Journeys Through Bookland V2 by Charles H. Sylvester

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team JOURNEYS THROUGH BOOKLAND A NEW AND ORIGINAL PLAN FOR READING APPLIED TO THE WORLD’S BEST LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN BY CHARLES H. SYLVESTER Author of English and American Literature VOLUME TWO New Edition 1922 CONTENTS AESOP THE FALCON AND THE PARTRIDGE (From the Arabian
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1922
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



Author of English and American Literature

New Edition




THE FALCON AND THE PARTRIDGE (From the Arabian Nights)


THE SPARROW AND THE EAGLE (From the Arabian Nights)


INFANT JOY …….. William Blake

THE BABY …….. George MacDonald


DISCREET HANS …….. Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm

THE POPPYLAND EXPRESS …….. St. Louis Star Sayings



RUMPELSTILTZKIN …….. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm



THE GOLDEN TOUCH …….. Nathaniel Hawthorne

THE CHILD’S WORLD …….. W. B. Rands

THE FIR TREE …….. Hans Christian Andersen


PICTURE BOOKS IN WINTER …….. Robert Louis Stevenson

HOW THE WOLF WAS BOUND …….. Adapted by Anna McCaleb

THE DEATH OF BALDER …….. Adapted by Anna McCaleb

THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI …….. Adapted by Anna McCaleb

SEVEN TIMES ONE …….. Jean Ingelow


AFTERWHILE …….. James Whitcomb Riley

WINDY NIGHTS …….. Robert Louis Stevenson

THE SNOW QUEEN …….. Hans Christian Andersen

THE CHIMERA …….. Nathaniel Hawthorne

A VISIT FBOM ST. NICHOLAS …….. Clement C. Moore


THE ENGLISH ROBIN …….. Harrison Weir

TOM, THE WATER BABY …….. Charles Kingsley

THE MILKMAID …….. Jeffreys Taylor

HOLGER DANSKE …….. Hans Christian Andersen

WHAT THE OLD MAN DOES is ALWAYS RIGHT …….. Hans Christian Andersen


WHO STOLE THE BIRD’S NEST? …….. L. Maria Child

THE FIRST SNOWFALL …….. James Russell Lowell



THE DARLING-NEEDLE …….. Hans Christian Andersen

THE POTATO …….. Thomas Moore



IN TIME’S SWING …….. Lucy Larcom

WHY THE SEA IS SALT …….. Mary Howitt


For Classification of Selections, see General Index at end of Volume X.


KAY AND GERDA AT PLAY AMONG THE FLOWEBS … (Color Plate) Arthur Henderson
AESOP (Halftone) ….. From Painting by Velasquez THE OWL ….. Herbert N. Rudeen
THE SPARROW AND THE EAGLE ….. Herbert N. Rudeen INFANT JOY ….. Lucille Enders
THE PASS KEY ….. Uncredited
YEARNING LOVE ….. Lucille Enders
HARTHOVER PLACE ….. Donn P. Crane ALL RAN AFTER TOM ….. Donn P. Crane
PORPOISES ….. Donn P. Crane
A LOBSTER ….. Donn P. Crane
THE FIGUREHEAD ….. Arthur Henderson “MY DEAR GOOD HUSBAND” ….. Herbert N. Rudeen THE FAIRIES OF CALDON-LOW ….. Iris Weddell White WHO STOLE THE BIRD’S NEST? ….. Herbert N. Rudeen “FATHER, WHO MAKES IT SNOW?” ….. Iris Weddell White “HELLO! I’M WET, LET ME IN” ….. Donn P. Crane “SORRY TO INCOMMODE YOU” ….. Donn P. Crane “PRAY SIR, WERE YOU MY MUG?” ….. Donn P. Crane “THOU HAST HAD THY SHARE OF LIFE” ….. Donn P. Crane HE CAST THE FLASK INTO THE STREAM ….. Donn P. Crane THE DWARF SHOOK THE DROPS INTO THE FLASK ….. Donn P. Crane MORDECAI IN THE KING’S GATE ….. Arthur Henderson HE PUT ON SACKCLOTH AND ASHES ….. Arthur Henderson THEN HAMAN WAS AFRAID ….. Arthur Henderson PLUTO SEIZED PROSERPINA ….. Arthur Henderson IN TIME’S SWING ….. Herbert N. Rudeen


Many centuries ago, more than six hundred years before Christ was born, there lived in Greece a man by the name of Aesop. We do not know very much about him, and no one can tell exactly what he wrote, or even that he ever wrote anything.

We know he was a slave and much wiser than his masters, but whether he was a fine, shapely man or a hunchback and a cripple we cannot be sure, for different people have written very differently about him.

No matter what he was or how he lived, many, many stories are still told about him, and the greater part of the fables we all like to read are said to have been written or told by him, and everybody still calls them Aesop’s fables.

Some of the stories told about him are curious indeed. Here are a few of them.

In those days men were sold as slaves in the market, as cattle are sold now. One day Aesop and two other men were put up at auction. Xanthus, a wealthy man, wanted a slave, and he said to the men: “What can you do?”

The two men bragged large about the things they could do, for both wanted a rich master like Xanthus.

“But what can you do?” said Xanthus, turning to Aesop.

“The others can do so much and so well,” said Aesop, “that there’s nothing left for me to do.”

“Will you be honest and faithful if I buy you?”

“I shall be that whether you buy me or not.”

“Will you promise not to run away?”

“Did you ever hear,” answered Aesop, “of a bird in a cage that promised to stay in it?”

Xanthus was so much pleased with the answers that he bought Aesop.

Some time afterward, Xanthus, wishing to give a dinner to some of his friends, ordered Aesop to furnish the finest feast that money could buy.

The first course Aesop supplied was of tongues cooked in many ways, and the second of tongues and the third and the fourth. Then Xanthus called sharply to Aesop:

“Did I not tell you, sirrah, to provide the choicest dainties that money could procure?”

“And what excels the tongue?” replied Aesop. “It is the great channel of learning and philosophy. By this noble organ everything wise and good is accomplished.”

The company applauded Aesop’s wit, and good humor was restored.

“Well,” said Xanthus to the guests, “pray do me the favor of dining with me again to-morrow. And if this is your best,” continued he turning to Aesop, “pray, to-morrow let us have some of the worst meat you can find.”

The next day, when dinner-time came, the guests were assembled. Great was their astonishment and great the anger of Xanthus at finding that again nothing but tongue was put upon the table.

“How, sir,” said Xanthus, “should tongues be the best of meat one day, and the worst another?”

“What,” replied Aesop, “can be worse than the tongue? What wickedness is there under the sun that it has not a part in? Treasons, violence, injustice, and fraud are debated and resolved upon by the tongue. It is the ruin of empires, of cities, and of private friendships.”

* * * * *

At another time Xanthus very foolishly bet with a scholar that he could drink the sea dry. Alarmed, he consulted Aesop.

“To perform your wager,” said Aesop, “you know is impossible, but I will show you how to evade it.”

They accordingly met the scholar, and went with him and a great number of people to the seashore, where Aesop had provided a table with several large glasses upon it, and men who stood around with ladles with which to fill the glasses.

Xanthus, instructed by Aesop, gravely took his seat at the table. The beholders looked on with astonishment, thinking that he must surely have lost his senses.

“My agreement,” said he, turning to the scholar, “is to drink up the sea. I said nothing of the rivers and streams that are everywhere flowing into it. Stop up these, and I will proceed to fulfill my engagement.”

* * * * *

It is said that at one time when Xanthus started out on a long journey, he ordered his servants to get all his things together and put them up into bundles so that they could carry them.

When everything had been neatly tied up, Aesop went to his master and begged for the lightest bundle. Wishing to please his favorite slave, the master told Aesop to choose for himself the one he preferred to carry. Looking them all over, he picked up the basket of bread and started off with it on the journey. The other servants laughed at his foolishness, for that basket was the heaviest of all.

When dinner-time came, Aesop was very tired, for he had had a difficult time to carry his load for the last few hours. When they had rested, however, they took bread from the basket, each taking an equal share. Half the bread was eaten at this one meal, and when supper-time came the rest of it disappeared.

For the whole remainder of the journey, which ran far into the night and was over rough roads, up and down hills, Aesop had nothing to carry, while the loads of the other servants grew heavier and heavier with every step.

The people of the neighborhood in which Aesop was a slave one day observed him attentively looking over some poultry in a pen that was near the roadside; and those idlers, who spent more time in prying into other people’s affairs than in adjusting their own, asked why he bestowed his attention on those animals.

“I am surprised,” replied Aesop, “to see how mankind imitate this foolish animal.”

“In what?” asked the neighbors.

“Why, in crowing so well and scratching so poorly,” rejoined Aesop.

[Illustration: “AESOP” Painting by Valasquez, Madrid ]

Fables, you know, are short stories, usually about animals and things, which are made to talk like human beings. Fables are so bright and interesting in themselves that both children and grown-ups like to read them. Children see first the story, and bye and bye, after they have thought more about it and have grown older, they see how much wisdom there is in the fables.

For an example, there is the fable of the crab and its mother. They were strolling along the sand together when the mother said, “Child, you are not walking gracefully. You should walk straight forward, without twisting from side to side.”

“Pray, mother,” said the young one, “if you will set the example, I will follow it.”

Perhaps children will think the little crab was not very respectful, but the lesson is plain that it is always easier to give good advice than it is to follow it.

There is another, which teaches us to be self-reliant and resourceful. A crow, whose throat was parched and dry with thirst, saw a pitcher in the distance. In great joy he flew to it, but found that it held only a little water, and even that was too near the bottom to be reached, for all his stooping and straining.

Next he tried to overturn the pitcher, thinking that he would at least be able to catch some of the water as it trickled out. But this he was not strong enough to do. In the end he found some pebbles lying near, and by dropping them one by one into the pitcher, he managed at last to raise the water up to the very brim, and thus was able to quench his thirst.


From The Arabian Nights

Once upon a time a Falcon stooped from its flight and seized a Partridge; but the latter freed himself from the seizer, and entering his nest, hid himself there. The Falcon followed apace and called out to him, saying:

“O imbecile, I saw you hungry in the field and took pity on you; so I picked up for you some grain and took hold of you that you might eat; but you fled from me, and I know not the cause of your flight, except it were to put upon me a slight. Come out, then, and take the grain I have brought you to eat, and much good may it do you, and with your health agree.”

When the Partridge heard these words he believed, and came out to the Falcon, who thereupon struck his talons into him and seized him.

Cried the Partridge, “Is this that which you told me you had brought me from the field, and whereof you told me to eat, saying, ‘Much good may it do you, and with your health agree?’ Thou hast lied to me, and may God cause what you eat of my flesh to be a killing poison in your maw!”

When the Falcon had eaten the Partridge his feathers fell off, his strength failed, and he died on the spot. Know that he who digs for his brother a pit, himself soon falls into it.


“My most solemn and wise bird,” said Minerva one day to her Owl, “I have hitherto admired you for your profound silence; but I have now a mind to have you show your ability in discourse, for silence is only admirable in one who can, when he pleases, triumph by his eloquence and charm with graceful conversation.”

The Owl replied by solemn grimaces, and made dumb signs. Minerva bade him lay aside that affectation and begin; but he only shook his wise head and remained silent. Thereupon Minerva commanded him to speak immediately, on pain of her displeasure.

The Owl, seeing no remedy, drew up close to Minerva, and whispered very softly in her ear this sage remark: “Since the world is grown so depraved, they ought to be esteemed most wise who have eyes to see and wit to hold their tongues.”


From The Arabian Nights

Once a Sparrow, flitting over a flock of sheep, saw a great Eagle swoop down upon a newly weaned lamb and carry it up in his claws and fly away. Thereupon the Sparrow clapped his wings and said, “I will do even as this Eagle did.”

So he waxed proud in his own conceit, and, mimicking one greater than he, flew down forthright and lighted on the back of a fat ram with a thick fleece, that was matted by his lying till it was like woolen felt. As soon as the Sparrow pounced upon the sheep’s back he flopped his wings to fly away, but his feet became tangled in the wool, and, however hard he tried, he could not set himself free.

While all this was passing, the shepherd was looking on, having seen what happened first with the Eagle and afterward with the Sparrow. So in a great rage he came up to the wee birdie and seized him. He plucked out his wing feathers and carried him to his children.

“What is this?” asked one of them.

“This,” he answered, “is he that aped a greater than himself and came to grief.”

The Old Man and Death

A poor and toil-worn peasant, bent with years and groaning beneath the weight of a heavy fagot of firewood which he carried, sought, weary and sore-footed, to gain his distant cottage. Unable to bear the weight of his burden longer, he let it fall by the roadside, and lamented his hard fate.

“What pleasure have I known since I first drew breath in this sad world? From dawn to dusk it has been hard work and little pay! At home is an empty cupboard, a discontented wife, and lazy and disobedient children! O Death! O Death! come and free me from my troubles!”

At once the ghostly King of Terrors stood before him and asked, “What do you want with me?”

“Noth-nothing,” stammered the frightened peasant, “except for you to help me put again upon my shoulders the bundle of fagots I have let fall!”


By William Blake

“I have no name;
I am but two days old.”
“What shall I call thee?”
“I happy am;
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty Joy!
Sweet Joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile:
I sing the while,
“Sweet joy befall thee!”


By George Macdonald

Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into the here.

Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin? Some of the starry spikes left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high? A soft hand stroked it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose? Something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss? Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get that pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands? Love made itself into hooks and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things? From the same box as the cherub’s wings.

How did they all just come to be you? God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear? God thought of YOU, and so I am here.


Adapted from the Japanese

Once upon a time there was a man who worked from early morning till late at night cutting building stones out of the solid rock. His pay was small and hardly enough to keep his wife and children from starving. So the poor stonecutter grew discontented and sighed and moaned bitterly over his hard lot.

One day when his work seemed harder than usual and his troubles more than he could bear he cried out in despair:

“Oh, I wish I could be rich and lie at ease on a soft couch with a curtain of red silk!”

Just then a beautiful fairy floated down from heaven, and softly said, “Thy wish is granted thee.” So the poor stonecutter found himself rich and powerful and resting easily on his silken couch with its red curtain. As he gazed out, however, he saw the king of the country ride by with many horsemen before and behind him, and with a great golden sunshade held over his head. It irritated the rich man to have no parasol over his head and to see another more powerful than himself, and in his discontentment he exclaimed, “Would that I were a king such as that one.”

Once again his good fairy appeared, waved his wand, and said, “It shall be as thou desirest.” Immediately the man was king, and before him and behind him rode his men-at-arms, and over his head was a golden sunshade. But elsewhere the sun shone fiercely down and dried up the vegetation with its terrible heat. It was reflected into the face of the king so that even the golden sunshade did not keep him from suffering. Once more he sighed discontentedly, “If I could only be the sun!”


Almost before he spoke he found himself to be the sun, and he began joyously to send his fiery rays above, below and everywhere roundabout him. He scorched the grass of the earth, and burned the faces of its rulers and felt his power unlimited until a little cloud placed itself between him and the earth and threw back his scorching rays. It still angered him to find something more powerful than himself, and he wished aloud that he might be the cloud.


Again his wish was granted, and he found himself floating where he wished through the sky. He ran between the sun and the earth and sheltered the latter so that the grass grew green, the trees leaved out again, and everything rejoiced in a new growth. Then he sent great floods of rain upon the earth, filled the rivers till they overflowed, swept homes and herds into the sea, and destroyed the works of man in every direction. But try as he would he could not move one great rock that stood right across his way. Though he sent waters that roared around its base and pushed hard against it, yet it remained immovable. Such a failure angered the man-cloud, and again he cried out, “Would that I were a rock, so strong and immovable is it.”

This time, also, his guardian angel interfered, and he found himself a rock that withstood the sun, the wind and the waters. But then, one day, there came along a rude stonecutter, who with chisel and heavy hammer began to cut the great rock into small, regular building stones. “What does this mean?” cried the rock. “Has this man power to cut me in pieces? Surely I am weaker than he! Would I were a stonecutter!”

“As thou wishest, so shall it be,” said his guardian angel, and immediately he was again a stonecutter, working hard as before and for small wages, but happy and contented with his lot.


By Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm

Hans’s mother asked, “Whither are you going, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s,” replied he.

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I will take care; good-bye, mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day,” said he.

“Good day,” replied Grethel. “What treasure do you bring today?”

“I bring nothing. Have you anything to give?”

Grethel presented Hans with a needle.

“Good-bye,” said he.

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans took the needle, stuck it in a load of hay, and walked home behind the wagon.

“Good evening, mother.”

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s.”

“And what have you given her?”

“Nothing; she has given me something.”

“What has Grethel given you?”

“A needle,” said Hans.

“And where have you put it?”

“In the load of hay.”

“Then you have behaved stupidly, Hans; you should put needles on your coat sleeve.”

“To behave better, do nothing at all,” thought Hans.

“Whither are you going, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I will take care; good-bye mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day,” said he.

“Good day, Hans. What treasure do you bring?”

“I bring nothing. Have you anything to give?”

Grethel gave Hans a knife.

“Good-bye, Grethel.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans took the knife, put it in his sleeve and went home.

“Good evening, mother.”

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s.”

“And what did you take to her?”

“I took nothing; she has given something to me.”

“And what did she give you?”

“A knife,” said Hans.

“And where have you put it?”

“In my sleeve.”

“Then you have behaved foolishly again, Hans; you should put knives in your pocket.”

“To behave better, do nothing at all,” thought Hans.

“Whither are you going, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I will take care; good-bye, mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day, Grethel.”

“Good day, Hans. What treasure do you bring?”

“I bring nothing; have you anything to give?”

Grethel gave Hans a young goat.

“Good-bye, Grethel.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans took the goat, tied its legs and put it in his pocket. Just as he reached home it was suffocated.

“Good evening, mother.”

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s.”

“And what did you take to her?”

“I took nothing; she gave to me.”

“And what did Grethel give you?”

“A goat.”

“Where did you put it, Hans?”

“In my pocket.”

“There you acted stupidly, Hans; you should have tied the goat with a rope.”

“To behave better, do nothing,” thought Hans.

“Whither away, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I will take care; good-bye, mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day,” said he.

“Good day, Hans. What treasure do you bring?”

“I have nothing. Have you anything to give?”

Grethel gave Hans a piece of bacon.

“Good-bye, Grethel.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans took the bacon, tied it with a rope, and swung it to and fro, so that the dogs came and ate it up. When he reached home he held the rope in his hand, but there was nothing on it.

“Good evening, mother,” said he.

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“What did you take her?”

“I took nothing; she gave to me.”

“And what did Grethel give you?”

“A piece of bacon,” said Hans.

“And where have you put it?”

“I tied it with a rope, swung it about, and the dogs came and ate it up.”

“There you acted stupidly, Hans; you should have carried the bacon on your head.”

“To behave better, do nothing,” thought Hans.

“Whither away, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I’ll take care; good-bye, mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day,” said he.

“Good day, Hans. What treasure do you bring?”

“I bring nothing. Have you anything to give?”

Grethel gave Hans a calf. “Good-bye,” said Hans. “Good-bye,” said Grethel.

Hans took the calf, set it on his head, and the calf scratched his face.

“Good evening, mother.”

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s.”

“What did you take to her?”

“I took nothing; she gave to me.”

“And what did Grethel give you?”

“A calf,” said Hans.

“And what did you do with it?”

“I set it on my head and it kicked my face.”

“Then you acted stupidly, Hans; you should have led the calf home and put it in the stall.”

“To behave better, do nothing,” thought Hans.

“Whither away, Hans?”

“To Grethel’s, mother.”

“Behave well, Hans.”

“I’ll take care; good-bye, mother.”

“Good-bye, Hans.”

Hans came to Grethel. “Good day,” said he.

“Good day, Hans. What treasure do you bring?”

“I bring nothing. Have you anything to give?”

Grethel said, “I will go with you, Hans.”

Hans tied a rope round Grethel, led her home, put her in the stall and made the rope fast; then he went to his mother.

“Good evening, mother.”

“Good evening, Hans. Where have you been?”

“To Grethel’s.”

“What did you take her?”

“I took nothing.”

“What did Grethel give you?”

“She gave nothing; she came with me.”

“And where have you left her, then?”

“I tied her with a rope, put her in the stall, and threw her some grass.”

“Then you have acted stupidly, Hans; you should have looked at her with friendly eyes.”

“To behave better, do nothing,” thought Hans; and then he went into the stall, and made sheep’s eyes at Grethel.

And after that Grethel became Hans’s wife.

The Brothers Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm, were very learned German scholars who lived during the first half of the nineteenth century. They were both professors at the University of Gottingen, and published many important works, among them a famous dictionary. In their own country it is, of course, these learned works which have given them much of their fame, but in other countries they are chiefly known for their Fairy Tales.

Most of these they did not themselves write; they simply collected and rewrote. They would hear of some old woman who was famous for telling stories remembered from childhood, and they would present themselves at her cottage to bribe or wheedle her into telling them her tales. Perhaps the promise that her words should appear in print would be enough to induce her to talk; perhaps hours would be wasted in trying to make her grow talkative, without success. At any rate, the Grimm brothers finally collected enough of these stories to make a big, fat book.


St. Louis Star Sayings

The first train leaves at 6 p. m.
For the land where the poppy blows. The mother is the engineer,
And the passenger laughs and crows.

The palace car is the mother’s arms;
The whistle a low, sweet strain.
The passenger winks and nods and blinks And goes to sleep on the train.

At 8 p. m. the next train starts
For the poppyland afar.
The summons clear falls on the ear, “All aboard for the sleeping car!”

But “What is the fare to poppyland?
I hope it is not too dear.”
The fare is this–a hug and a kiss, And it’s paid to the engineer.

So I ask of Him who children took
On His knee in kindness great:
“Take charge, I pray, of the trains each day That leave at six and eight.

“Keep watch of the passengers,” thus I pray, “For to me they are very dear;
And special ward, O gracious Lord,
O’er the gentle engineer.”


Once upon a time there lived a great lord who had many beautiful homes and who was fairly rolling in wealth. He had town houses and castles in the country, all filled with rich furniture and costly vessels of gold and silver. In spite of all his riches, however, nobody liked the man, because of his ugly and frightful appearance. Perhaps people could have endured his face if it had not been for a great blue beard that frightened the women and children until they fled at his very approach.

Now, it so happened that there was living near one of his castles a fine lady of good breeding who had two beautiful daughters. Bluebeard, for such was the name by which he was known through all the country, saw the two daughters and determined to have one of them for his wife. So he proposed to the mother for one, but left it to her to decide which of the daughters she would give him.

Neither of the daughters was willing to marry him, for neither could make up her mind to live all her life with such a hideous blue beard, however rich the owner might be. Moreover, they had heard, and the report was true, that the man had been married several times before, and no one knew what had become of his wives.

In order to become better acquainted with the women, Bluebeard invited them and their mother to visit him at one of his castles in the country. They accepted the invitation, and for nine delightful days they hunted and fished over his vast estates, and for nine wonderful evenings they feasted and danced in his magnificent rooms.

Everything went so much to their liking, and Bluebeard himself was so gracious, that the younger girl began to think that after all his beard was not so very blue; and so, soon after their return to town, the mother announced that the younger daughter was ready to marry him. In a few days the ceremony was performed, and Bluebeard took his wife to one of his castles, where they spent a happy month.

At the end of that time Bluebeard told his wife that he was obliged to make a long journey and would be away from home about six weeks. He added that he hoped his wife would enjoy herself, and that he wished her to send for her friends if she wanted them, and to spend his money as freely as she liked in their entertainment.

“Here,” he said, “are the keys of my two great storerooms, where you will find everything you need for the house; here are the keys of the sideboards, where you will find all the gold and silver plate for the table; here are the keys of my money chests, where you will find gold and silver in abundance [Illustration: a key] and many caskets containing beautiful jewels which you have not yet seen; and here is a pass key which will open all the rooms in the castle excepting one.

“But here is a little key which fits the lock in the door of the little room at the end of the long gallery on the first floor. This little room you must not enter. Open everything else, go everywhere you like, treat everything as though it was your own; but I strictly forbid you to enter the little room. If you even so much as put the key in the lock you may expect to suffer direfully from my anger.”

The young wife promised faithfully to observe her husband’s wishes to the letter, and he, pleased with the readiness with which she consented to obey him, kissed her fondly, sprang into his carriage and departed on his journey.


No sooner had Bluebeard left than the friends of his wife began to arrive. Many of them did not wait for an invitation, but came as soon as they heard that her husband had gone with his terrible blue beard. Then was there great merrymaking all over the house, and it was overrun from top to bottom with the excited guests, for all were consumed with the desire to see the treasures the castle contained. These were truly wonderful. Rich tapestries hanging on the walls, great mirrors that reflected the whole image of a person from head to foot, wonderful pictures in frames of pure gold, gold and silver vessels of graceful shape and elegant design, cabinets filled with curiosities, lights gleaming with crystals, caskets filled with sparkling diamonds and other precious stones without number, all served to charm and delight the guests so that they had little time to think about their hostess.

The wife, however, soon wearied of the splendor of her home, for she kept continually thinking about the little room at the end of the long gallery on the first floor. The more she thought about it the more curious she became, and finally, forgetting her good manners, she left her guests, slipped silently away from them, and in her excitement nearly fell the whole length of the secret stairway that led to the long gallery. Her courage did not fail her till she reached the door of the little room. Then she remembered how false she was to her trust, and hesitated. Her conscience, however, was soon silenced by her curiosity, and with a beating heart and trembling hand she pushed the little key into the lock, and the door flew open.

The shutters of the window in the little room were closed, and at first she could see nothing; but as her eyes became accustomed to the dim light she saw that clotted blood covered the floor, and that hanging from the walls by their long hair were the bloody heads of Bluebeard’s other wives, while on the floor lay their dead bodies.

When the young wife realized at what she was looking, the key fell from her shaking hand, her heart stopped beating, and she almost fell to the floor in horror and amazement. Recovering herself after a while, she stooped and picked up the key, locked the door and hurried back to her chamber. In vain she tried to compose herself and meet her guests again. She was too frightened to control herself, and when she looked at the little key of that awful little room at the end of the long gallery on the first floor, she saw that it was stained with blood. She wiped the key and wiped it, but the blood would not come off. She washed it, and scrubbed it with sand and freestone and brick dust, but the blood would not come off; or, if she did succeed in cleaning one side and turned the key over, there was blood on the other side, for it was a magic key which a fairy friend of Bluebeard’s had given him.

That night the wife was terrified to hear Bluebeard returning, though she tried to welcome him with every show of delight and affection. He explained his sudden change of plans by saying that he had met a friend on the road who told him that it was unnecessary for him to make the long journey, as the business he was intending to transact had been all done.

It was a very unhappy night she passed, but Bluebeard said nothing to disturb her until morning, and then he presently asked her for his keys. She gave them to him, but her hand trembled like an old woman’s. Bluebeard took the keys and looked them over carelessly.

“I see the key of the little room at the end of the long gallery on the first floor is not with the others. Where is it?”

“It must have fallen off in the drawer where I kept the keys,” she said.

“Please get it for me at once,” said Bluebeard, “as I wish to go to the room.”

The wife, as white as a sheet, and almost too faint to walk, went back to her chamber and returned, saying she could not find the key.

“But I must have it,” said Bluebeard; “go again and look more carefully for it. Certainly you cannot have lost it.”

So back to the chamber went the terrified woman, and, seeing no hope of escape, she carried the key down to her waiting husband.

Bluebeard took the key, and looking at it closely, said to his wife, “Why is this blood spot on the key?”

“I do not know,” said the wife, faintly.

“You do not know!” said Bluebeard. “Well, I know. You wanted to go to the little room. Very well; I shall see that you get there and take your place with the other ladies.”

In despair the young woman flung herself at his feet and begged for mercy, repenting bitterly of her curiosity. Bluebeard turned a deaf ear to all her entreaties and was not moved in the least by her piteous beauty.

“Hear me, madam. You must die at, once,” he said.

“But give me a little time to make my peace with God,” she said. “I must have time to say my prayers.”

“I will give you a quarter of an hour,” answered Bluebeard, “but not a minute more.”

He turned away, and she sent for her sister, who came quickly at her summons.

“Sister Ann,” she said excitedly, “go up to the top of the tower and see if my brothers are coming. They promised to come and see me to-day. If they are on the road make signs to them to hurry as fast as they can. I am in awful despair.”


Without waiting for an explanation the sister went to the top of the tower and began her watch.

She was scarcely seated when her sister called up, “Sister Annie, do you see any one coming?”

Annie answered, “I see nothing but the sun on the golden dust and the grass which grows green.”

In the meantime, Bluebeard, who had armed himself with a sharp, curved scimitar, stood at the foot of the stairs waiting for his wife to come down.

“Annie, sister Annie, do you see any one coming down the road?” cried the wife again.

“No, I see nothing but the golden dust.”

Then Bluebeard called out, “Come down quickly now, or I will come up to you.”

“One minute more,” replied his wife; and then she called softly, “Annie, sister Annie, do you see any one coming?”

“I think I see a cloud of dust a little to the left.”

“Do you think it is my brothers?” said the wife.

“Alas, no, dear sister, it is only a shepherd boy with his sheep.”

“Will you come down now, madam, or shall I fetch you?” Bluebeard bawled out.

“I am coming,–indeed I will come in just a minute.”

Then she called out for the last time, “Annie, sister Annie, do you see any one coming?”

“I see,” replied her sister, “two horsemen coming, but they are still a great way off.”

“Thank God,” cried the wife, “it is my brothers. Urge them to make haste.” Annie replied, “I am beckoning to them. They have seen my signals. They are galloping towards us.”

Now Bluebeard called out so loudly for his wife to come down that his voice shook the whole house. His lady, not daring to keep him waiting any longer, hurried down the stairs, her hair streaming about her shoulders and her face bathed in tears. She threw herself on the floor at his feet and begged for mercy.

“There is no use in your pleading,” said Bluebeard; “you must certainly die.”

Then, seizing her by the hair with his left hand, he raised his scimitar, preparing to strike off her head. The poor woman turned her eyes upon him and begged for a single moment to collect her thoughts. “No,” he said; “not a moment more. Commend yourself to God.”

He raised his arm to strike. Just at that moment there was a loud knocking at the gate, and Bluebeard stopped short in his bloody work. Two officers in uniform sprang into the castle and ran upon Bluebeard with drawn swords. The cruel man, seeing they were his wife’s brothers, tried to escape, but they followed and overtook him before he had gone twenty steps. Though he begged for mercy they listened not to a single word, but thrust him through and through with their swords.

The poor wife, who was almost as dead as her lord, could hardly rise to greet her brothers, but when she learned of Bluebeard’s death she quickly recovered and embraced them heartily.

Bluebeard, it was found, had no heirs, and so all his riches came into the possession of his wife. She was filled with thankfulness at her rescue, and in repentance for her curiosity she gave her sister a generous portion of her money, and established her brothers in high positions in the army.

As for herself, she afterwards married a worthy gentleman and lived happily to a hale old age. The beautiful town and country houses were constantly filled with guests, who, after they had convinced themselves that the cruel master was actually dead, made the rooms ring with their joyous laughter and talking.


Come hither, little restless one,
‘Tis time to shut your eyes;
The sun behind the hills has gone,
The stars are in the skies.

See, one by one they show their light– How clear and bright they look!
Just like the fireflies in the night, That shine beside the brook.

You do not hear the robins sing–
They’re snug within their nest;
And sheltered by their mother’s wing, The little chickens rest.

The dog, he will not frolic now,
But to his kennel creeps;
The turkeys climb upon the bough,
And e’en the kitten sleeps.

The very violets in their bed
Fold up their eyelids blue,
And you, my flower, must droop your head And close your eyelids, too.

Then join your little hands and pray
To God, who made the light,
To keep you holy all the day
And guard you through the night.


By Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was once upon a time a poor miller who had a beautiful daughter. It happened one day that he had an audience with the King, and in order to appear important he told the King that he had a daughter who could spin straw into gold.

“Now that’s a talent worth having,” said the King to the miller; “if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to my palace tomorrow, and I’ll test her.”

When the girl was brought to him, he led her into a room full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and spindle, and said, “Now set to work and spin all night, and if by early dawn you haven’t spun the straw into gold you shall die.” Then he closed the door behind him and left her alone inside.

So the poor miller’s daughter sat down. She hadn’t the least idea of how to spin straw into gold, and at last she began to cry. Suddenly the door opened, and in stepped a tiny little man who said: “Good evening, Miss Miller-maid; why are you crying so bitterly?”

“Oh!” answered the girl, “I have to spin straw into gold, and haven’t the slightest notion how it’s done.” “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” asked the manikin.

“My necklace,” replied the girl.

The little man took the necklace, sat down at the wheel, and whir, whir, whir, round it went until morning, when all the straw was spun away, and all the bobbins were full of gold.

[Illustration: Rumpelstiltzken spinning.]

As soon as the sun rose, the King came, and when he saw the gold he was astonished and delighted, but he wanted more of the precious metal. He had the miller’s daughter put into another room, much bigger than the first and full of straw, and bade her, if she valued her life, spin it all into gold before morning.

When the girl began to cry the tiny little man appeared again and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?”

“The ring from my finger,” answered the girl. The manikin took the ring, and when morning broke he had spun all the straw into glittering gold.

The King was pleased beyond measure at the sight, but he was still not satisfied, and he had the miller’s daughter brought into a yet bigger room full of straw, and said:

“You must spin all this away in the night; but if you succeed this time you shall become my wife.”

When the girl was alone, the little man appeared for the third time, and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw for you this third time?”

“I’ve nothing more to give,” answered the girl.

“Then promise me when you are Queen to give me your first child.”

Seeing no other way out of it, she promised the manikin, and he set to work.

When the King came in the morning, and found the gold, he straightway made her his wife. When a beautiful son was born to her, she did not think of the little man, till all of a sudden one day he stepped into her room and said: “Now give me what you promised.”

The Queen offered the little man all the riches in her kingdom if he would only leave her the child.

But the manikin said, “No, a living creature is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”

Then the Queen began to cry and sob so bitterly that the little man was sorry for her, and said, “I’ll give you three days, and if in that time you guess my name, you may keep your child.”

The Queen pondered the whole night over all the names she had ever heard, and sent messengers to scour the land, and to pick up far and near any names they should come across. When the little man arrived she began with Kasper, Melchior, Belshazzer, Sheepshanks, Cruickshanks, Spindleshanks, and so on through the long list. At every name the little man shook his head.

At last a messenger reported, “As I came upon a high hill round the corner of the wood, where the foxes and hares bid each other good-night, I saw a little house, and in front of the house burned a fire, and round the fire sprang the most grotesque little man, hopping on one leg and crying,

‘Tomorrow I brew, today I bake,
And then the child away I’ll take; For little deems my royal dame
That Rumpelstiltzken is my name!'”

When the little man stepped in afterward and asked his name she said, “Is your name Conrad?”


“Is your name, perhaps, Rumpelstiltzken?”

“Some demon has told you that, some demon has told you that,” screamed the little man, as he vanished into the air.


The following pretty little story comes from Japan, where it may be found in a collection of tales for children. A long time ago a young couple lived in the country with their only child, a beautiful little girl whom they loved tenderly. The names of the parents cannot be told now, for they have long been forgotten, but we know that the place where they lived was Matsuyana, in the province of Echigo.


Now it happened when the child was still very little that her father was obliged to go to the capital of the kingdom. As it was so long a journey, neither his wife nor his child could go with him and he departed alone, promising to bring them many pretty gifts on his return.

The mother had never been away from the neighborhood and was not able to get rid of some fear when she thought of the long journey her husband must take. At the same time, however, she could not but feel pride and satisfaction that it was her husband who was the first man in all that region to go to the rich city where the king and the nobles lived, and where there were so many beautiful and marvelous things to be seen.

At last, when the good wife knew that her husband would return, she dressed her child gaily in the best clothes she had and herself in the blue dress that she knew he liked very much.

It is not possible to describe the joy of the good woman when she saw her husband return safe and sound. The little one clapped her hands and laughed with delight when she saw the toys her father had brought, and he never tired of telling of the wonderful things he had seen on his journey and at the capital.

“To you,” he said to his wife, “I have brought a thing of wonderful power, that is called a mirror. Look and tell me what you see inside.” He handed her a little flat box of white wood, and when she opened it she saw a metal disk. One side was white as frosted silver and ornamented with birds and flowers raised from the surface; the other side was shining and polished like a window-pane. Into this the young wife gazed with pleasure and astonishment, for from the depths she saw looking out at her a smiling face with parted lips and animated eyes. “What do you see?” repeated the husband, charmed by her amazement and proud to prove that he had remembered her in his absence.

“I see a pretty young woman, who looks at me and moves her lips as if talking, and who wears–what a wonderful thing! a blue dress exactly like mine.”

“Silly one! What you see is your own sweet face,” replied the man, delighted to know that his wife did not recognize herself. “This circle of metal is called a looking-glass. In the city, every woman has one, although here in the country no one has seen one until to-day.”

Enchanted with her gift, the woman passed several days in wonderment, because, as I have said, this was the first time she had seen a mirror, and consequently the first time she had seen the image of her own pretty face. This wonderful jewel she thought too precious to be used every day, and the little box she guarded carefully, concealing it among her most precious treasures.

Years passed, the good man and his wife living happily through them all. The delight of his life was the child, who was growing into the living image of her dear mother, and who was so good and affectionate that everybody loved her.

The mother, remembering her own passing vanity over her beauty, kept the mirror hidden, to protect her daughter from any chance of vanity. As for the father, no one had spoken of the glass, and he had forgotten all about it. Thus the child grew up frank and guileless as her mother wished, knowing nothing of her own beauty or what the mirror might reflect.

But there came a day of terrible misfortune to this family, till then so happy. The devoted and loving mother fell sick, and although her daughter watched her with affectionate and tender devotion, the dear woman grew worse and worse each day.

When she knew that she must soon pass away, she was very sad, grieving for husband and daughter that she must leave behind on earth; and especially was she anxious for the future of her loving daughter. Calling the girl to the bedside, she said:


“My beloved child, you see that I am so very sick that soon I must die and leave you and your father alone. Promise me that when I am gone, every morning when you get up and every night when you go to bed, you will look into the mirror which your father gave me long ago. In it, you will see me smiling back at you, and you will know that I am ever near to protect you.”

Having spoken these words, she pointed to the place where the mirror was hidden, and the girl, with tears on her cheeks, promised to do as her mother wished. Tranquil and resigned, the mother then passed quickly away.

The dutiful daughter, never forgetting her mother’s wishes, each morning and evening took the glass from the place where it was hidden and gazed at it intently for a long time. There she saw the face of her dead mother brilliant and smiling, not pallid and ill as it was in her last days, but young and beautiful. To this vision each night she confided the troubles and little faults of the day, looking to it for help and encouragement in doing her duty. In this manner the girl grew up as if watched over and helped by a living presence, trying always to do nothing that could grieve or annoy her sainted mother. Her greatest pleasure was to look into the mirror and feel that she could truthfully say: “Mother, to-day I have been as you wished that I should be.”

After a time the father observed that his daughter looked lovingly into the mirror every morning and every evening, and appeared to converse with it. Wondering, he asked her the cause of her strange behavior. The girl replied:

“Father, I look every day into the glass to see my dear mother and to speak with her.”

She then related to him the last wishes of her dying mother, and assured him that she had never failed to comply with them.

Wondering at such simplicity and loving obedience, the father shed tears of pity and affection. Nor did he ever find the heart to explain to the loving daughter that the image she saw in the mirror was but the reflection of her own beautiful face. Thus, by the pure white bond of her filial love, each day the charming girl grew more and more like her dead mother.


[Illustration: YEARNING LOVE]

Light blue eyes:
Flaxen hair;
Rosy cheeks–
Dimples there!
These are Baby’s.

Pudgy fists;
Ruddy toes;
Kissy lips–
Mother knows!
These are Baby’s.

Cooing voice;
Winning smiles;
Pleading arms–
Wanton wiles!
These are Baby’s.

Yearning love;
Growing fears;
Grief and worry–
All the years.
These are Mother’s.


By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once upon a time there lived a very rich man, and a king besides, whose name was Midas; and he had a little daughter whom nobody but myself ever heard of, and whose name I either never knew or have entirely forgotten. So, because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to call her Marygold.

This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything else in the world. He valued his royal crown chiefly because it was composed of that precious metal. If he loved anything better or half so well, it was the one little maiden who played so merrily around her father’s footstool. But the more Midas loved his daughter, the more did he desire and seek for wealth. He thought, foolish man! that the best thing he could possibly do for this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest pile of yellow, glistening coin that had ever been heaped together since the world was made. Thus he gave all his thoughts and all his time to this one purpose. If he ever happened to gaze for an instant at the gold-tinted clouds of sunset, he wished that they were real gold and that they could be squeezed safely into his strong box.

When little Marygold ran to meet him with a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, he used to say, “Pooh, pooh, child! If these flowers were as golden as they look, they would be worth the plucking!”

And yet in his earlier days, before he was so entirely possessed with this insane desire for riches, King Midas had shown a great taste for flowers. He had planted a garden in which grew the biggest and beautifulest and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw or smelled. These roses were still growing in the garden, as large, as lovely, and as fragrant as when Midas used to pass whole hours in gazing at them and inhaling their perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all, it was only to calculate how much the garden would be worth if each of the innumerable rose-petals were a thin plate of gold. And though he once was fond of music (in spite of an idle story about his ears, which were said to resemble those of an ass), the only music for poor Midas now was the chink of one coin against another.

At length (as people always grow more and more foolish unless they take care to grow wiser and wiser) Midas had got to be so exceedingly unreasonable that he could scarcely bear to see or touch any object that was not gold. He made it his custom, therefore, to pass a large portion of every day in a dark and dreary apartment underground, at the basement of his palace. It was here that he kept his wealth. To this dismal hole- -for it was little better than a dungeon–Midas betook himself whenever he wanted to be particularly happy. Here, after carefully locking the door, he would take a bag of gold coin, or a gold cup as big as a washbowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck measure of gold dust, and bring it from the obscure corners of the room into the one bright and narrow sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like window. He valued the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure would not shine without its help. And then would he reckon over the coins in the bag, toss up the bar and catch it as it came down, sift the gold dust through his fingers, look at the funny image of his own face as reflected in the burnished circumference of the cup, and whisper to himself, “O Midas, rich King Midas, what a happy man art thou!” But it was laughable to see how the image of his face kept grinning at him out of the polished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware of his foolish behavior, and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of him.

Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he was not yet quite so happy as he might be. The very tip-top of enjoyment would never be reached unless the whole world were to become his treasure-room and be filled with yellow metal which should be all his own.

Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as you are that in the old, old times, when King Midas was alive, a great many things came to pass which we should consider wonderful if they were to happen in our own day and country. And, on the other hand, a great many things take place nowadays which seem not only wonderful to us, but at which the people of old times would have stared their eyes out. On the whole, I regard our own times as the stranger of the two; but, however that may be, I must go on with my story.


Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure-room one day as usual, when he perceived a shadow fall over the heaps of gold, and, looking suddenly up, what should he behold but the figure of a stranger standing in the bright and narrow sunbeam! It was a young man with a cheerful and ruddy face. Whether it was the imagination of King Midas threw a yellow tinge over everything, or whatever the cause might be, he could not help fancying that the smile with which the stranger regarded him had a kind of golden radiance in it. Certainly, although his figure intercepted the sunshine, there was now a brighter gleam upon all the piled-up treasures than before. Even the remotest corners had their share of it, and were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with tips of flame and sparkles of fire.

As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key in the lock, and that no mortal strength could possibly break into his treasure-room, he of course concluded that his visitor must be something more than mortal. It is no matter about telling you who he was. In those days, when the earth was comparatively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the resort of beings endowed with supernatural powers, who used to interest themselves in the joys and sorrows of men, women, and children half playfully and half seriously. Midas had met such beings before now, and was not sorry to meet one of them again. The stranger’s aspect, indeed, was so good-humored and kindly, if not beneficent, that it would have been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief. It was far more probable that he came to do Midas a favor. What could that favor be unless to multiply his heaps of treasure?

The stranger gazed about the room, and when his lustrous smile had glistened upon all the golden objects that were there, he turned again to Midas.

“You are a wealthy man, friend Midas,” he observed. “I doubt whether any other four walls on earth contain so much gold as you have contrived to pile up in this room.”

“I have done pretty well–pretty well,” answered Midas in a discontented tone. “But, after all, it is but a trifle when you consider that it has taken me my whole life to get it together. If one could live a thousand years, he might have time to grow rich.”

“What!” exclaimed the stranger. “Then you are not satisfied?”

Midas shook his head.

“And pray what would satisfy you?” asked the stranger. “Merely for the curiosity of the thing, I should be glad to know.”

Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment that this stranger, with such a golden luster in his good-humored smile, had come hither with both the power and the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes. Now, therefore, was the fortunate moment when he had but to speak and obtain whatever possible or seemingly impossible thing it might come into his head to ask.

So he thought, and thought, and thought, and heaped up one golden mountain upon another in his imagination, without being able to imagine them big enough. At last a bright idea occurred to King Midas. It seemed really as bright as the glistening metal which he loved so much.

Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in the face.

“Well, Midas,” observed his visitor, “I see that you have at length hit upon something that will satisfy you. Tell me your wish.”

“It is only this,” replied Midas. “I am weary of collecting my treasures with so much trouble, and beholding the heap so diminutive after I have done my best. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to gold.”

The stranger’s smile grew so very broad that it seemed to fill the room like an outburst of the sun gleaming into a shadowy dell where the yellow autumnal leaves–for so looked the lumps and particles of gold– lie strewn in the glow of light.

“The Golden Touch!” exclaimed he. “You certainly deserve credit, friend Midas, for striking out so brilliant a conception. But are you quite sure that this will satisfy you?”

“How could it fail?” said Midas.

“And will you never regret the possession of it?”

“What could induce me?” asked Midas. “I ask nothing else to render me perfectly happy.”

“Be it as you wish, then,” replied the stranger, waving his hand in token of farewell. “To-morrow at sunrise you will find yourself gifted with the Golden Touch.”

The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly bright, and Midas involuntarily closed his eyes. On opening them again he beheld only one yellow sunbeam in the room, and all around him the glistening of the precious metal which he had spent his life in hoarding up.

Whether Midas slept as usual that night the story does not say. Asleep or awake, however, his mind was probably in the state of a child’s to whom a beautiful new plaything has been promised in the morning. At any rate, day had hardly peeped over the hills when King Midas was broad awake, and stretching his arms out of bed, began to touch the objects that were within reach. He was anxious to prove whether the Golden Touch had really come, according to the stranger’s promise. So he laid his finger on a chair by the bedside and on various other things, but was grievously disappointed to perceive that they remained of exactly the same substance as before. Indeed, he felt very much afraid that he had only dreamed about the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter had been making game of him. And what a miserable affair would it be if, after all his hopes, Midas must content himself with what little gold he could scrape together by ordinary means instead of creating it by a touch.

All this while it was only the gray of the morning, with but a streak of brightness along the edge of the sky, where Midas could not see it. He lay in a very disconsolate mood, regretting the downfall of his hopes, and kept growing sadder and sadder until the earliest sunbeam shone through the window and gilded the ceiling over his head. It seemed to Midas that this bright yellow sunbeam was reflected in rather a singular way on the white covering of the bed. Looking more closely, what was his astonishment and delight when he found that this linen fabric had been transmuted to what seemed a woven texture of the purest and brightest gold! The Golden Touch had come to him with the first sunbeam!

Midas started up in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran about the room grasping at everything that happened to be in his way. He seized one of the bed-posts, and it became immediately a fluted golden pillar. He pulled aside a window-curtain in order to admit a clear spectacle of the wonders which he was performing, and the tassel grew heavy in his hand– a mass of gold. He took up a book from the table. At his first touch it assumed the appearance of such a splendidly bound and gilt-edged volume as one often meets with nowadays, but on running his fingers through the leaves, behold! it was a bundle of thin golden plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had grown illegible. He hurriedly put on his clothes, and was enraptured to see himself in a magnificent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flexibility and softness, although it burdened him a little with its weight. He drew out his handkerchief, which little Marygold had hemmed for him. That was likewise gold, with the dear child’s neat and pretty stitches running all along the border in gold thread!

Somehow or other, this last transformation did not quite please King Midas. He would rather that his little daughter’s handiwork should have remained just the same as when she climbed his knee and put it into his hand.

But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle. Midas now took his spectacles from his pocket, and put them on his nose in order that he might see more distinctly what he was about. In those days spectacles for common people had not been invented, but were already worn by kings, else how could Midas have had any? To his great perplexity, however, excellent as the glasses were, he discovered that he could not possibly see through them. But this was the most natural thing in the world, for on taking them off the transparent crystals turned out to be plates of yellow metal, and of course were worthless as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It struck Midas as rather inconvenient that, with all his wealth, he could never again be rich enough to own a pair of serviceable spectacles.

“It is no great matter, nevertheless,” said he to himself, very philosophically. “We cannot expect any great good without its being accompanied with some small inconvenience. The Golden Touch is worth the sacrifice of a pair of spectacles at least, if not of one’s very eyesight. My own eyes will serve for ordinary purposes, and little Marygold will soon be old enough to read to me.”

Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune that the palace seemed not sufficiently spacious to contain him. He therefore went downstairs and smiled on observing that the balustrade of the staircase became a bar of burnished gold as his hand passed over it in his descent.

He lifted the doorlatch (it was brass only a moment ago, but golden when his fingers quitted it) and emerged into the garden. Here, as it happened, he found a great number of beautiful roses in full bloom and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. Very delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze. Their delicate blush was one of the fairest sights in the world, so gentle, and so full of sweet tranquility did these roses seem to be.

But Midas knew a way to make them far more precious, according to his way of thinking, than roses had ever been before. So he took great pains in going from bush to bush, and exercised his magic touch most indefatigably, until every individual flower and bud, and even the worms at the heart of some of them, were changed to gold. By the time this good work was completed, King Midas was summoned to breakfast, and, as the morning air had given him an excellent appetite, he made haste back to the palace.

What was usually a king’s breakfast in the days of Midas I really do not know and cannot stop now to investigate. To the best of my belief, however, on this particular morning the breakfast consisted of hot cakes, some nice little brook trout, roasted potatoes, fresh boiled eggs, and coffee for King Midas himself, and a bowl of bread and milk for his daughter Marygold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set before a king, and, whether he had it or not, King Midas could not have had a better.

Little Marygold had not yet made her appearance. Her father ordered her to be called, and, seating himself at the table, awaited the child’s coming in order to begin his own breakfast. To do Midas justice, he really loved his daughter, and loved her so much the more this morning on account of the good fortune which had befallen him. It was not a great while before he heard her coming along the passageway crying bitterly. This circumstance surprised him, because Marygold was one of the cheerfulest little people whom you would see in a summer’s day, and hardly shed a thimbleful of tears in a twelvemonth. When Midas heard her sobs he determined to put little Marygold into better spirits by an agreeable surprise; so, leaning across the table, he touched his daughter’s bowl (which was a china one with pretty figures all around it) and transmuted it to gleaming gold.

Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened the door and showed herself with her apron at her eyes, still sobbing as if her heart would break.

“How now, my little lady!” cried Midas. “What is the matter with you this morning?”

Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes, held out her hand, in which was one of the roses which Midas had so recently transmuted.

“Beautiful!” exclaimed her father. “And what is there in this magnificent golden rose to make you cry?”

“Ah, dear father!” answered the child, as well as her sobs would let her, “it is not beautiful, but the ugliest flower that ever grew. As soon as I was dressed I ran into the garden to gather some roses for you, because I know you like them, and like them the better when gathered by your little daughter. But–oh dear! dear me!–what do you think has happened? Such a misfortune! All the beautiful roses, that smelled so sweetly and had so many lovely blushes, are blighted and spoiled! They are grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no longer any fragrance. What can be the matter with them?”

“Pooh, my dear little girl! pray don’t cry about it!” said Midas, who was ashamed to confess that he himself had wrought the change which so greatly afflicted her. “Sit down and eat your bread and milk. You will find it easy enough to exchange a golden rose like that, which will last hundreds of years, for an ordinary one, which would wither in a day.”

“I don’t care for such roses as this!” cried Marygold, tossing it contemptuously away. “It has no smell, and the hard petals prick my nose.”

The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied with her grief for the blighted roses that she did not even notice the wonderful transmutation of her china bowl. Perhaps this was all the better, for Marygold was accustomed to take pleasure in looking at the queer figures and strange trees and houses that were painted on the circumference of the bowl, and these ornaments were now entirely lost in the yellow hue of the metal.

Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee; and, as a matter of course, the coffeepot, whatever metal it may have been when he took it up, was gold when he set it down. He thought to himself that it was rather an extravagant style of splendor, in a king of his simple habits, to breakfast off a service of gold, and began to be puzzled with the difficulty of keeping his treasures safe. The cupboard and the kitchen would no longer be a secure place of deposit for articles so valuable as golden bowls and coffeepots.

Amid these thoughts he lifted a spoonful of coffee to his lips, and sipping it, was astonished to perceive that the instant his lips touched the liquid it became molten gold, and the next moment hardened into a lump.

“Ha!” exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.

“What is the matter, father?” asked little Marygold, gazing at him with the tears still standing in her eyes.

“Nothing, child, nothing,” said Midas. “Eat your milk before it gets quite cold.”

He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and, by way of experiment, touched its tail with his finger. To his horror, it was immediately transmuted from an admirably fried brook trout into a gold fish, though not one of those gold fishes which people often keep in glass globes as ornaments for the parlor. No; but it was really a metallic fish, and looked as if it had been very cunningly made by the nicest goldsmith in the world. Its little bones were now golden wires, its fins and tail were thin plates of gold, and there were the marks of the fork in it, and all the delicate, frothy appearance of a nicely fried fish exactly imitated in metal. A very pretty piece of work, as you may suppose; only King Midas, just at that moment, would much rather have had a real trout in his dish than this elaborate and valuable imitation of one.

“I don’t quite see,” thought he to himself, “how I am to get any breakfast.”

He took one of the smoking hot cakes, and had scarcely broken it when, to his cruel mortification, though a moment before it had been of the whitest wheat, it assumed the yellow hue of Indian meal. To say the truth? if it had really been a hot Indian cake Midas would have prized it a good deal more than he now did, when its solidity and increased weight made him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg, which immediately underwent a change similar to those of the trout and the cake. The egg, indeed, might have been mistaken for one of those which the famous goose in the storybook was in the habit of laying; but King Midas was the only goose that had had anything to do with the matter.

“Well, this is a quandary!” thought he, leaning back in his chair and looking quite enviously at little Marygold, who was now eating her bread and milk with great satisfaction. “Such a costly breakfast before me, and nothing that can be eaten!”

Hoping that, by dint of great dispatch, he might avoid what he now felt to be a considerable inconvenience, King Midas next snatched a hot potato, and attempted to cram it into his mouth and swallow it in a hurry. But the Golden Touch was too nimble for him. He found his mouth full, not of mealy potato, but of solid metal, which so burned his tongue that he roared aloud, and, jumping up from the table, began to dance and stamp about the room both with pain and affright.

“Father, dear father!” cried little Marygold, who was a very affectionate child, “pray what is the matter? Have you burned your mouth?”

“Ah, dear child,” groaned Midas dolefully, “I don’t know what is to become of your poor father.”

And truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of such a pitiable case in all your lives? Here was literally the richest breakfast that could be set before a king, and its very richness made it absolutely good for nothing. The poorest laborer sitting down to his crust of bread and cup of water was far better off than King Midas, whose delicate food was really worth its weight in gold. And what was to be done? Already, at breakfast, Midas was excessively hungry. Would he be less so by dinner-time? And how ravenous would be his appetite for supper, which must undoubtedly consist of the same sort of indigestible dishes as those now before him! How many days, think you, would he survive a continuance of this rich fare?

These reflections so troubled wise King Midas that he began to doubt whether, after all, riches are the one desirable thing in the world, or even the most desirable. But this was only a passing thought. So fascinated was Midas with the glitter of the yellow metal that he would still have refused to give up the Golden Touch for so paltry a consideration as a breakfast. Just imagine what a price for one meal’s victuals! It would have been the same as paying millions and millions of money (and as many millions more as would take forever to reckon up) for some fried trout, an egg, a potatoes a hot cake, and a cup of coffee.

“It would be quite too dear,” thought Midas.

Nevertheless, so great was his hunger and the perplexity of his situation that he again groaned aloud, and very grievously, too. Our pretty Marygold could endure it no longer. She sat a moment gazing at her father and trying with all the might of her little wits to find out what was the matter with him. Then, with a sweet and sorrowful impulse to comfort him, she started from her chair, and, running to Midas, threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He bent down and kissed her. He felt that his little daughter’s love was worth a thousand times more than he had gained by the Golden Touch.

“My precious, precious Marygold!” cried he.

But Marygold made no answer.

Alas, what had he done? How fatal was the gift which the stranger bestowed! The moment the lips of Midas touched Marygold’s forehead a change had taken place. Her sweet, rosy face, so full of affection as it had been, assumed a glittering yellow color, with yellow tear-drops congealing on her cheeks. Her beautiful brown ringlets took the same tint. Her soft and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within her father’s encircling arms. Oh, terrible misfortune! The victim of his insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was a human child no

You may also like: