MARY CATHERINE JUDD Principal of the Lincoln School Minneapolis Minn.
ANGUS MAC DONALL with drawings entirely from classic sources
The very cordial reception given this little book by teachers and children, both in school and out of school, has tempted me carefully to revise the stories, omitting some and adding others, in the hope of making the book still more welcome and more helpful. The illustrations in the present edition are all from classic sources, and reproduce for the reader something of the classic idea and the classic art.
The book was originally prepared as an aid in Nature Study, and this thought has been retained in the present edition. By reading these myths the child will gain in interest and sympathy for the life of beast, bird, and tree; he will learn to recognize those constellations which have been as friends to the wise men of many ages. Such an acquaintance will broaden the child's life and make him see more quickly the true, the good, and the beautiful in the world about him.
MARY CATHERINE JUDD.
Minneapolis, October, 1901.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How the Horses of the Sun Ran Away Greek Woden, God of the Northern Sky Norse Jupiter, God of the Southern Sky Roman Diana, Queen of the Moon Greek Jack and Jill on the Moon Mountains Norse The Man in the Moon German A Story of an Evening Star Greek The Giant with a Belt of Stars Greek The Great Bear in the Sky Greek Castor and Pollux, the Starry Twins Greek The Milky Way Russian How Fire Came to Earth Greek Beyond the Fire Island Russian A Legend of the North Wind Norse Orpheus, the South Wind Greek The Little Wind-god Greek The Voices of Nature Finnish A Bag of Winds Greek Echo, the Air Maiden Greek Iris, the Rainbow Princess Greek The Thunder-god and His Brother Norse Neptune, King of the Seas Greek Why Rivers Have Golden Sands Greek Old Grasshopper Gray Greek Where the Frogs Came from Roman The Birds with Arrow Feathers Greek Why the Partridge Stays Near the Ground Greek Juno's Bird, the Peacock, Roman The Gift of the Olive Tree, Greek The Linden and the Oak, Greek The Little Maiden Who Became a Laurel Tree Greek The Lesson of the Leaves Roman The Legend of the Seed Greek The Girl Who Was Changed into a Sunflower Greek Why the Narcissus Grows by the Water Greek The Legend of the Anemone Greek The Mistletoe Norse The Forget-me-not German Pegasus, The Horse With Wings Greek Suggestions to Teachers A Bibliography A Pronouncing Index
Thor, with His Red-hot Hammer, frontispiece Phaeton Falling from the Chariot Woden Frigga, the Mother of the Gods Jupiter and His Eagle The Head of Jupiter Diana The Man in the Moon The Man in the Moon Venus Orion with His Club The Great Bear in the Sky The Great Bear and the Little Bear Castor and Pollux Minerva Boreas, the God of the North Wind Tower of the Winds at Athens Orpheus Mercury Ulysses Cover of a Drinking Cup Iris The Head of Iris Neptune A Greek Coin Silenus Holding Bacchus Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn Latona Jason Castor, the Horse-Tamer Pollux, the Master of the Art of Boxing Daedalus and Icarus Making Their Wings Juno and Her Peacock Athena Minerva Daphne A Sibyl Ceres Apollo Narcissus Adonis and Aphrodite Woden on the Throne Bellerophon and Pegasus
HOW THE HORSES OF THE SUN RAN AWAY
Phaeton was the child of the Sun-god, Apollo.
"Mother Clymene," said the boy one day, "I am going to visit my father's palace."
"It is well," she answered. "The land where the Sun rises is not far from this. Go and ask a gift from him."
That night Phaeton bound his sandals more tightly, and, wrapping a thicker silken robe about him, started for the land of Sunrise, sometimes called India by mankind.
Many nights and many days he traveled, but his sandals never wore out nor did his robe make him too hot or too cold.
At last, as he climbed the highest mountain peak of all the earth, he saw the glittering columns of his father's palace. As he came nearer he found that they were covered with millions of precious stones and inlaid with gold. When he started to climb the numberless stairs, the silver doors of the palace flew open, and he saw the wonderful ivory ceiling and the walls of the long hall.
He was glad that the steps were many and he looked long at the pictures carved on the walls by an immortal artist.
There were pictures of both land and sea. On the right was earth with its towns, forests, and rivers, and the beings that live in each. On the left was the ocean with its mermaids sporting among the waves, riding on the backs of fishes, or sitting on the rocks drying their sea-green hair. Their faces were alike, yet not alike, as sisters ought to be.
Up, up the hundreds of steps he climbed, never wearied. On the ceiling of this marvelous hall he could see carved the stars of heaven. On the silver doors were the twelve strange beings of the sky, formed of stars; six on each door.
The last step was reached. Outside the sky was dark, but at the doorway Phaeton stopped, for the light from his father was more than he could bear. There sat Apollo, dressed in crimson, on a throne which glittered with diamonds. On his right hand and on his left stood the Days, bright with hope; and the Months, hand in hand with the Days, seemed listening to what the Years were whispering to them.
Phaeton saw there the four seasons. Spring, young and lovely, came first, her head crowned with flowers. Next came Summer, with her robe of roses thrown loosely about her and a garland of ripe wheat upon her head. Then came merry Autumn, his feet stained with grape juice; and last, icy Winter, with frosty beard and hair, and Phaeton shivered as he looked at him. Dazzled by the light, and startled to find himself in such a presence, he stood still.
The Sun, seeing him with the eye that sees everything, asked:
"Why are you here?"
"Apollo, my father, grant me one request, that I may prove to mortals that you are my father."
Apollo laid aside his dazzling crown of rays, clasped Phaeton in his arms and said:
"Brave son, ask what you will, the gift is yours."
Quicker than a flash from his father's crown came the question from Phaeton:
"Will you let me for one day drive your chariot?"
Foolish father, foolish son! Apollo shook his head three times in warning.
"I have spoken rashly. This one thing no mortal can achieve. Nor can any immortal save myself hold in the horses that draw the fiery car of day. It is not honor, but death you ask. Change your wish."
"My mother taught me that my father always kept his promises."
"It is even so, rash boy. If you do not change, neither can I. Bring the chariot of the Sun."
The daring child stood beside the glorious car that was higher than his head. His eyes flashed bright as the diamonds that studded the back of the golden chariot. The golden axle gleamed through the silver spokes, for the chariot was made of naught but gold and silver and precious stones.
Then Early Dawn threw open the purple doors of the eastern sky. The stars, answering the signal of the Day Star, slowly passed from sight, followed by their marshal.
The Hours obeyed Apollo's orders, and, harnessing the horses, led out the wondrous creatures and fastened them to the chariot.
Apollo bathed Phaeton's face with ointment, and taking up the crown of shining rays, fastened it on the rash boy's head.
With a sigh, he said:
"My son, you will at least take my advice in one thing: spare the whip and hold tight the lines. You will see the marks of the wheels where I have gone before, and they will guide. Go not too high or you will burn the heavens, nor too low or you will set your mother's home, the earth, on fire. The middle course is best. Take the reins, or, if even now you will change your wish, abide here, and yield the car to me."
Phaeton leaped into the golden chariot, and with a proud smile thanked his father. Then he gave the word to the horses.
They darted forward through the morning clouds with the fury of a tempest. Men on the earth thought it was noonday and tried to do double their daily work. The fiery horses soon found their load was light, and that the hands on the reins were frail. They dashed aside from their path, until the fierce heat made the Great and the Little Bear long to plunge into the sea.
Poor Phaeton, looking down on the earth, grew pale and shook with terror. He wished that he had never seen these shining steeds, had never sought the palace of the Sun, and that he had never held his father to that rash promise.
Diana, who drives the chariot of the Moon, heard the mad racket in the sky, and shooting her arrows at the frightened horses, turned them aside in time to prevent them from dashing her own silver car to pieces.
Earth cried for clouds and rain. The people of Africa became black because of the terrible heat. Streams dried up, mountains burned, and the River Nile hid his head forever in a desert. At last Earth cried in a husky voice to Jupiter, the ruler of the gods:
"What have I done that this punishment should come? Slay me, or save my people from this burning!"
Jupiter, from his seat in the thunderclouds, saw the danger the heavens and the earth were in, and hurled his lightnings at the rash driver. Phaeton fell dead from the chariot. From morning till night, and from that night till morning, he fell like a shooting star, and sank at last into an Italian river. His sisters trembled so at his fall and wept so bitterly that they changed into poplar trees upon the river banks. Even to this day they mourn for him and tremble at the least breeze from heaven. Apollo's horses, calmed by Jupiter's voice, finally found the track. When evening came they entered the western gates of the sky and were taken back, by way of the north, to their stalls near Apollo's palace.
WODEN, GOD OF THE NORTHERN SKY
Little Hilda Peterson sat by a table in her mother's room studying her spelling lesson. Suddenly she startled her mother by giving the table a sharp rap with her pencil and saying:
"What a queer name for a day! Why didn't the people who named the days give them numbers instead of names? I can never remember how to spell Wednesday. What is the use of the third letter in it?"
"My little girl, when you have finished your lesson I will tell you a story; then I think you will always remember where the fourth day got its name."
It did not take Hilda many minutes to finish her studying, with the promise of a story before her.
This is the old Norse tale her mother told:
"Long years ago, before our fatherland, Norway, became a Christian country, our people were taught that they must worship many gods. Nearly all of these they feared; a very few they loved. The greatest was Woden. When little children looked at the moon and stars, they were told that Woden made them. When they asked about the clouds, everyone said, 'Woden made them.'
"In the spring they were told that Woden made the leaves come and the flowers open. No one knew the true God then. Everyone said that Woden lived in a beautiful city in the sky, north of our own Northland. All the houses there were gold and silver, and the most splendid one was Woden's royal palace. This was called Valhalla. To reach it one had to ride or walk the whole length of the rainbow, as it arched from land to land. But there was a sharp-eyed watchman at the gate who stopped anyone who had no right to cross that seven-hued bridge.
"In Valhalla, Woden's people were always happy. They were never sick; they never died. There were no little girls and no little boys in this golden palace, only soldiers; and some of these were women! Woden often sent his shield-maidens, as they were called, to battlefields to carry to Valhalla the souls of brave men. When the choosers of the slain rode through the air, their glittering, shining robes and spears, and their swift horses made a strange, bright light in the North. People called it Northern Lights, but Woden knew it was his Valkyrias. Did you ever see them?
"In another palace of gold in this beautiful city of the northern sky were Woden's wife and family. This palace was called Fensalir. Woden's wife was Frigga and his eldest son was Thor. I must tell you about this son. Thor owned three precious things. Can you guess what they were?
"One was a red-hot iron hammer. When he threw it at a mountain the rocks split open wide and all the Frost Giants who lived within the rocks and upon the mountain were killed.
"The second thing was a wonderful belt. When he put it on he was twice as strong as before.
"The third was a pair of iron gloves. When he put these on he could throw his hammer twice as far.
"There is a story told of how Thor once threw his hammer so far that it could not return as it had always done. It fell near an immense giant who seized it and hid it half a mile deep under the rocks. Thor sent the God of Fire to win it back, but the cruel giant would not give it up unless Thor would bring Freya, the loveliest of the goddesses, to marry him. But Freya refused to go and live with a fierce giant.
"Thor wanted his hammer. At last the God of Fire, who had seen this giant, told Thor to dress himself like Freya and to put on a heavy veil. He did this and the two gods rode far away, on the rays of the setting sun, to recover the lost hammer.
"When the giant saw them he took them to his house. At supper time he wondered how a goddess could eat so much, for Thor devoured eight great salmon and a whole roasted ox. Then he wondered how she could drink so much, for Thor drank three hogsheads of honey wine. Then the giant pulled the heavy veil aside and wondered what made her eyes like fireballs. The God of Fire explained everything, for Thor would not speak. Then the hammer was asked for. It was laid in the mock bride's lap. As soon as Thor had it in his hand he stood up, slew all the giants and utterly destroyed the wicked town. Then he went back to Fensalir and told Frigga, his mother, how he had recovered his hammer.
"Frigga was as powerful as Woden or Thor. All things which Woden had made obeyed her, nor dared harm anything when she forbade them. It may be she did not know of the lost hammer or she would have saved Thor his long journey.
"Frigga was one of the most beautiful creatures the world has ever known. No picture was ever so perfect and beautiful as she. Her robes were lovelier than those of any other goddess. Sometimes they were of gold and scarlet, sometimes of purest white, and many times of modest green. She loved to spin, and no spider ever spun so fine a thread as she on her spinning wheel. She worked so faithfully that Woden changed the wheel into shining stars, and when you look up at Orion again remember that the Norse people called that constellation Frigga's distaff.
"And now, Hilda, these three, Woden, Thor, and Frigga, still live upon our earth and are bound by loving ties. Strange to say, however, they can never meet again, for only one comes to earth at a time. At midnight, Woden, the father, leaves, and Thor, his son, stays with us till another midnight. Then Frigga, the mother, comes for a single day, but she never can see again her son nor her husband.
"Does Hilda guess what my story means?"
"I am not quite sure, mother; help me a little bit."
"In my story, Hilda, I told for whom three days of our week are named. Can you tell which days?"
"Why, mother, is that it? I know one, that is Woden's day, or Wednesday. Yes, there is Thor's day, or Thursday, but what is the other?"
"Didn't I tell you the mother never could see again her son or her husband? Do you see the meaning now?"
"Oh, I know! Friday is beautiful Frigga's day."
"Yes, you have guessed the three, Hilda. Now, do you see that Thor's day comes when Woden's day goes? And as soon as Thor's day is over, then comes Frigga's day. They come to earth, but never meet."
"Why, how queer it all is! When I say the names of the days of the week, it will seem as if you were telling me the story again."
"And now a little more, Hilda. Do you remember the colors of the robes that Frigga wore?"
"You said she wore green or white robes, or sometimes scarlet and gold. Her dresses must have been very beautiful."
"Look out of the window Hilda. What color is the lawn?"
"Why, the grass makes it green."
"What color will it be in winter?"
"Why, white with snow, of course."
"And in the fall, Hilda?"
"Oh, I know now what you mean by Frigga is the ground, isn't she?"
"Not the ground, but the earth. Woden, with his one all-seeing eye and his mantle of blue and gray, is the sky, and Thor, with his streaming red beard and his crashing hammer, is the thunder."
"Oh, mother, how strange it is that such a story should come just from the word Wednesday! I am glad that I am a Norwegian."
JUPITER, GOD OF THE SOUTHERN SKY
"Why do they call the eagle Jupiter's bird, Miss Folsom?"
"Where did you ever hear it called that, Mary?"
"It was in a book from which our teacher was reading a story to-day. She let me take the book and there was a fine picture of an eagle on the first page and it was marked 'Jupiter's bird.' I never knew exactly who Jupiter was. Was he a real person, Miss Folsom?"
"He was one of the three great gods whom the Romans used to believe in, Mary. They thought he ruled the sky and everything in it, and all living things on earth, both the gods and the men. His bird was the eagle, which carried the lightning in its claws. At Jupiter's command thunderbolts dashed against the hardest rocks and broke them into powder. No one dared to disobey him but his wife, Juno, and sometimes even she had to suffer for doing so.
"Jupiter's father was Saturn, who was kind and good in every way but one. He did not love his children, and, at the end of each year, one went away never to return. Jupiter, in some way, was stronger than the rest and refused to go when the order came. He even fought with the messenger and made him beg for mercy.
Then Jupiter sent this messenger to Saturn, who agreed to bring back to life Jupiter's brothers and sisters. They all rose up and sent Saturn away forever, and gave the kingdom to the three bravest sons. Neptune took the ocean, Pluto the center of the earth, and Jupiter the skies. They reigned until men had learned wisdom and had become too wise to be ruled by so many gods.
"Now Jupiter is the name of the largest planet, and when you see a great beautiful star in the sky, shining almost like the moon, you may be sure it is Jupiter. You can fancy he is looking down to see if Neptune is holding his unruly winds and waves in check, or if Pluto is still keeping guard over the watch-fires in the center of the earth.
"So Jupiter still reigns, but no one now is afraid of his power."
"How wicked of Saturn to put away his children! How could he?"
"Saturn is the same as old Father Time, Mary. Doesn't he put away one of his children every twelve months?"
"Oh, is that what it means?"
"Year after year goes away, never to return."
"How could Saturn bring them back, then?"
"I don't know what that part of the story means. Maybe we will find out sometime. But can you think of any day of the week that might be named after Saturn?"
"Why, Saturday! surely that is the one, isn't it?"
"Yes, and the weeks never return either, do they, Mary?"
DIANA, QUEEN OF THE MOON
"When we were at grandpa's last summer, we used to stay out so long, playing under the trees in the dooryard, that nearly every night we saw the moon.
"Sometimes it was big and round, and sometimes it looked like grandpa's sickle, only it had no handle.
"And you ought to have heard the queer stories aunt Hattie told about the moon. Some of the stories were very funny, and some were very beautiful.
"Let's find a window where we can see the moon and then tell stories about it. Come, boys," and little Jack led the way.
"Here is a grand place to sit, Charlie. Right here, all of us together on this sofa, and you must tell us a story."
So Charlie began:
"This is one of the stories I like best; maybe you won't, though.
"Apollo, the god of the sun, had a twin sister named Diana. Apollo liked to hunt with his golden bow and arrow, and his sister loved him so much that she was always with him. He taught her how to use the bow and arrow as well as he could himself. Sometimes their mother would set up a target for them, and she was just as proud of Diana's quick eyes as of Apollo's strong hand, for no matter what they aimed at, Diana could shoot as well as Apollo. By and by, when Apollo had grown too old for idle sport, he was given the sun to rule over, and Diana begged for something just as grand to do. 'Such work is too hard for my brave girl,' her mother would say, but at last Apollo said he would help her, and so she was given the moon to rule over."
"Why, Charlie, how queer that sounds, for you know the sun does help the moon to shine," said Jack.
"Keep still, Jack; it is almost nine o'clock, and I can't stop to talk about the queer part; you must just watch for that," and Charlie went on with the story.
"Diana was as grand and proud, driving the silver chariot of the moon, as Apollo in his gold chariot of the sun. Sometimes, when her work was over, she left the moon and came to earth again to hunt. She would call her friends, the maidens she used to play with, and away they would go, each with a silver bow in hand and a quiver full of arrows fastened at their backs.
"One day, while they were hunting, they heard strange dogs in the woods. Each one of the girl hunters hid behind a tree and waited. Diana ran from her tree to a cave so that she could not be found. At last a foolish hunter came in sight. He seemed to act as if he knew he ought not to be there, and he wandered from left to right, as if he had never hunted before. Then he started for the very cave where Diana was hiding, for he knew by the willows a spring was there."
"Oh, my!" said Jack.
"Yes, he started for Diana's cave, but the minute he was near enough he felt a splash of water that seemed to cover him from head to foot and he heard Diana say:
"'Now go and tell, if you can, that you have seen Diana.'
"Poor fellow! He could not move. As he stood there he found his arms were changing to the straight fore legs of a deer. Horns came out of his head, his brown eyes grew bigger, and so did his ears, and in a few minutes even his own dogs did not know him. He bounded away, but his pet hounds sprang at him and caught him.
"Diana and her friends were miles away, and no one could save the poor fellow from the fate of a hunted deer."
"Oh, I think Diana was cruel," said Jack.
"I thought it served him right, when I heard it," Charlie said. "He knew he had no right in Diana's forest, and she can't hunt in the moon, for they say there are neither trees nor animals there."
JACK AND JILL ON THE MOON MOUNTAINS
"Jack and Jill Went up the hill To get a pail of water; Jack fell down And broke his crown And Jill came tumbling after."
That is what your father and mother used to say when they were children. So did your grandfather and grandmother when they were little, and for hundreds of years children have laughed at poor Jack and Jill's mishaps. Now, I will tell you how the story first began.
In Norway, people used to believe that the chariot of the moon was driven by a glorious youth, Mani. He was lonely in heaven. One night a little boy on earth was sent by his parents to a well to get a pail of water. This boy's name was Hjuki. He asked his sister Bil to go with him. They had to carry with them the big bucket fastened to a long pole, for there was no well-sweep. They thrust the pole, with the bucket at the end of it, into the water, and, as they were both busy straining every muscle to raise the bucket, Mani stood beside them and helped them.
To the children he looked like a friendly lad and they were glad of his help.
Bil balanced the pail on the pole and together they started to carry the water home.
The weight was so great on Hjuki's shoulder, for he tried to take the heavier end, that he stumbled and down they both went.
Mani wanted the children's company and so picked them up and carried them through the sky to the mountains of the moon. There you can see them when the moon is full, wandering about, seeking to return, falling and going out of sight, just as they did on earth.
They still carry the bucket and the pole, hoping yet dreading to meet their parents. They fear that their parents think they ran away from their task. But try as hard as they can, Mani keeps them from finding the way back to earth.
THE MAN IN THE MOON
More than a thousand years ago, on a Sunday morning in the early fall, an old German woodman told his wife, Gretchen, that he was going after fagots. She begged him not to go, for it was Sunday and they did not need the wood. The old man only laughed at her, and trudged away into the forest where no one could see him.
He cut his bundle of fagots, piled them together, tied them with a stout band, and throwing them over his shoulder, started homeward. Then he noticed that the wild creatures, that had never stirred as he entered the woods before, were now afraid of him. The birds fluttered away with a whirring noise, and an old mother hare, which he knew very well, made wonderful leaps to get herself and family out of his sight. Even a bear ran from him, instead of attacking him.
Soon he met a stranger with a sad, stern face, who stopped him.
"Don't you know that this is Sunday on earth, when all must rest from work?"
"Whether it is Sunday on earth or Monday in heaven, it is all the same to me," laughed the old man.
"Then carry your bundle forever, and as you do not care for Sunday on earth, you shall have a long Monday in heaven, where you shall be a warning to all Sabbath-breakers evermore."
Then the old man found himself swiftly rising in the air. Quick as a thought he was landed in the moon, where his wife saw him as she stood outside her door that night to watch for his coming. There he still stands bearing his fagots, and as all days are Mondays in the moon, he can never Break Sunday Again.
A STORY OF AN EVENING STAR
"Every night, mother, I see a beautiful star in the sky so different from the others. It comes first and shines so bright that it seems as if it were the loveliest star in the whole sky. Won't you watch for it to-night with me?"
The mother smiled, for she thought she knew which one of the stars Mamie would point out. Sure enough, that night as they both sat in the hammock watching the sunset, out came the very star she expected. In a moment Mamie saw it and nearly fell out of the hammock as she screamed and clapped her hands.
"There it is, mamma! There it is! I know it because it looks straight at me. It knows me, I believe, for it never trembles a bit, like the other stars! Did you ever see such a lovely one?"
Her mother smiled an odd little smile.
"What makes you laugh at me, mother? I know you are laughing, by the corners of your mouth; they go up so queerly. Tell me."
"Why, Mamie, that is Venus you are watching. I have watched her every year since I first found her long ago."
"Venus? Who is Venus, mother? And what makes you call a star her? I didn't know a star could have a name. Who named her? Did you, mother? What made you call her Venus?"
"Seems to me you ask a great many questions, little girl. Which one shall I answer first?"
"Did you name my star yourself?"
"No, Mamie, it was named hundreds of years ago when many stars had names given them. You know people have watched and studied the stars almost since the world began."
"And was Venus a little girl or a woman? I know she must have been lovely or they would never have given her name to my star."
"Your star, as you call it, Mamie, is at present the evening star. By and by it will be the morning star. I will tell you where it got its name.
"Venus was a lovely woman, but she never was a little girl. The old, old story books say that one day as some people were walking by the sea they saw a rose-tinted shell rise on the crest of the wave. This great shell opened, and beautiful Venus, clothed in raiment like sea-foam when the sun shines on it, stepped out upon the waters. The people watching were not surprised when they saw a sunset cloud sail down and take her to the edge of the western sky, where the ruby gates opened and she passed through to the world of the gods. That was her home. Whenever she wished to return to earth she came in a silver chariot drawn by snow-white swans. Her head was always wreathed with roses and myrtles. White doves carried her messages. Her dress is of the finest silk, the color of the pink sea-shell."
"Why, mamma, you say is! Do you mean Venus is still alive?"
"No, dear, she never was alive. It is only one of the many beautiful myths that people used to believe two thousand years ago. But artists love to paint pictures as beautiful as Venus was thought to be, and there are many lovely statues of her. Sometimes it almost seems as if she must have been alive. When we go to the art gallery, see if you can find a Venus.
"But say good-night to your star, for it is late. Some time you will miss her and find another in her place. Tell me, dear, when the new star comes."
"Oh, I am going to watch every night, mamma. Will the new one have a name?"
"Yes, but I'm not going to tell you its name or its story till it comes."
THE GIANT WITH A BELT OF STARS
It is an easy matter for any one to find the three great stars in the sky that are arranged in a row, like three great diamonds sparkling on the front of a mammoth crown. They shine out, clear and bright, whenever Diana takes her silver bow, which we call the moon, and goes to hunt in her secret fields or forests. These three stars have been called Orion's Belt for thousands of years, and for ages children and grown people have watched for their coming after the sun has gone below the horizon.
The story told of Orion by the ancient Greeks has been repeated by some of our poets, and Henry W. Longfellow has written in his own beautiful way of this same famous Greek hunter who never knew fear. Perhaps you will be more interested in his poem after you have read this short account of the mighty giant whose belt of stars is longer than other giants were tall.
Orion was the son of Neptune, the god of the sea. His father gave him power to walk upon the water or to wade in the deepest ocean without drowning. You know that if he had the power of walking in such places, he did not need to swim, and his steps were so long that he could walk much faster than his swiftest enemy could run.
Orion was very fond of hunting, and wore, as his mantle or robe, the tawny skin of a huge lion he had slain. His club and his sword were his only weapons, and he needed no others, for his long arms helped him to strike before he himself could be hurt. Once he was made blind, but as he wandered by the seashore the music of the singing waves which were his father's home gave him comfort and led him to a friend who guided him to Apollo. One bright sunbeam from Apollo's crown touched Orion's eyes and they saw more clearly than ever before. Nearly everything was Orion's friend, for with his great strength he was always ready to help those who could not help themselves. But he was so huge that many who did not know him were afraid, and one day the Pleiads, daughters of Atlas, saw him coming and they fled away so fast that they were changed into doves. You can find the place where they alighted in the sky, just ahead of Orion. He still follows them, and his dog Sirius, who carries the famous dog star, is close at his side; but the Pleiads never allow Orion to overtake them in their long journey through the regions of the sky. The Pleiads are so beautiful that you must learn to find them, and this cluster of six twinkling stars, "a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid," will guide you in finding the belt of the mighty hunter Orion, the giant of the heavens. Four other very brilliant stars mark his shoulders and his knees.
THE GREAT BEAR IN THE SKY
"Oh mother, what do you think? Last night that English boy, Charlie Thornton, asked me if I knew where Charles' Wain was, and when I said I didn't know, what do you suppose he showed me? Why, nothing but the Big Dipper up there among the stars. I told him he was mistaken and that nobody ever called it the odd name he had for it. But he said his mother called it that, and he wouldn't give it up. Wasn't that queer?"
"Why, no, Ralph, I don't think it was strange that he called it as his mother had taught him. That is exactly what you do. Many English people call it Charles' Wain. Wain means wagon, and it does look a little like a cart or wagon."
"I don't think it does, not the least bit. It looks just like a big dipper, and like nothing else."
"Why, you silly boy! What would you think if I should tell you that ever so many people call it the Great Bear?"
"Why, that is queerer yet. Can you see a bear up there in the sky? Maybe when it thunders it is the Great Bear growling!" and Ralph jumped off the porch and rolled on the grass, laughing at his discovery.
In a moment a thought seemed to come to him, and springing up, he ran to his mother's chair on the porch and said: "Mother, is there any story about the Great Bear? How did it get up there among the stars? Is the North Star the Bear's eye? Does his nose always point to the North Star, the same as the two pointers in the Big Dipper?"
"Now, my boy, you will be surprised again when I tell you that there are two bears in the sky, the Great Bear and the Little Bear. The wonderful North Star is in the tip of the tail of the Little Bear."
"Now, I know there is a story about them, just as there was about those three beautiful ones you showed me in Orion's belt. You told me about Orion, now you will tell me about the two bears, won't you?"
"It is a sad story, Ralph, and you know you don't like sad stories. But I will tell it to you, and sometime, in the years to come, you may read it in a language that is as old as the story.
"Near a beautiful city on the other side of the world was a large forest. The trees in this forest were very tall, and their branches so thick that they made a roof over the ground below. One could wander for miles and miles in the shade of this forest and never find a house, or any living creatures but the birds and wild animals.
"Once on a time some hunters came back, after having been gone many days, and said that away in the heart of the forest they had had a glimpse of a beautiful snow-white bear. Not one of them had been able to get a shot at it with his arrows, and some thought it was only a dream. The story spread throughout the city, and all the boys and young hunters were anxious for a chance to win so fine a prize as the snow-white skin. Not for himself, oh, no, for whoever brought it home must hang it in the temple.
"One brave young hunter said, 'I am going into the heart of the forest. I will take only the bravest with me, and I will never return without the prize.'
"This young man was dearly loved by everyone. His mother had left him when he was only a few years old, and gone, no one knew where. He was cared for by his uncle, and grew up, hoping each year his mother would return. He took long journeys trying to learn if she were still alive, but no one could ever tell him a word about her. These journeys had made him very bold and brave, and there was no cave so dark, nor mountain so high, but that he would search it in the hope of finding his mother.
"He found six young hunters ready to go with him into the heart of the forest. They looked very fine in their bright, shining hunting-suits, with their bows and arrows, and every one wished them success.
"They wasted no time in the pleasant fields outside, but started for the dark, sunless forest. It was slow work picking their way through the tangled bushes growing under the trees, and it took many days to reach the place described by the hunters who had told them the story of the strange white bear.
"'Whoever sees it first must call to the others. It may be that this is enchanted ground, and something dreadful will happen to the one who is alone,' said the leader of the hunting party.
"'It is well said,' they all agreed. In the heart of this wild forest they wandered, shooting the strange birds they saw there, and saving the long feathers and wings, to bring home after the hunt was over.
"One day the leader of the hunt chased a wonderful bird for hours from tree to tree, riding beneath the branches, trying to get a shot.
"At last, just as he had his arrow in his bow, ready to aim, his horse reared and nearly threw him backward to the ground. There, beside him, stood the snow-white bear.
"Its two fore paws were stretched out to meet him, and its eyes seemed full of the love he used to see in his mother's eyes. It was a beautiful sight, and the arrow meant for the bird shot upward into the sky, harming no one, but bearing the next words of the hunter as a message to the great Jupiter.
"'O, my mother, let me live forever with you!' exclaimed the hunter, as his strong arms were clasped about the white bear's neck.
"'My mother is found!' he shouted, and Echo repeated over and over, 'Found! Found!' until the six fellow hunters came to where the mother and her son were standing, gazing with loving eyes toward Mount Olympus, the home of their gods.
"The winged arrow had taken its flight to Jupiter and the son's prayer was answered.
"Jupiter's lightnings flashed and the six hunters saw their strong leader change into the Great Bear, and gently guide his mother, the Little Bear, to her home in the sky. He took his place near her, at Jupiter's command, and now follows wherever she leads. He points forever to her and to the North Star which she keeps. Those who watch this unchanging beacon among the stars sometimes remember that the people of long ago thought that it was placed there to tell them of the unchanging love of mothers."
"Oh, I knew there was a story. It came out all right at last, and that takes the sad part away."
Then Ralph whispered, "We know it was only a myth, don't we?"
CASTOR AND POLLUX, THE STARRY TWINS
Among the star pictures in the sky may be found one called Gemini, or the Twins. The ancient Greeks used to believe that twin brothers named Castor and Pollux had been really placed in the sky. They once lived in Sparta; their mother was the lovely Leda, and one of their sisters was the beautiful Helen, whose capture caused the famous Trojan war.
These brothers were as devoted to each other as twins are said to be, and one was never seen without the other being near. Their love for their sisters was very great, and once when Helen was captured by two noted warriors, these twin brothers of hers found her and brought her safely back to their mother's house.
Castor was very fond of horses. He could tame the wildest one that was ever caught, and lead it about like a pet dog as soon as his magic touch had taught its fiery spirit that he was its master. He could ride better than any one in the kingdom, for no horse had ever thrown him.
Pollux was just as famous in boxing and wrestling. He taught young men many tricks with the hand and foot, and was the leader in all games.
The two brothers were proud to be allowed to go with the other heroes in quest of the golden fleece. When the sweet music of Orpheus stilled the wild storm that arose on the sea and threatened to wreck the Argo, stars appeared upon the heads of Castor and Pollux, for their great love for each other was known to the Olympian gods who had sent the storm.
When the curious flames, that sometimes during storms play about the masts and sails of a ship, were seen on other ships after this voyage of the Argo, the sailors would always cry out, "See the stars of Castor and Pollux!"
Their love for each other made them more famous than anything else. When at last Castor was slain in a great battle, Pollux prayed Jupiter to let them be again united. The prayer was granted. Not long after this, the poets tell us, the star picture of the Twins was discovered in the sky, and there the two loving brothers stay forever watching the earth to see if they may help others to be faithful to the end.
THE MILKY WAY
Soon after the world was made, God created a beautiful maiden and gave her charge of all the birds beneath the heavens. Her name was Lindu. Her father's name was Uko. She knew all the birds of passage, and where they should go in autumn, and she sent each flock on its way.
Lindu cared for the birds tenderly, like a mother for her children, and gave them help whenever it was possible. She sent the stormy wind to blow dust into the eyes of the fierce hunters when they were seeking to slay her pets. It was not surprising that all the world loved her, and those who dwelt in the sky most of all.
The North Star wished to make her his wife. He drove up to Uko's palace with a dusky coach drawn by six black horses, and in the coach were ten fine presents. But Lindu did not love him.
"You always stay in one place, and cannot stir from it," said she. "Go back to your watch-tower."
Then came the Moon drawn in a silver coach by ten gray horses, and the Moon brought twenty presents. But Lindu did not love the Moon.
"You change your face too often and not your path, and that will never suit me," she said.
So the Moon drove away wearing his saddest face. Scarcely had the Moon gone before the Sun drove up. He rode in a golden coach drawn by twenty gold-red horses, and he brought thirty presents with him. But all his grandeur went for nothing with Lindu, for she said:
"I do not love you. You follow the same track day by day, just like the Moon. I love the changing seasons, the changing winds, anything that changes."
At that the gold-red horses leaped away and Lindu was alone with her birds.
At length the Northern Light came from his home in the midnight land in a diamond coach drawn by a thousand white horses. He was so grand that Lindu went to the door to meet him. His servants carried a whole coach-load of gold and silver, pearls and jewels into her house. She loved this bright suitor at once.
"You do not travel the same path all the time like the others. You set out when you wish and rest when it pleases you. Each time you wear a new robe, and each time you ride in a new coach with new horses. You shall be my bridegroom."
And Lindu's choice was made.
The news was sent throughout the world, and guests came from the four sides of the sky and of the earth to greet Lindu and the Northern Light. It was agreed that the wedding should be when the birds flew south. Back to his home in the midnight land went the Northern Light, knowing that Lindu loved him best.
The torrent which fell half a thousand feet over the mountain side sent Lindu her bridal veil. The Frost King sent her laces so fine that a breath of summer air would have destroyed them, and they were stored away in a block of ice for safe keeping. The birds brought her robes of butterfly wings softer than silk and more beautiful than velvet. Her sandals were from the wings of the honey bee, stronger than reindeer skin, and fleeter than a chamois' foot.
Spring passed away. Summer came and went. The birds flew south, and Lindu waited for the Northern Light's return. Snow sparkled on the earth, but no hoof-beat of his thousand white horses broke the stillness of the midnight air. Spring came, but never the Northern Light.
Then Lindu began to weep, and from her tears sprang the little brooks in the valleys of Earth. The birds flew about her head and rested on her shoulders. They tried to caress her in a hundred ways, but Lindu did not heed them. Then they flew away and wandered in strange places, building nests where no nests were ever seen before. Many an egg was lost and many a nestling stolen because Lindu was not near to help her birds.
At last Uko heard their sad songs and then saw his daughter's grief. Uko's heart was always merry and his hands so full of work that he had not noticed Lindu's trouble. He ordered the Four Winds to lift her gently and bring her to him in his sky palace.
She dressed herself in her bridal veil, her frosted laces, and robes of butterfly wings, and the four strong Winds lifted her from the ground. The song-birds of Earth gathered about her and sang their sweetest songs. With her white bridal veil streaming far out on the air and a happy smile on her lips, Lindu sailed across the sky to Uko's palace. There she lives now, happy as her father Uko. Her white veil spreads from one end of the heavens to the other, and whoever lifts his eyes to the Milky Way beholds the maiden in her bridal robes.
From there she directs her birds. From there she waves her white hand in greeting to the Northern Light as his thousand horses leap through the sky. She has forgotten his unkindness and her sorrow. The Northern Light still loves her, but is so changeful that he can never keep a promise. Uko has given Lindu her station in the heavens and her work. Forever beautiful and forever young, never changing, she forever smiles at the changeful Northern Light.
HOW FIRE CAME TO EARTH
Once the earth was but a ball of dead, cold rock and barren sand. Once the waters were nothing but a mass of icy waves.
Two great giants, Titans the Greeks called them, were given the task of making the earth what it had been planned to be.
Epimetheus and Prometheus were the names of these giants. Epimetheus took upon himself the task of making the lower animals and man. Prometheus overlooked the work and gave hints if he saw that anything was lacking.
Epimetheus made the fishes. He set them afloat in the water, and taught them to swim. He made the lion and gave it courage. He gave wings to the bird and showed it how to fly swiftly through the air. He covered the crab with its shell and taught it how to creep.
Man came last. Epimetheus had nothing to give him. Claws, wings, shelly covering, fur, everything had been bestowed on the creatures which he had made first. Epimetheus saw how weak man was with all the fierce animals around him. He went to Prometheus for help, and said:
"I have clothed this last creature which I have made with robes from the garments the immortals have cast aside. The thorns cannot tear him, but the wild beast can take his life in a moment. Help me to make him conqueror of everything in earth and sea and sky."
Prometheus sought Minerva for wisdom. She gave him a golden torch, whose wood was cut from the pines that grew nearest heaven on the earth's highest peak, and said:
"Follow what this branch of pine is seeking. It will take and hold the gift reserved for man."
When Prometheus grasped the torch, it leaped upward through the sky past the pale, cold moon; past flashing stars; upward, till the torch and its bearer stood in the high heavens by the burning chariot of the sun.
The pine kissed the leaping flames and a fire was kindled in its own heart. Prometheus sprang backward from the sun chariot, and, bearing the flaming torch in his hands, brought down to man, from the sun, the gift of fire.
No creature but man can possess or use this gift. Man would not part with it for all the treasures below the earth's surface, nor for all the gifts that birds, beasts, and fishes can boast.
With fire, weapons are made that can subdue the strongest beast that ever fought for its life. Tools with which man tills the earth and blasts the rock are made with the aid of fire. With fire man warms his dwelling. While the wild creatures shiver in the ice and snow man makes summer within the four walls of his home.
Man walks the earth a conqueror, but should the gift of fire be taken from him, how would he then teach the lower animals that he is their master? Having this gift he excels all other creatures. Without it he would be poor indeed.
Go where you will, the gift Prometheus brought is known to the race to whom it was given. There is no savage so ignorant but that he has the art of making fire.
Fire gleams from the eyeballs of the beasts when they are in anger, but this fire is cold compared with the burning blaze of wood and coal.
No beast will attack mankind when protected by a blazing torch. The gift of Prometheus shows the wisdom of Minerva.
BEYOND THE FIRE ISLAND
Once there was a man who decided to take a journey to the uttermost end of the world where it touches the sky. He thought he could reach that point only by sea, but being tired of the water decided to travel on the wings of an eagle. A raven told him better, however, for the nights are months long in the far Northland and the eagle loves the sunlight.
Then this man, who was a king, gave orders to fell the greatest oak tree in his three kingdoms. Olaf the Brave undertook this task. The oak tree was very large and neither sun, moon, nor stars could shine between its leaves, they were so close together. The king commanded that deep-sea sailing ships should be made from its trunk, warships from its crown, merchant ships from its branches, children's boats from the splinters, and maidens' rowing boats from the chips.
But the wise men of Norway and Finland assembled and gave the king advice. They told him that it was no use building a wooden ship, for the spirits of the Northern Lights would set it on fire. Then the king made a ship of silver. The whole of the ship—planking, deck, masts, and chains—was of silver, and he named his vessel "The Flyer."
Then—for this was ages ago—he provided golden armor for himself, silver armor for his nobles, iron for the crew, copper for the old men, and steel for the wise men.
When everything was ready, he and his sailors set out for Finland. But they soon turned and headed "The Flyer" to the far north. The Great Bear in the sky guided them.
At the helm of the ship was a wise pilot who knew all languages and the speech of birds and beasts. The winds of Finland were angry because he slighted their country, and a great storm arose and blew the ship out of her course. The birds sang to the helmsman and told him by their song that his ship was being driven on the bleak and desolate coast of Lapland.
The king and his bold comrades succeeded in landing in Lapland, but could find no people. At last a sailor discovered a house. In it dwelt a wise man and his daughter. The king asked the wise man the way to the end of the world. The wise man answered that he had asked a vain question.
"The sea has no end, and those who go westward have found their death in the Fire Island. Turn homeward and live," said the wise man.
The king only answered by asking the wise Lapp if he would be their guide to the Fire Island. He consented and went aboard the ship. His name was Varrak.
He steered the boat due north for thirty days and thirty nights. The first danger they met was a great whirlpool, whose center was a vast hole into which had been drawn many a brave ship. Varrak threw overboard a small barrel wrapped in red cloth and trimmed with many red streamers, but with a rope attached to it. A whale swallowed this bait and then tried to escape as he felt the rope pulling him. In his flight he towed the ship to a safe place in the open sea.
This brought them far westward and at last they came within sight of the Island of Fire. Iceland, men call it now, but surely it has as much fire as ice. From the middle of this Iceland they could see great pillars of flame and vast clouds of smoke ascending into the air.
Varrak warned the king of his danger, but was commanded to run the boat ashore. Those who explored the land found a vast mountain casting up flames and another mountain pouring out smoke. Soon the party came across great spouting fountains of boiling water, and they found the ground beneath their feet to be burning lava.
The son of Sulev, who was leading this exploring party, wandered through snow-fields covered with ashes. A shower of red-hot stones warned him that he was near the volcano. Going too close to this burning mountain, his hair and eyebrows were singed and his clothing took fire. He rolled in the snow and saved himself.
Then the son of Sulev thought it best to go back to the ship. Calling his party together, he found that the youngest, the yellow-haired boy who was cupbearer to the king, was gone. The birds told the helmsman, the wise Lapp, that the lad had made friends with the water-sprites beyond the snow mountains and would never return.
The winds drove the ship about for many days till she grounded again on a strange shore.
Another party of nobles and sailors went to search this country. Being tired, they lay down under an ash tree and fell asleep. The people in this land were giants, and a giant's daughter found them. They were so very small to the giant child that she picked them up and put them in her apron, and carried them home to her father.
"Look at these strange creatures, father," she said. "I found them asleep under a head of cabbage in our garden. What are they?"
The giant knew them to be men from the east. Now the east has always been noted for its wisdom, so he questioned these men with riddles.
"What walks along the grass, steps on the edge of the fence, and walks along the sides of the reeds?" he asked.
"The bee," answered the wise man of the party.
"What drinks from the brooks and wells, and from the stones on the bank?"
"The rainbow," replied the wise man.
Then the giant told his little daughter to put the strangers back exactly where she had found them. But the wise man asked her to carry them to the ship just for fun. She leaned over the vessel like a vast cloud and shook them out of her white apron upon the deck. Then with one long breath she blew the ship four miles out to sea. The king shouted back his thanks.
But that wind blew northwest instead of north. The cold was intense and they watched from midnight to midnight the combats in the air between the spirits of the Northern Lights. The sailors were frightened, but the king was pleased. He was farther north than ever before.
The helmsman warned them that they were approaching another shore. No birds welcomed them or sang them the name of the country. Men dressed in the skins of dogs and bears met them as they landed, and took them to their homes on sledges of ice drawn by dogs. Their houses were of blocks of ice and snow, and their talk sounded like dogs barking.
The king did not like these people, for their land was cold. The wise man told him again that his search was an idle one. The end of the world was not for mortal eyes to see. At last the king believed him and sailed homeward. No man to this day has been able to find the far north, the end of the world.
A LEGEND OF THE NORTH WIND
North Wind likes a bit of fun as dearly as a boy does, and it is with boys he likes best to romp and play.
One day North Wind saw a brave little fellow eating his lunch under a tree. Just as he went to bite his bread, North Wind blew it out of his hand and swept away everything else that he had brought for his lunch.
"You hateful North Wind!" cried the little fellow. "Give me back my supper. I'm so hungry."
Now North Wind, like all brave beings, is noble, and so he tried to make up for the mischief he had done.
"Here, take this tablecloth," said North Wind, "and, in whatever house you stay, spread it on the table; then wish, and you shall have everything you wish for to eat."
"All right!" said the boy, and he took the tablecloth and ran as fast as he could to the first house, which proved to be an inn.
"I have enough to pay for lodging, so I'll stay all night," he said to himself.
"Bring me a table," he ordered the innkeeper, as he went to his room.
"Ha! ha!" laughed the innkeeper. "You mean bring me a supper."
"No, I don't. I want only a table and that right quick. I'm hungry."
The innkeeper brought the table, but, after the door was shut, he watched through the keyhole to see what would happen.
"Beans, bread, and bacon," ordered the boy, as he spread out his tablecloth. On came beans, bread, and bacon through the open window, whirled in by North Wind. Smoking hot they all were, too, for the dishes were tightly covered. After supper was over, the boy went sound asleep.
North Wind did not waken him as the innkeeper took the table and the table-cloth and carried them down-stairs. Next morning the boy was hungry again, but there was no tablecloth and so no breakfast.
"You are a cheat, North Wind; you have taken back your tablecloth."
"No," said North Wind, "that is not the way I do." But the boy did not get his tablecloth.
After a time North Wind met him again out under the trees.
"This time I will give you a sheep," he said. "Each time that you rub his wool, out will drop a gold piece. Take care of him."
The boy ran back and found the sheep at the door of the stable, behind the inn. He caught the sheep by a strap which was around its neck, and led it slowly up the stairs of the inn, to the room from which the tablecloth had disappeared the night before.
As the boy was hungry for his breakfast, he obeyed North Wind's command and patted the sheep upon its back. A gold piece fell out of its fleece upon the floor.
"Good old North Wind!" said the boy. "Here's my breakfast and some hay for my sheep. Come breakfast, come hay," and through the open window came first a bundle of hay, and then a fine breakfast for the hungry boy. After breakfast the boy paid for a week's lodging with the gold piece.
He slept soundly that night with his sheep for his pillow, and the next night also, but the third morning when the boy awoke, his head lay upon the floor and the sheep was gone.
Perhaps too many gold pieces had been seen in the boy's hand, for he had patted his sheep very often.
He accused North Wind again. "You have taken back your sheep. I don't like you. You are as cold-hearted as you can be."
But North Wind said nothing. He put a queer stick into a bag and gave it to the boy and told him to go back and lock his door as tightly as before.
"Talk to the bag," he said, "and guard it as carefully as if there was a jewel in it."
That night the boy was wakened out of his soundest sleep by screams for help in his room. There was the innkeeper running about, and that queer stick was pounding him, first on the head, then on the feet, then on his back, then in his face.
"Help! help!" he cried.
"Give me back my sheep," said the boy.
"Get it; it is hidden in the barn," said the innkeeper.
The boy went out and found his sheep in the barn and drove it away as fast as he could, but he forgot about the innkeeper, and, maybe, that stick is pounding him to this day.
ORPHEUS, THE SOUTH WIND
In the land of Thrace there lived, years ago, one who was called Orpheus. He was the sweetest singer ever known. His voice was low and soft.
When men heard this voice all anger ceased, and their thoughts were thoughts of peace. Even wild animals were tamed.
Orpheus went into the woods one day and took nothing but his harp with him.
No quiver of arrows was on his back, nor hunting spear at his side.
He sang and sang till the birds flew down on the ground about him, and seemed to think that a creature with such a voice must be merely another kind of bird.
A wild cat came creeping slyly between the trees, trying to catch the little feathered listeners. Orpheus took his lute and played upon it, and the wild cat became as tame as the birds. They all followed Orpheus farther into the forest.
Soon, from behind a rock, a tiger sprang to attack the wild cat. The birds and the wild cat called to Orpheus. When he saw the trouble he took his harp again, and while he sang the tiger came trembling and purring to his feet and the birds, the wild cat, and the tiger followed Orpheus still farther into the forest.
He sat down by a tree to rest and the bees came and showed him where their honey was hidden in the tree. He fed his friends, and then he and the tiger led the way to a river where there was the purest water.
Tall trees bent low before him, and young trees tore themselves from the ground and followed in his train.
Foul waters parted so that Orpheus and his band might pass through unharmed; they knew no longer any evil thing.
Before they reached the river of pure water, to which the tiger was leading them, a lion, fierce with anger, sprang madly at his old enemy. Orpheus took his harp and played so wonderfully that the pine trees sighed with sorrow, and the lion, loosing his hold on the tiger, followed the sweet singer of Thrace. At the river the birds, the wild cat, the tiger, and the lion drank together with Orpheus, with not one thought of hurting one another.
"We are tired," said the birds. "Let us stay here by this river," and Orpheus agreed. The birds flew to the trees, while the others tried to rest on the huge rocks by the shore, but these were jagged and rough. They would give no rest to any one.
Then Orpheus began to play, and the hardest rocks were stirred. They rolled over and over into the river, and in their places the softest beds of white sand were ready for all. Orpheus rested, with the lion and the tiger for his night-watchers, and the wild cat asleep in the tree with the birds.
In the morning the harp sounded again, and the strange company wandered away, happy to be near the music. The three wild beasts fed together on the river grasses and forgot that they had been life-long enemies.
Orpheus had said, before he came into the wood, that he was tired of men and their quarrels; that wild beasts were easier to tame than angry men; and so he found it during these two days in the forest.
He took his harp and played and sang a sweet, wild song of love and peace, and overhead the leaves and branches of the oaks danced for joy of living. Not one growl, not one quarrel was heard where even the echoes of the music went. The very rocks answered the voice of Orpheus, and everything was at peace.
Then came the sound of the hunting dogs. The lion raised his shaggy head, but put it down again. Savage light came again into the eyes of the tiger and of the wild cat. The dogs came nearer. Orpheus played on his lute and the dogs came and lay down at his feet, and the hunters went home without their prey.
That night Orpheus led the birds and beasts all back to the places where he had found them, and went home to live once more in his cave in Thrace.
For years hunters told, over their camp-fires, strange stories of a tiger and a lion who lived together in the deep forest; of a wild cat with eyes like a pet fawn; and of birds whose songs were so sweet that wild beasts grew tame as they listened.
Sometimes, even in these days, it seems as if Orpheus were singing again.
When the wind stirs, there comes sweet music. The pine trees sigh, the leaves and branches of the forest trees dance as in the days when Orpheus first went into the woods of Thrace.
When the south wind blows, earth's voices become low and sweet, and the birds sing soft melodies to greet its coming.
Old books tell us that Orpheus was really the south wind itself.
THE LITTLE WIND-GOD
"What is it in the thermometer that shines so, mother?"
"Oh, that is quicksilver, Ethel. See the line of silver run up the tube while I hold it in my hand."
"Quicksilver? I should think it was quick! See it run back, now the tube is cool. But father called it something else the other night. What was it?"
"Oh, yes; he called it mercury, my dear. It is named after one of the gods the Greeks used to worship, their swift wind-god, Mercury. We read of him in many old stories. He was so quick that he became a messenger boy for the other gods."
"Oh, I like those old myths. Tell me about Mercury. I am going to name my dove after him, for it takes messages for me. Tell me a long one, please."
"Well, my dear, Mercury is also the name of the planet that will soon be our evening star. And, Ethel, if I tell you this story now, you must tell it to me sometime when we watch his beautiful namesake in the sky. Will you try to remember it?"
"Oh, yes, indeed, I'll remember. I love the stories about the stars. It makes them seem so real. I know Venus and Jupiter, and Mars with his red eye, and now I am going to have another friend among them. Oh, I am glad I asked about that quicksilver," and Ethel settled down on a footstool at her mother's feet.
This is the story Mrs. Brown told Ethel:
"In the days when the earth was young, a little baby lay alone in its cradle in a beautiful cave in a mountain side. This baby was Mercury. His mother had left him because someone had called her away for a moment, but for some reason she stayed an hour.
"As soon as she had gone, this wee baby turned over, lifted his head, and, seeing the door of the cave ajar, put out his hand. Touching the sides of the cradle, he sprang out like a boy ten years old. Slipping through the doorway, Mercury ran quickly down to the river bank near his home. A river tortoise was in his way. His tiny toes tripped over it and he fell. Vexed to be stopped by such a slow, clumsy creature, Mercury dashed it on a rock and killed it. Then he threw it into the river and watched the fish feed on its flesh. It seemed but a minute before the empty shell drifted to his feet. Mercury picked it up and felt sorry for what he had done.
"'I will make this shell live forever,' he said. 'I do not mean to be cruel to earth's creatures.'
"Quick as a thought he bored nine holes in each side, and taking the lacings from his tiny sandals, he split them and strung them into the holes in the shell.
"Drawing his little hand across the strings, there came the sweetest sounds, and the first harp on earth was made. He was so pleased that he hid it under his white dress until he came to some thick reeds by the river, and there he laid it safely away.
"Running swiftly homeward, he came softly through the narrow opening, back into his own room, and, creeping into his cradle, he cuddled down and went to sleep."
"Why, mother, he was so little! Only a baby; how could he?"
"The old myth says he was only three days old when he did this, but remember, this is like a fairy story, and Mercury was the son of the great Jupiter. But let me tell the rest. When his mother came back, she was frightened to think he had been alone an hour, but he was sleeping so sweetly when she looked at him that she felt he had not been harmed. The mother never dreamed when she saw the open sandals that he had been away."
"But the harp, mother; didn't she ever find that?"
"No, you know the little rogue had hidden the harp in the reeds by the river. Another day he ran away and got into worse trouble than he expected, for he dared to steal some of Apollo's cattle. They were beautiful snow-white creatures, feeding in the violet meadows of the sky. As he saw them drifting slowly toward him, the mischief in him made him drive these gentle creatures into the sea, and, being tired and hungry, he tore the last one to pieces and fed on it.
"Though this mischief-maker walked backward to his home, trying to deceive any who would hunt for him, Apollo found him out. When the sun-god saw him lying there, a helpless baby in a cradle, Mercury almost made him think that he had not done the wrong. But at last even Mercury's mother believed him guilty, for the proofs brought were many, and Apollo came to take him away. Then the little wind-god took from under his cradle-clothes the harp which he had hidden there, and breathed upon it. Apollo was charmed by the melody and could only say:
"'Give me that, and I will not ask for my stolen cattle.'
"That was just what Mercury wished. He quickly handed him the tortoise shell. In Apollo's hands it made still sweeter music, for everything Apollo did was best.
"So nimble Mercury was free. When the child was a few months older, Apollo chose him for his messenger. He gave him a cap with wings at either side, and winged sandals. In his hands he always carried a winged wand with two serpents crossed and recrossed upon it. You have surely seen his picture, Ethel?"
"Oh, yes. Down at the art store there is a little statue of him. I can remember, this story always."
THE VOICES OF NATURE
Vanemuine, the god of song, dwelt on the Hill of Taara. But he grew tired of living in Finland and of his beautiful hill, so he sent word for all things to come to him to receive the language they were to speak before he went away to his palace in the sky. As they gathered around him, he opened his lips and sang so sweetly, so softly, that the murmur of his harp strings seemed almost harsh as compared with the music of his rich voice.
The wandering winds who listened afar off caught and remembered only the loudest tones. The sacred stream that flows so softly around the Hill of Taara chose for its language the rustling of the silken garments which moved upon his shoulders as he played.
The listening trees of the forest heard the rushing of his flowing mantle as he descended from his throne on the crest of the hill; and ever since, this has been the language of the tree-tops. If one will sit on the mossy bank of a little brook near by a full-leaved forest, he may even now fancy that Vanemuine is come again to earth.
Some of the larger creatures took up the deeper tones of the heavy harp strings, and their language is now full of these sounds. Others loved the melody of the lighter strings, and this softer music is ever in their voices.
In his great joy Vanemuine sang songs never before heard on the earth, and the listening nightingale caught their meaning, never to forget. When you hear the nightingale pour out its song in the dusk of evening hours, you hear an echo of the song the nightingale heard upon the Hill of Taara.
Vanemuine sang of love and of the beautiful springtime. The happy lark heard and understood, and the sweetest tones of the song she sings over and over with each returning morning. As she soars higher and higher into the clear air, she sings her song, trying to tell the whole world of the love and beauty of which she heard so long ago.
While everything else was being made so happy, the poor fishes were having a sad time. They could not leave the water to go to the Hill of Taara, but they stretched their heads out of the brooks and rivers to their very eyes, yet kept their ears under. So they saw Vanemuine, the song-god, move his lips, but heard nothing, and they did as he did and made no sound. To this day the poor, dumb fishes move their lips, but speak no language.
Only the men and women who stood close around the Hill of Taara understood everything that was sung. That is why human voices more than any others can thrill us and make us see the beautiful and true.
Vanemuine sang of the glory of heaven and of the beauty of earth. He sang of the flowing waters and of the rustling leaves. He sang of the joys and the sorrows that come to all people, to children and parents, to the rich and to the poor. If we listen to the songs sung to-day, with open ears and expectant hearts, we may hear all that Vanemuine sang so long ago upon the Hill of Taara.
When Vanemuine's songs had been heard by all the world, he rose on the wings of the winds and went far into cloudland to his golden palace in the sky. There he still sings his wonderful songs for those who are greater than mankind.
To this very day the people of Finland think they can sometimes hear Vanemuine's voice when the forest trees sigh in the wind, or the water in the river softly laps against its rocky shore. Perhaps—who knows?—we may hear him, too, if we listen well!
A BAG OF WINDS
"Oh, Grace, do see that man with all those little balloons! Don't they look like a bunch of big cherries?"
"Yes, they do, Carrie, but cherries are all of one color, and some of his balloons are red and some are blue. Oh, here is one that has burst. See, it is only a little rubber sack that was once full of air."
"That makes me think, Carrie, of a story I read the other day about a bag of winds. It was about the King of the Winds and his kindness. It was this way:
"Once a man named Ulysses was sailing over a great sea, and he came to an island. He and his sailors were so tired and hungry that they stopped for food and rest. The King of the Winds—his name was Aeolus—was very kind to them, and they feasted for fifteen days; then they had to go forward on their journey again. King Aeolus thought so much of Ulysses that he told him that he would see that he had good sailing weather all the way home, if Ulysses would promise to take charge of what he would give him.
"King Aeolus went alone to the great cave in the mountains where he kept the four strong winds and some of the weaker ones. He pounded on the door with his heavy key to let them know he was there, and that they must wait his call. Then he unlocked the door and let out the strong East Wind, but caught the others in a great bag made of a whole ox-hide. This he tied with a stout cord, and the East Wind took it on his shoulders and carried it to the boat that was about to sail.
"Then King Aeolus told Ulysses how to fasten it to the mast, and the East Wind had great frolics with the queer bag in which were his brothers.
"King Aeolus told Ulysses never to sleep unless his faithful watchman was guarding this treasure. Ulysses thanked him and promised faithfully. Such beautiful weather had never been known before for so long a time. The East Wind had no one to quarrel with, and the boat flew like a bird for nine long days.
"The captain grew weary the tenth night and went to sleep while his watchman was off duty. That was just the chance the sailors wanted. Slyly up to the mast crept a strong sailor, thinking he would cut down this treasure which he thought was gold. As soon as the string snapped, he found out his mistake, and so did everyone in the boat.
"The mighty North Wind felt the loosening strings and rising from the corner of the ox-hide bag, into which he had been thrust, rushed past his brothers and escaped first into the open air. The West Wind came after, screaming hoarsely, while the South Wind, roused to anger by such rough treatment, whistled fiercely as his brother, North Wind, grappled with him. The clouds were twisted into curious shapes as the winds wrestled above the sea. The strong East Wind strove to drive back the West Wind, but found that nine days of rest had given his brother great strength, and the waves rose like mountains under their feet. For seven hours the winds fought, while the waters were black, for not one star dared to watch the battle. The boat of Ulysses was tossed like a seaweed, and the sailors longed for the sunlight that they might see if the storm had taken anyone from the ship. When the light came and the fury of the winds grew less, it was found that not one sailor had been lost; not even the traitor who had cut down the bag. His punishment was to live.
"The boat drifted back to the land of King Aeolus, and Ulysses begged for help. 'I cannot help you,' he said. 'You have done this by your carelessness, and you must now toil at the oars, as before, while I seek my lost winds.'
"When the winds were tired with their roaming, they came back and were willing to be led to their cave, but the stout ox-hide bag was lost, and King Aeolus never made another."
ECHO, THE AIR MAIDEN
"Grace, you should not try to have the last word. It is a bad habit to get into. Shut your lips and run into another room if you can't stop yourself by any other means."
"Why, auntie, what a funny way to cure me! But I don't see that I need any such thing. Johnny was in the wrong and he knows it."
"You see, you are having the last word now. Do you remember what you heard out by the great rocks the day of the picnic?"
"Oh, that echo! Wasn't it perfect! I said, 'come here,' and it answered, 'here,' just as plainly as one of the girls, and we talked with it ever so long."
"Can you call it answering, Grace? Think what it really did."
"Oh, I know now, but I don't like to tell, because—because it seems a little as you say I do."
"Yes, Grace, and I am going to tell you a story about the very first echo. Please try to remember it and shut your lips and run away whenever you feel like having the last word. Will you, dear?"
"I'll remember the story, anyway," said Grace, as she cuddled down on a footstool at the feet of her aunt.
"This is a sad little story," said her Aunt Kate to her, "and I'm glad it is only a story.
"The first echo was a pretty girl who had only one fault—she would talk too much. She not only talked too much and sometimes, I fear, too loud, but when others tried to say a word, she would begin again and try to outdo them. She loved to tease and to vex people. Still, she was so beautiful that no one could bear to punish her.
"One day Queen Juno came down to earth (you see, Grace, this is one of the old myths) and saucy Echo dared to torment even her. Juno had left her throne in the sky to search for someone Echo knew.
"'Where is he, Echo?' Juno asked.
"'Is he Echo? Oh, no, I am Echo. Did you want me?' the saucy girl answered.
"'How dare you do it?' Juno said.
"'Dare you do it? Oh, yes, I dare do anything. Tell me what to do.'
"'You have dared too much already, silly child, and for punishment you shall lose the use of that tongue of yours, except for the one purpose of answering back. You shall still have the last word, but never again shall you speak first.'
"Just then Iris, Juno's maid of honor, came with a shining car drawn by two peacocks, and away they both went over the rainbow bridge back to Juno's throne.
"Echo in her sorrow ran and hid herself in a cavern.
"She wandered from cave to cave and rock to rock, always answering back when those who tried to find her called, but never able to tell where she was. She grew thinner and thinner, till at last nothing was left of her but her voice.
"That she will always keep, and try as hard as you may, you can never have the last word with Echo."
IRIS, THE RAINBOW PRINCESS
Queen Juno was the wife of Jupiter, the great king. She lived with her husband in one of the cloud palaces of the sky, lighted by the moon and stars at night and the sun by day.
Juno had many followers who were ready to do her bidding, but she loved best of all her beautiful maid of honor, the princess Iris. No one dared to use the rainbow but Iris, to whom it had been given by Jupiter. Whenever Iris was in haste to obey Queen Juno's orders, down from the palace she would sail in a chariot drawn by two peacocks, and if she wished she might ride all the way over the rainbow.
Think of the beautiful Iris, wrapped in a fleecy cloud, gliding over this wonderful path in the heavens! Wouldn't it have been a lovely sight to see?
Once Juno sent her all the way to Dreamland to bring to Halcyone, the daughter of Aeolus, a dream of her husband, who was far away on the ocean.
Iris loved to help poor mortals, and tears filled her eyes when she heard how this lonely woman longed to see the one she loved so well.
The clouds caught the tears from the eyes of Iris, and quickly made ready for her the glorious rainbow bridge, reaching from Dreamland to the wonderful Garden of the Gods.
She wrapped herself in a cloud chosen from the sunset and, stepping into her chariot, gave the signal to her birds and drove swiftly down, down to the dim country of the King of Sleep.
Before she could reach the entrance to his palace, she had to drive through field after field of poppies, red as the sunset she had just left in the sky, for poppies give sleep to the people of Dreamland.
Somnus, the King of Sleep, lived in a deep, still cave, so dark that he had never seen the rainbow or the sun. There was no gate; soft black plumes and curtains served as doors. Here in the heart of Dreamland Iris saw all about her strange, beautiful dreams.
There were dreams for children of toys and candies and plays; dreams for men and women of all that they had ever wished for; dreams, dreams, everywhere. But Iris did not like darkness any better than you and I do, and she quickly gave an order for the King of Sleep to send the best dream possible to the anxious Halcyone. Then back she drove over the rainbow bridge, up, up to the bright palace in the clouds.
As soon as she had left the rainbow's track it faded away, but, even before it was out of sight, a dream of her husband had come to Halcyone, and Iris was happy.
Iris loved the water best of all things on earth. She always wore a chain of raindrops for pearls, and a cloud for a robe. She had an army of soldiers by each river bank. Men called the soldiers plants, but their swords were always drawn for Iris, and their stately heads were adorned with her favorite colors.
When you see a group of plants clustered at the water's edge, with their sword-like leaves pointing to the sky, and their great blue flowers looking like a crown, remember that is the flower Iris loved.
THE THUNDER-GOD AND HIS BROTHER
Tiu, Ziu, or Tyr, were three names for one of Woden's sons. Tiu was the brother of Thor, and his mother, Frigga, was always proud of his courage in war and of his skill and strength in battle. The soldiers of the Northland cried to him for help as often as they did to his father, Woden.
Tiu's sign was a sword, and the brave old kings of Norway and their followers used to engrave his name upon their bright steel blades that they might please the great warrior who lived in Asgard. It was thought that if Tiu saw his name written in the strange Runic letters he would give his help to the man who honored that name and keep his good sword sharp.
Thor and Tiu went, in the olden time, to the house of a giant to secure a large kettle which was in the giant's house.
Thor's goats drew with magic swiftness the chariot in which the two rode, and Thor and Tiu arrived at the house in a few moments.
The giant's wife hid the two huge visitors under one of the many caldrons she had in her kitchen. When her husband came he broke all the kettles but one by just glancing at them. He welcomed his visitors in a very grim way and ordered them to be seated at the table with him. Thor ate so much that the giant grew angry, but Thor told him he would repay all by bringing him fish from the sea the next day.
Thor caught two whales and carried them to the giant's house, as he had promised. The giant laughingly said that he would give him one of the kettles if he could carry it. Tin tried twice and failed, but Thor, putting on his magic belt, lifted the kettle and set it on his head like a cap.
Then the goats took the two sons of Woden back to their home in Asgard.
If anyone should tell you that the giant was winter, and his kettles the strangely shaped icebergs of the arctic North, would you believe it? Thor was the god of thunder riding in the clouds with his brother, the god of bravery and of the strong winds.
Tiu's name has been given to the day before Woden's day, and when Tuesday comes, try to be as true, brave, and swift as Tiu, the son of Woden.
NEPTUNE, KING OF THE SEAS
"Mother, when papa came back from South America, he told us a queer story about the sailors dressing up in masks. What holiday was it? And what did they do it for?"
"That must have been, Charlie, when the ship crossed the line, or the equator, as you call it in the geography class. I remember his telling about King Neptune and his trident."
"What did the sailors do, mother?"
"Why, one dressed to represent Neptune, a famous ocean god, and the rest masked as his followers. They were given presents by the passengers on the ship, and it was a grand holiday."
"But who is King Neptune, and where does this ocean god live, mother?"
"People used to believe that Neptune was really king of all the waters on the earth, Charlie. Doesn't that seem strange? I'll tell you a story that I heard about Neptune and some of the other gods whom the Greeks used to worship. Perhaps you will find more stories about him sometime."
"Wait a minute, mother, till I get that easy chair for you. Now we are ready to begin."
"Once on a time, Juno, the wife of Jupiter, while watching from the sky, saw some ships on the sea beneath her.
"After looking closely, she found they were the seven ships of Aeneas, who was trying to reach the land of Italy and was now only a few miles from its shore.
"Juno, for reasons of her own, did not want Aeneas to reach the land. Knowing something must be done in the shortest possible time she went to King Aeolus and asked his help. She promised him all manner of beautiful gifts if he would only send his winds against the ships of Aeneas.
"King Aeolus knew he was doing wrong, but he would not refuse Juno. He went to the mountain cave where he kept the storm winds, and, taking his heavy war spear, burst open the massive door of the cavern and let all the mad crew out at once.
"The storm they made was terrible. Great waves like mountains came sweeping over the land, carrying trees and everything away.
"The ships of Aeneas were only playthings in such a hurricane, and the winds seemed to know for what they had been let loose.
"The great cables that fastened heavy anchors to the ships were snapped like stalks of corn. The winds roared like wild animals. The sky was as black as night, and great waterspouts went whirling by like huge tops set spinning by the blasts.
"One fierce wind blew against the ship of Aeneas and overturned it.
"A whirlwind caught three other ships and tossed them lightly on the great rocks, on the shore. Another whirlwind sent three more ships into the terrible quicksands and they were swallowed up.
"Aeneas, swimming in the water, saw around him his trusty sailors clinging, like himself, to broken planks and pieces of timber. All about them floated concave shields, outspread mantles, and overturned helmets. Treasures, too, in the shape of precious home gifts, and robes covered with jewels, drifted past them.
"But the only thing anyone wanted then was life, and it seemed as if the winds and waters were ready and able to destroy every man of them.
"Aeneas called to Neptune, king of the seas, and Neptune heard him and came riding up out of the bottom of the ocean.
"He held his golden-maned horses firmly in check, while his voice roared over the waters, asking:
"'What is this, you winds, that you dare to trouble earth and sky without leave from me? Who let you free from your rock prison?'
"The waves were afraid and quieted down. The clouds scattered like naughty children caught in mischief. The winds flew home and, hurrying back into their cave, blew the door tight-shut with a bang. Then everybody waited to see what King Neptune would do.
"He ordered some of his ocean train to pry the three ships off the rocks, but they could not, and he had to help them with his trident, or three-pointed spear. Then King Neptune opened the quicksands and the other three ships sailed out on the water again.
"Neptune knew Aeneas was a brave man and always quick to answer a call for help, so the boat of Aeneas had been taken care of first, and he and his men were put back safely into it.
"King Neptune, seeing everything was quiet again, showed Aeneas a beautiful harbor where he and his sailors could rest. The brazen-hoofed steeds that drew Neptune's chariot were tossing their heads and growing restive. So Neptune called his followers, and in a flash they all disappeared into the depths of the sea.
"Jupiter, ruler of the sky, praised Neptune for his skill in checking the furious winds and maddened waves, and Pluto, ruler of the center of the earth, said he was proud to call him brother."
"Well, that must have made King Aeolus ashamed of himself. Don't you think so, mother?"
WHY RIVERS HAVE GOLDEN SANDS
Once a poor peasant named Gordius thought he would give himself and his family a holiday in the city. He had no horses, but his yoke of oxen could draw the heavy wagon very well. He fastened them to his cart and, putting in his wife and boy, climbed in himself.
When near the city, the capital of Phrygia, he thought it would look better for him to walk and drive his oxen. This he did. As he approached the city he heard a great noise in the marketplace. He hurried his oxen to find out what it was all about. He had to jump into his wagon to avoid the crowd that was following him, and so drove to a great oak in the public square.
Such a welcome as this poor countryman had!
"Here comes our king!" was the cry from everyone. "We were told he should come this day in a wagon drawn by oxen, and here he is!"
Gordius could not believe what he heard. But the chief men brought the crown and put it on his head and declared him king, and he agreed to do his best to deserve the honor.
The oak near which he had stopped was in front of a temple. Gordius gave away his oxen and, taking a heavy rope, tied his wagon with a tremendous knot to the oak. The priest came out and declared that whoever in times to come should be able to untie that knot would be king of all Asia. No one ever did untie it. But Alexander the Great came to Phrygia many years after and, failing to untie it, he took his sword and dealt the rope such a blow that one stroke cut through the magic knot.
A short time after he left Phrygia all Asia owned Alexander the Great as king, and maybe that was the way the knot was to be undone. Anyway, he did not give it up, and that is a good thing for us to remember. Cut the Gordian knots if they will not be untied.
The little boy who rode in the wagon with Gordius was Midas. After his father Gordius died, Midas was chosen King of Phrygia. He was kind and just to the people, as Gordius must have been, or they would not have chosen his son Midas to be their king.
One day while Midas was king some peasants found an old man wandering about in the woods. The forest was strange to him and he had lost his way. Midas knew him as soon as the peasants had brought him to the king's palace. It was Silenus, a teacher whose fame had gone through all the world. Midas treated Silenus with the greatest respect. For ten days there was feasting and games in the palace in honor of Silenus. On the eleventh day Midas took him back to the house of his greatest pupil. This pupil was more than mortal, so the story goes. His name was Bacchus. Midas told him all about the finding of Silenus, and Silenus told all about the pleasant time he had at the king's palace. Then the wonderful Bacchus told Midas he might have anything he should wish for as a reward.
Now Gordius, his father, had always wished for more money, though he had been made king and there was more gold for him and his good queen to spend than you would think he could manage. Midas, too, had wished for money. Yet all his life, since that lucky wagon ride, Midas had seen riches and jewels enough to make him grow tired of such things. But, no; when Bacchus asked him what he would have, Midas said, "Let everything I touch turn into gold."
If you had been there and could have had your choice, what would you have wished for? Can you tell? Never wish for anything quite so foolish as King Midas did, for see what trouble it made him.
After making the wish, King Midas leaped into his chariot to return home. As soon as his feet touched the chariot floor, it turned into solid gold. The reins in his hands became gold. He returned to his palace and the people thought it must be Apollo come to earth, everything was so glorious. His wife met him in the palace halls. One touch and she was turned into a golden statue. No help, no rescue! Midas went out into his garden and reached for the fruit that hung on the trees. Nothing but gold after he had touched it. Gold, gold, gold! How he hated the sight of it! His food and drink were gold. His friends, his home, even his pillow was cold hard gold.
In a few hours he raised his arms, glittering with cloth of gold, in prayer, beseeching Bacchus to take his gift away. Bacchus was kind and said:
"Go to the river Pactolus, find its fountain head, plunge in, and when your body is covered your fault will be washed away."
Poor King Midas did just as he was told. When he touched the water the strange power went into the river. The river sands changed into gold, and to this day grains of gold are found by the river Pactolus.
After that, Midas lived in the country and dressed as plainly as the poorest peasant. He was so thankful to be free from his terrible gift that he never wanted anyone to remind him of the time when everything he touched turned to gold. But even in the country, the yellow plums, pears, and apples reminded Midas of the fruit he had touched in his own garden.
In autumn, when golden leaves are falling everywhere and the grain is waving in the field, one may fancy King Midas is in our own land.
OLD GRASSHOPPER GRAY
"O, grasshopper, grasshopper gray, Give me molasses and then hop away."
That is what Bessie Allen said to the little creature she held between her thumb and fingers. Did you ever say that rhyme? I should not wonder if you had said it an hundred times.
The grasshopper in Bessie's fingers seemed very ready to give her brown molasses from his little mouth and then she let him hop away while she went to catch another. She did not want that molasses; all she wanted was the fun of catching the little "hoppity-hops," as she sometimes called them.
"Come, catch me! I'm a hopper," called her five-year-old brother Willie. And she saw the little fellow hopping through the grass.
Bessie had so much fun trying to catch this new "grasshopper gray," that she forgot all about the little creatures she had been pinching.
At last she had her arms around her brother Willie.
"Now you are caught," she said. "Give me some molasses."
And then they both laughed so hard that their mother heard as she came to the door to look for them.
That night their mother said to their father:
"I have a new name for Willie."
"What is it?" asked their father.
"Tithonus," said their mother.
"When I was in school one of my lessons was about the beautiful goddess Aurora. She was said to open the rosy gates of dawn with her own fingers, so that the wonderful horses of Apollo might pass through to follow their shining track through the sky. She was so beautiful that Tithonus, who lived on the earth, always watched for the sunrise, that he might see Aurora. After a while she began to watch for him, too. She looked down every morning on the wakening world and found that he was almost the only one among mortals who enjoyed the glorious colors Apollo painted in the sky with his arrows of light. One morning she dared to sing to him, and then he answered that it was Aurora, and not Apollo, for whom he was watching each morning at sunrise. She loved him for this and became his wife.
"Being a goddess, she could live for ever, and she wanted Tithonus to live forever, too. The gods and goddesses never drink wine or water, but ambrosia from golden goblets. She brought a golden goblet of ambrosia to Tithonus on the earth, and, after he had taken a drink, told him the happy news that now he should live forever. But she had forgotten to ask of the gods for him the gift of eternal youth.
"For many years they loved each other dearly. Then Aurora saw that Tithonus was growing into a little old man.
"When he was one hundred years old he was shrunken to the size of a boy of ten.
"When he was two hundred years old he was no larger than a baby, only he was very lively, and could run as fast as a man.
"When he was three hundred years old Aurora could scarcely find him, save as his song told her where he was. With his head bent down to the ground he did not look like a man, and he made his home by the dusty roadside. But every sunrise he sat upon the tallest spear of grass he could find and chirped to Aurora as she opened the gates of dawn for Apollo. After years and years Aurora forgot all about the little gray grasshopper, but I don't think Tithonus has forgotten her, for he and all his grasshopper friends chirp the same song as when he first came to live among them."
"Poor old Tithonus!" said Bessie.
"Why, no," said her father; "mother said he could never die. Maybe it was Tithonus who gave you molasses to-day. Yes, perhaps that was ambrosia instead of molasses that the gray grasshopper dropped from his lips."
"Oh, don't tell any more!" laughed both Willie and Bessie. "We won't catch another grasshopper."
WHERE THE FROGS CAME FROM
You see the sun every bright day, don't you?
And you see the moon every moonshiny night.
Now, listen, and I'll tell you a story about their mother. No, not about their mother, but about the mother of the god of the sun, and of the goddess of the moon, whose names were Apollo and Diana.