top by way of
showing that he was wide awake and ready for any kind of an excursion.
During the whole of this little flight, he uttered a loud, brisk, and
melodious neigh, and finally came down at Bellerophon's side as lightly
as you ever saw a sparrow hop upon a twig.
"Well done, dear Pegasus! well done, my sky-skimmer!" cried Bellerophon,
fondly stroking the horse's neck. "And now, my fleet and beautiful
friend, we must break our fast. To-day we are to fight the terrible
As soon as they had eaten their morning meal and drunk some sparkling
water from a spring called Hippocrene, Pegasus held out his head of his
own accord so that his master might put on the bridle. Then, with a
great many playful leaps and airy caperings, he showed his impatience to
be gone, while Bellerophon was girding on his sword and hanging his
shield about his neck and preparing himself for battle. When everything
was ready, the rider mounted, and (as was his custom when going a long
distance) ascended five miles perpendicularly, so as the better to see
whither he was directing his course. He then turned the head of Pegasus
toward the east, and set out for Lycia. In their flight they overtook an
eagle, and came so nigh him, before he could get out of their way, that
Bellerophon might easily have caught him by the leg. Hastening onward at
this rate, it was still early in the forenoon when they beheld the lofty
mountains of Lycia with their deep and shaggy valleys. If Bellerophon
had been told truly, it was in one of those dismal valleys that the
hideous Chimera had taken up its abode.
Being now so near their journey's end, the winged horse gradually
descended with his rider, and they took advantage of some clouds that
were floating over the mountain tops in order to conceal themselves.
Hovering on the upper surface of a cloud and peeping over its edge,
Bellerophon had a pretty distinct view of the mountainous part of Lycia,
and could look into all its shadowy vales at once. It was a wild,
savage, and rocky tract of high and precipitous hills. In the more level
part of the country there were ruins of burned houses, and here and
there the carcasses of dead cattle strewn about the pastures where they
had been feeding.
"The Chimera must have done this mischief," thought Bellerophon. "But
where can the monster be?"
As I have already said, there was nothing remarkable to be detected at
first sight in any of the valleys and dells that lay among the
precipitous heights of the mountains--nothing at all, unless, indeed, it
were three spires of black smoke which issued from what seemed to be the
mouth of a cavern and clambered sullenly into the atmosphere. Before
reaching the mountain top these three black smoke-wreaths mingled
themselves into one. The cavern was almost directly beneath the winged
horse and his rider, at the distance of about a thousand feet. The
smoke, as it crept heavily upward, had an ugly, sulphurous, stifling
scent which caused Pegasus to snort and Bellerophon to sneeze. So
disagreeable was it to the marvelous steed (who was accustomed to
breathe only the purest air) that he waved his wings and shot half a
mile out of the range of this offensive vapor.
But on looking behind him, Bellerophon saw something that induced him
first to draw the bridle and then to turn Pegasus about. He made a sign,
which the winged horse understood, and sunk slowly through the air until
his hoofs were scarcely more than a man's height above the rocky bottom
of the valley. In front, as far off as you could throw a stone, was the
cavern's mouth with the three smoke-wreaths oozing out of it. And what
else did Bellerophon behold there?
There seemed to be a heap of strange and terrible creatures curled up
within the cavern. Their bodies lay so close together that Bellerophon
could not distinguish them apart; but, judging by their heads, one of
these creatures was a huge snake, the second a fierce lion, and the
third an ugly goat.
The lion and the goat were asleep; the snake was broad awake, and kept
staring around him with a great pair of fiery eyes. But--and this was
the most wonderful part of the matter--the three spires of smoke
evidently issued from the nostrils of these three heads! So strange was
the spectacle, that, though Bellerophon had been all along expecting it,
the truth did not immediately occur to him that here was the terrible
three-headed Chimera. He had found out the Chimera's cavern. The snake,
the lion, and the goat, as he supposed them to be, were not three
separate creatures, but one monster!
The wicked, hateful thing! Slumbering as two thirds of it were, it still
held in its abominable claws the remnant of an unfortunate lamb--or
possibly (but I hate to think so) it was a dear little boy--which its
three mouths had been gnawing before two of them fell asleep!
All at once Bellerophon started as from a dream, and knew it to be the
Chimera. Pegasus seemed to know it at the same instant, and sent forth a
neigh that sounded like the call of a trumpet to battle. At this sound
the three heads reared themselves erect and belched out great flashes of
flame. Before Bellerophon had time to consider what to do next, the
monster flung itself out of the cavern and sprung straight toward him,
with its immense claws extended and its snaky tail twisting itself
venomously behind. If Pegasus had not been as nimble as a bird, both he
and his rider would have been overthrown by the Chimera's headlong rush,
and thus the battle have been ended before it was well begun. But the
winged horse was not to be caught so. In the twinkling of an eye he was
up aloft, halfway to the clouds, snorting with anger. He shuddered, too,
not with affright, but with utter disgust at the loathsomeness of this
poisonous thing with three heads.
[Illustration: PEGASUS DARTED DOWN ASLANT TOWARD THE CHIMERA'S THREE-
The Chimera, on the other hand, raised itself up so as to stand
absolutely on the tip end of its tail, with its talons pawing fiercely
in the air and its three heads spluttering fire at Pegasus and his
rider. My stars! how it roared and hissed and bellowed! Bellerophon,
meanwhile, was fitting his shield on his arm and drawing his sword.
"Now, my beloved Pegasus," he whispered in the winged horse's ear, "thou
must help me to slay this insufferable monster, or else thou shalt fly
back to thy solitary mountain peak without thy friend Bellerophon. For
either the Chimera dies, or its three mouths shall gnaw this head of
mine, which has slumbered upon thy neck."
Pegasus whinnied, and, turning back his head, rubbed his nose tenderly
against his rider's cheek. It was his way of telling him that, though he
had wings and was an immortal horse, yet he would perish, if it were
possible for immortality to perish, rather than leave Bellerophon
"I thank you, Pegasus," answered Bellerophon. "Now, then, let us make a
dash at the monster!"
Uttering these words, he shook the bridle, and Pegasus darted down
aslant, as swift as the flight of an arrow, right toward the Chimera's
three-fold head, which all this time was poking itself as high as it
could into the air. As he came within arm's length, Bellerophon made a
cut at the monster, but was carried onward by his steed before he could
see whether the blow had been successful. Pegasus continued his course,
but soon wheeled round at about the same distance from the Chimera as
before. Bellerophon then perceived that he had cut the goat's head of
the monster almost off, so that it dangled downward by the skin, and
seemed quite dead. But, to make amends, the snake's head and the lion's
head had taken all the fierceness of the dead one into themselves, and
spit flame and hissed and roared with more fury than before.
"Never mind, my brave Pegasus!" cried Bellerophon. "With another stroke
like that we will surely stop either its hissing or its roaring."
And again he shook the bridle. Dashing aslant-wise as before, the winged
horse made another arrow-flight toward the Chimera, and Bellerophon
aimed another downright stroke at one of the two remaining heads as he
shot by. But this time neither he nor Pegasus escaped so well as at
first. With one of its claws the Chimera had given the young man a deep
scratch in his shoulder, and had slightly damaged the left wing of the
flying steed with the other. On his part, Bellerophon had mortally
wounded the lion's head of the monster, insomuch that it now hung
downward, with its fire almost extinguished, and sending out gasps of
thick black smoke. The snake's head, however (which was the only one now
left), was twice as fierce and venomous as ever before. It belched forth
shoots of fire five hundred yards long, and emitted hisses so loud, so
harsh, and so ear-piercing that King Iobates heard them fifty miles off,
and trembled till the throne shook under him.
"Well-a-day!" thought the poor king; "the Chimera is certainly coming to
Meanwhile Pegasus had again paused in the air and neighed angrily, while
sparkles of a pure crystal flame darted out of his eyes. How unlike the
lurid fire of the Chimera! The aerial steed's spirit was all aroused,
and so was that of Bellerophon.
"Dost thou bleed, my immortal horse?" cried the young man, caring less
for his own hurt than for the anguish of this glorious creature that
ought never to have tasted pain. "The execrable Chimera shall pay for
this mischief with his last head."
Then he shook the bridle, shouted loudly and guided Pegasus, not
aslantwise as before, but straight at the monster's hideous front. So
rapid was the onset that it seemed but a dazzle and a flash before
Bellerophon was at close gripes with his enemy.
The Chimera by this time, after losing its second head, had got into a
red-hot passion of pain and rampant rage. It so flounced about, half on
earth and partly in the air, that it was impossible to say which element
it rested upon. It opened its snake jaws to such an abominable width
that Pegasus might almost, I was going to say, have flown right down its
throat, wings outspread, rider and all! At their approach it shot out a
tremendous blast of its fiery breath and enveloped Bellerophon and his
steed in a perfect atmosphere of flame, singeing the wings of Pegasus,
scorching off one whole side of the young man's ringlets, and making
them both far hotter than was comfortable from head to foot.
But this was nothing to what followed.
When the airy rush of the winged horse had brought him within the
distance of a hundred yards, the Chimera gave a spring, and flung its
huge, awkward, venomous and utterly detestable carcass right upon poor
Pegasus, clung round him with might and main, and tied up its snaky tail
into a knot! Up flew the aerial steed, higher, higher, above the
mountain peaks, above the clouds, and almost out of sight of the solid
earth. But still the earth-born monster kept its hold and was borne
upward along with the creature of light and air. Bellerophon, meanwhile,
turning about, found himself face to face with the ugly grimness of the
Chimera's visage, and could only avoid being scorched to death or bitten
right in twain by holding up his shield. Over the upper edge of the
shield he looked sternly into the savage eyes of the monster.
But the Chimera was so mad and wild with pain that it did not guard
itself so well as might else have been the case. Perhaps, after all, the
best way to fight a Chimera is by getting as close to it as you can. In
its efforts to stick its horrible iron claws into its enemy the creature
left its own breast quite exposed, and, perceiving this, Bellerophon
thrust his sword up to the hilt into its cruel heart. Immediately the
snaky tail untied its knot. The monster let go its hold of Pegasus and
fell from that vast height downward, while the fire within its bosom,
instead of being put out, burned fiercer than ever, and quickly began to
consume the dead carcass. Thus it fell out of the sky all aflame, and
(it being nightfall before it reached the earth) was mistaken for a
shooting star or a comet. But at early sunrise some cottagers were going
to their day's labor, and saw, to their astonishment, that several acres
of ground were strewn with black ashes. In the middle of a field there
was a heap of whitened bones a great deal higher than a haystack.
Nothing else was ever seen of the dreadful Chimera. And when Bellerophon
had won the victory he bent forward and kissed Pegasus, while the tears
stood in his eyes.
"Back, now, my beloved steed!" said he. "Back to the fountain of
Pegasus skimmed through the air quicker than ever he did before, and
reached the fountain in a very short time. And there he found the old
man leaning on his staff, and the country fellow watering his cow, and
the pretty maiden filling her pitcher.
"I remember now," quoth the old man, "I saw this winged horse once
before, when I was quite a lad. But he was ten times handsomer in those
"I own a cart horse worth three of him," said the country fellow. "If
this pony were mine, the first thing I should do would be to clip his
But the poor maiden said nothing, for she had always the luck to be
afraid at the wrong time. So she ran away, and let her pitcher tumble
down, and broke it.
"Where is the gentle child," asked Bellerophon, "who used to keep me
company, and never lost his faith, and never was weary of gazing into
"Here am I, dear Bellerophon!" said the child softly.
For the little boy had spent day after day on the margin of Pirene,
waiting for his friend to come back; but when he perceived Bellerophon
descending through the clouds, mounted on the winged horse, he had
shrunk back into the shrubbery. He was a delicate and tender child, and
dreaded lest the old man and the country fellow should see the tears
gushing from his eyes.
"Thou hast won the victory," said he joyfully, running to the knee of
Bellerophon, who still sat on the back of Pegasus. "I knew thou
"Yes, dear child!" replied Bellerophon, alighting from the winged horse.
"But if thy faith had not helped me, I should never have waited for
Pegasus, and never have gone up above the clouds, and never have
conquered the terrible Chimera. Thou, my little friend, hast done it
all. And now let us give Pegasus his liberty." So he slipped off the
enchanted bridle from the head of the marvelous steed.
"Be free for evermore, my Pegasus!" cried he, with a shade of sadness in
his tone. "Be as free as thou art fleet."
But Pegasus rested his head on Bellerophon's shoulder, and would not
"Well, then," said Bellerophon, caressing the airy horse, "thou shalt be
with me as long as thou wilt, and we will go together forthwith and tell
King Iobates that the Chimera is destroyed."
Then Bellerophon embraced the gentle child and promised to come to him
again, and departed. But in after years that child took higher flights
upon the aerial steed than ever did Bellerophon, and achieved more
honorable deeds than his friend's victory over the Chimera. For, gentle
and tender as he was, he grew to be a mighty poet!
A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS
By Clement C. Moore
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,--
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys,--and Saint Nicholas, too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump,--a right jolly old elf;
And I laughed, when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose,
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote this poem, published a whole volume of
poems, but none of the others is as famous as is this. It was written
for his own children, and he did not even know that it was to be
published. It appeared in the Troy Sentinel in 1823, just two days
before Christmas, and we can imagine how delighted children were when
they had it read to them for the first time. It is not a great poem; but
no Christmas poem that has been published since has been half as popular
with children, and even grown people like it for its jolliness and its