|A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys|
|by Nathaniel Hawthorne|
|Delightful retelling of six Greek myths to a crowd of energetic youngsters by a master storyteller. Includes The Gorgonís Head, The Golden Touch, The Paradise of Children, The Three Golden Apples, and The Miraculous Pitcher. Ages 9-12 |
NCE, in the old, old times (for all the strange things
which I tell you about happened long before anybody can
remember), a fountain gushed out of a hill-side, in the
marvelous land of Greece. And, for aught I know, after
so many thousand years, it is still gushing out of the
very selfsame spot. At any rate, there was the pleasant
fountain, welling freshly forth and sparkling adown the
hill-side, in the golden sunset, when a handsome young
man named Bellerophon drew near its margin. In his hand
he held a bridle, studded with brilliant gems, and
adorned with a golden bit. Seeing an old man, and
another of middle age, and a little boy, near the
fountain, and likewise a maiden, who was dipping up
some of the water in a pitcher, he paused, and begged
that he might refresh himself with a draught.
"This is very delicious water," he said to the maiden
as he rinsed and filled her pitcher, after drinking out
of it. "Will you be kind enough to tell me whether the
fountain has any name?"
 "Yes; it is called the Fountain of Pirene," answered
the maiden; and then she added, "My grandmother has
told me that this clear fountain was once a beautiful
woman; and when her son was killed by the arrows of the
huntress Diana, she melted all away into tears. And so
the water, which you find so cool and sweet, is the
sorrow of that poor mother's heart!"
"I should not have dreamed," observed the young
stranger, "that so clear a well-spring, with its gush
and gurgle, and its cheery dance out of the shade into
the sunlight, had so much as one tear-drop in its
bosom! And this, then, is Pirene? I thank you, pretty
maiden, for telling me its name. I have come from a
far-away country to find this very spot."
A middle-aged country fellow (he had driven his cow to
drink out of the spring) stared hard at young
Bellerophon, and at the handsome bridle which he
carried in his hand.
"The water-courses must be getting low, friend, in your
part of the world," remarked he, "if you come so far
only to find the Fountain of Pirene. But, pray, have
you lost a horse? I see you carry the bridle in your
hand; and a very pretty one it is with that double row
of bright stones upon it. If the horse was as fine as
the bridle, you are much to be pitied for losing him."
"I have lost no horse," said Bellerophon, with a smile.
"But I happen to be seeking a very famous one, which,
as wise people have informed me, must be found
hereabouts, if anywhere. Do you know whether the winged
horse Pegasus still
 haunts the Fountain of Pirene, as
he used to do in your forefathers' days?"
But then the country fellow laughed.
Some of you, my little friends, have probably heard
that this Pegasus was a snow-white steed, with
beautiful silvery wings, who spent most of his time on
the summit of Mount Helicon. He was as wild, and as
swift, and as buoyant, in his flight through the air,
as any eagle that ever soared into the clouds. There
was nothing else like him in the world. He had no mate;
he never had been backed or bridled by a master; and,
for many a long year, he led a solitary and a happy
Oh, how fine a thing it is to be a winged horse!
Sleeping at night, as he did, on a lofty mountain-top,
and passing the greater part of the day in the air,
Pegasus seemed hardly to be a creature of the earth.
Whenever he was seen, up very high above people's
heads, with the sunshine on his silvery wings, you
would have thought that he belonged to the sky, and
that, skimming a little too low, he had got astray
among our mists and vapors, and was seeking his way
back again. It was very pretty to behold him plunge
into the fleecy bosom of a bright cloud, and be lost in
it, for a moment or two, and then break forth from the
other side. Or, in a sullen rain-storm, when there was
a gray pavement of clouds over the whole sky, it would
sometimes happen that the winged horse descended right
through it, and the glad light of the upper region
would gleam after him. In another instant, it is true,
 and the pleasant light would be gone away
together. But any one that was fortunate enough to see
this wondrous spectacle felt cheerful the whole day
afterwards, and as much longer as the storm lasted.
In the summer-time, and in the beautifullest of
weather, Pegasus often alighted on the solid earth,
and, closing his silvery wings, would gallop over hill
and dale for pastime, as fleetly as the wind. Oftener
than in any other place, he had been seen near the
Fountain of Pirene, drinking the delicious water, or
rolling himself upon the soft grass of the margin.
Sometimes, too (but Pegasus was very dainty in his
food), he would crop a few of the clover-blossoms that
happened to be sweetest.
To the Fountain of Pirene, therefore, people's
great-grandfathers had been in the habit of going (as
long as they were youthful, and retained their faith in
winged horses), in hopes of getting a glimpse at the
beautiful Pegasus. But, of late years, he had been very
seldom seen. Indeed, there were many of the country
folks, dwelling within half an hour's walk of the
fountain, who had never beheld Pegasus, and did not
believe that there was any such creature in existence.
The country fellow to whom Bellerophon was speaking
chanced to be one of those incredulous persons.
And that was the reason why he laughed.
"Pegasus, indeed!" cried he, turning up his nose as
high as such a flat nose could be turned up,—"Pegasus,
indeed! A winged horse, truly!
 Why, friend, are you in
your senses? Of what use would wings be to a horse?
Could he drag the plough so well, think you? To be
sure, there might be a little saving in the expense of
shoes; but then, how would a man like to see his horse
flying out of the stable window?—yes, or whisking him
up above the clouds, when he only wanted to ride to
mill? No, no! I don't believe in Pegasus. There never
was such a ridiculous kind of a horse-fowl made!"
"I have some reason to think otherwise," said
And then he turned to an old, gray man, who was leaning
on a staff, and listening very attentively, with his
head stretched forward, and one hand at his ear,
because, for the last twenty years, he had been getting
"And what say you, venerable sir?" inquired he. "In
your younger days, I should imagine, you must
frequently have seen the winged steed!"
"Ah, young stranger, my memory is very poor!" said the
aged man. "When I was a lad, if I remember rightly, I
used to believe there was such a horse, and so did
everybody else. But, nowadays, I hardly know what to
think, and very seldom think about the winged horse at
all. If I ever saw the creature, it was a long, long
while ago; and, to tell you the truth, I doubt whether
I ever did see him. One day, to be sure, when I was
quite a youth, I remember seeing some hoof-tramps round
about the brink of the fountain. Pegasus might have
made those hoof-marks; and so might some other horse."
 "And have you never seen him, my fair maiden?" asked
Bellerophon of the girl, who stood with the pitcher on
her head, while this talk went on. "You certainly could
see Pegasus, if anybody can, for your eyes are very
"Once I thought I saw him," replied the maiden, with a
smile and a blush. "It was either Pegasus, or a large
white bird, a very great way up in the air. And one
other time, as I was coming to the fountain with my
pitcher, I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and
melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with
delight at the sound. But it startled me, nevertheless;
so that I ran home without filling my pitcher."
"That was truly a pity!" said Bellerophon.
And he turned to the child, whom I mentioned at the
beginning of the story, and who was gazing at him, as
children are apt to gaze at strangers, with his rosy
mouth wide open.
"Well, my little fellow," cried Bellerophon, playfully
pulling one of his curls, "I suppose you have often
seen the winged horse."
"That I have," answered the child, very readily. "I saw
him yesterday, and many times before."
"You are a fine little man!" said Bellerophon, drawing
the child closer to him. "Come, tell me all about it."
"Why," replied the child, "I often come here to sail
little boats in the fountain, and to gather pretty
pebbles out of its basin. And sometimes, when I look
down into the water, I see the image of the winged
horse, in the picture of the sky that is there. I wish
he would come down, and take
 me on his back, and let me
ride him up to the moon! But, if I so much as stir to
look at him, he flies far away out of sight."
And Bellerophon put his faith in the child, who had
seen the image of Pegasus in the water, and in the
maiden, who had heard him neigh so melodiously, rather
than in the middle-aged clown, who believed only in
cart-horses, or in the old man who had forgotten the
beautiful things of his youth.
Therefore, he haunted about the Fountain of Pirene for
a great many days afterwards. He kept continually on
the watch, looking upward at the sky, or else down into
the water, hoping forever that he should see either the
reflected image of the winged horse, or the marvelous
reality. He held the bridle, with its bright gems and
golden bit, always ready in his hand. The rustic
people, who dwelt in the neighborhood, and drove their
cattle to the fountain to drink, would often laugh at
poor Bellerophon, and sometimes take him pretty
severely to task. They told him that an able-bodied
young man, like himself, ought to have better business
than to be wasting his time in such an idle pursuit.
They offered to sell him a horse, if he wanted one; and
when Bellerophon declined the purchase, they tried to
drive a bargain with him for his fine bridle.
Even the country boys thought him so very foolish, that
they used to have a great deal of sport about him, and
were rude enough not to care a fig, although
Bellerophon saw and heard it. One little urchin, for
example, would play
 Pegasus, and cut the oddest
imaginable capers, by way of flying; while one of his
schoolfellows would scamper after him, holding forth a
twist of bulrushes, which was intended to represent
Bellerophon's ornamental bridle. But the gentle child,
who had seen the picture of Pegasus in the water,
comforted the young stranger more than all the naughty
boys could torment him. The dear little fellow, in his
play-hours, often sat down beside him, and, without
speaking a word, would look down into the fountain and
up towards the sky, with so innocent a faith, that
Bellerophon could not help feeling encouraged.
Now you will, perhaps, wish to be told why it was that
Bellerophon had undertaken to catch the winged horse.
And we shall find no better opportunity to speak about
this matter than while he is waiting for Pegasus to
If I were to relate the whole of Bellerophon's previous
adventures, they might easily grow into a very long
story. It will be quite enough to say, that, in a
certain country of Asia, a terrible monster, called a
Chimæra, had made its appearance, and was doing more
mischief than could be talked about between now and
sunset. According to the best accounts which I have
been able to obtain, this Chimæra was nearly, if not
quite, the ugliest and most poisonous creature, and the
strangest and unaccountablest, and the hardest to fight
with, and the most difficult to run away from, that
ever came out of the earth's inside. It had a tail like
a boa-constrictor; its body was like I do not care
what; and it had three separate
 heads, one of which was
a lion's, the second a goat's, and the third an
abominably great snake's. And a hot blast of fire came
flaming out of each of its three mouths! Being an
earthly monster, I doubt whether it had any wings; but,
wings or no, it ran like a goat and a lion, and
wriggled along like a serpent, and thus contrived to
make about as much speed as all the three together.
Oh, the mischief, and mischief, and mischief that this
naughty creature did! With its flaming breath, it could
set a forest on fire, or burn up a field of grain, or,
for that matter, a village, with all its fences and
houses. It laid waste the whole country round about,
and used to eat up people and animals alive, and cook
them afterwards in the burning oven of its stomach.
Mercy on us, little children, I hope neither you nor I
will ever happen to meet a Chimæra!
While the hateful beast (if a beast we can anywise call
it) was doing all these horrible things, it so chanced
that Bellerophon came to that part of the world, on a
visit to the king. The king's name was Iobates, and
Lycia was the country which he ruled over. Bellerophon
was one of the bravest youths in the world, and desired
nothing so much as to do some valiant and beneficent
deed, such as would make all mankind admire and love
him. In those days, the only way for a young man to
distinguish himself was by fighting battles, either
with the enemies of his country, or with wicked giants,
or with troublesome dragons, or with wild beasts, when
he could find nothing more dangerous to encounter. King
per-  ceiving the courage of his youthful
visitor, proposed to him to go and fight the Chimæra,
which everybody else was afraid of, and which, unless
it should be soon killed, was likely to convert Lycia
into a desert. Bellerophon hesitated not a moment, but
assured the king that he would either slay this dreaded
Chimæra, or perish in the attempt.
But, in the first place, as the monster was so
prodigiously swift, he bethought himself that he should
never win the victory by fighting on foot. The wisest
thing he could do, therefore, was to get the very best
and fleetest horse that could anywhere be found. And
what other horse, in all the world, was half so fleet
as the marvelous horse Pegasus, who had wings as well
as legs, and was even more active in the air than on
the earth? To be sure, a great many people denied that
there was any such horse with wings, and said that the
stories about him were all poetry and nonsense. But,
wonderful as it appeared, Bellerophon believed that
Pegasus was a real steed, and hoped that he himself
might be fortunate enough to find him; and, once fairly
mounted on his back, he would be able to fight the
Chimæra at better advantage.
And this was the purpose with which he had traveled
from Lycia to Greece, and had brought the beautifully
ornamented bridle in his hand. It was an enchanted
bridle. If he could only succeed in putting the golden
bit into the mouth of Pegasus, the winged horse would
be submissive, and would own Bellerophon for his
master, and fly whithersoever he might choose to turn
 But, indeed, it was a weary and anxious time, while
Bellerophon waited and waited for Pegasus, in hopes
that he would come and drink at the Fountain of Pirene.
He was afraid lest King Iobates should imagine that he
had fled from the Chimæra. It pained him, too, to think
how much mischief the monster was doing, while he
himself, instead of fighting with it, was compelled to
sit idly poring over the bright waters of Pirene, as
they gushed out of the sparkling sand. And as Pegasus
came thither so seldom in these latter years, and
scarcely alighted there more than once in a lifetime,
Bellerophon feared that he might grow an old man, and
have no strength left in his arms nor courage in his
heart, before the winged horse would appear. Oh, how
heavily passes the time, while an adventurous youth is
yearning to do his part in life, and to gather in the
harvest of his renown! How hard a lesson it is to wait!
Our life is brief, and how much of it is spent in
teaching us only this!
Well was it for Bellerophon that the gentle child had
grown so fond of him, and was never weary of keeping
him company. Every morning the child gave him a new
hope to put in his bosom, instead of yesterday's
"Dear Bellerophon," he would cry, looking up hopefully
into his face, "I think we shall see Pegasus to-day!"
And, at length, if it had not been for the little boy's
unwavering faith, Bellerophon would have given up all
hope, and would have gone back to Lycia, and have done
his best to slay the Chimæra
 without the help of the
winged horse. And in that case poor Bellerophon would
at least have been terribly scorched by the creature's
breath, and would most probably have been killed and
devoured. Nobody should ever try to fight an earth-born
Chimæra, unless he can first get upon the back of an
One morning the child spoke to Bellerophon even more
hopefully than usual.
"Dear, dear Bellerophon," cried he, "I know not why it
is, but I feel as if we should certainly see Pegasus
And all that day he would not stir a step from
Bellerophon's side; so they ate a crust of bread
together, and drank some of the water of the fountain.
In the afternoon, there they sat, and Bellerophon had
thrown his arm around the child, who likewise had put
one of his little hands into Bellerophon's. The latter
was lost in his own thoughts, and was fixing his eyes
vacantly on the trunks of the trees that overshadowed
the fountain, and on the grapevines that clambered up
among their branches. But the gentle child was gazing
down into the water; he was grieved, for Bellerophon's
sake, that the hope of another day should be deceived,
like so many before it; and two or three quiet
tear-drops fell from his eyes, and mingled with what
were said to be the many tears of Pirene, when she wept
for her slain children.
But, when he least thought of it, Bellerophon felt the
pressure of the child's little hand, and heard a soft,
almost breathless, whisper.
 "See there, dear Bellerophon! There is an image in the
The young man looked down into the dimpling mirror of
the fountain, and saw what he took to be the reflection
of a bird which seemed to be flying at a great height
in the air, with a gleam of sunshine on its snowy or
"What a splendid bird it must be!" said he. "And how
very large it looks, though it must really be flying
higher than the clouds!"
"It makes me tremble!" whispered the child. "I am
afraid to look up into the air! It is very beautiful,
and yet I dare only look at its image in the water.
Dear Bellerophon, do you not see that it is no bird? It
is the winged horse Pegasus!"
Bellerophon's heart began to throb! He gazed keenly
upward, but could not see the winged creature, whether
bird or horse; because, just then, it had plunged into
the fleecy depths of a summer cloud. It was but a
moment, however, before the object reappeared, sinking
lightly down out of the cloud, although still at a vast
distance from the earth. Bellerophon caught the child
in his arms, and shrank back with him, so that they
were both hidden among the thick shrubbery which grew
all around the fountain. Not that he was afraid of any
harm, but he dreaded lest, if Pegasus caught a glimpse
of them, he would fly far away, and alight in some
inaccessible mountain-top. For it was really the winged
horse. After they had expected him so long, he was
coming to quench his thirst with the water of Pirene.
 Nearer and nearer came the aerial wonder, flying in
great circles, as you may have seen a dove when about
to alight. Downward came Pegasus, in those wide,
sweeping circles, which grew narrower, and narrower
still, as he gradually approached the earth. The nigher
the view of him, the more beautiful he was, and the
more marvelous the sweep of his silvery wings. At
last, with so light a pressure as hardly to bend the
grass about the fountain, or imprint a hoof-tramp in
the sand of its margin, he alighted, and, stooping his
wild head, began to drink. He drew in the water, with
long and pleasant sighs, and tranquil pauses of
enjoyment; and then another draught, and another, and
another. For, nowhere in the world, or up among the
clouds, did Pegasus love any water as he loved this of
Pirene. And when his thirst was slaked, he cropped a
few of the honey-blossoms of the clover, delicately
tasting them, but not caring to make a hearty meal,
because the herbage, just beneath the clouds, on the
lofty sides of Mount Helicon, suited his palate better
than this ordinary grass.
After thus drinking to his heart's content, and in his
dainty fashion, condescending to take a little food,
the winged horse began to caper to and fro, and dance
as it were, out of mere idleness and sport. There never
was a more playful creature made than this very
Pegasus. So there he frisked, in a way that it delights
me to think about, fluttering his great wings as
lightly as ever did a linnet, and running little races,
half on earth and half in air, and which I know not
 call a flight or a gallop. When a creature
is perfectly able to fly, he sometimes chooses to run,
just for the pastime of the thing; and so did Pegasus,
although it cost him some little trouble to keep his
hoofs so near the ground. Bellerophon, meanwhile,
holding the child's hand, peeped forth from the
shrubbery, and thought that never was any sight so
beautiful as this, nor ever a horse's eyes so wild and
spirited as those of Pegasus. It seemed a sin to think
of bridling him and riding on his back.
Once or twice, Pegasus stopped, and snuffed the air,
pricking up his ears, tossing his head, and turning it
on all sides, as if he partly suspected some mischief
or other. Seeing nothing, however, and hearing no
sound, he soon began his antics again.
At length,—not that he was weary, but only idle and
luxurious,—Pegasus folded his wings, and lay down on
the soft green turf. But, being too full of aerial life
to remain quiet for many moments together, he soon
rolled over on his back, with his four slender legs in
the air. It was beautiful to see him, this one solitary
creature, whose mate had never been created, but who
needed no companion, and, living a great many hundred
years, was as happy as the centuries were long. The
more he did such things as mortal horses are accustomed
to do, the less earthly and the more wonderful he
seemed. Bellerophon and the child almost held their
breath, partly from a delightful awe, but still more
because they dreaded lest the slightest stir or murmur
should send him
 up, with the speed of an arrow-flight,
into the farthest blue of the sky.
Finally, when he had had enough of rolling over and
over, Pegasus turned himself about, and, indolently,
like any other horse, put out his fore legs, in order
to rise from the ground; and Bellerophon, who had
guessed that he would do so, darted suddenly from the
thicket, and leaped astride of his back.
Yes, there he sat, on the back of the winged horse!
But what a bound did Pegasus make, when, for the first
time, he felt the weight of a mortal man upon his
loins! A bound, indeed! Before he had time to draw a
breath, Bellerophon found himself five hundred feet
aloft, and still shooting upward, while the winged
horse snorted and trembled with terror and anger.
Upward he went, up, up, up, until he plunged into the
cold misty bosom of a cloud, at which, only a little
while before, Bellerophon had been gazing, and fancying
it a very pleasant spot. Then again, out of the heart
of the cloud, Pegasus shot down like a thunderbolt, as
if he meant to dash both himself and his rider headlong
against a rock. Then he went through about a thousand
of the wildest caprioles that had ever been performed
either by a bird or a horse.
I cannot tell you half that he did. He skimmed straight
forward, and sideways, and backward. He reared himself
erect, with his fore legs on a wreath of mist, and his
hind legs on nothing at all. He flung out his heels
be-  hind, and put down his head between his legs, with
his wings pointing right upward. At about two miles'
height above the earth, he turned a somerset, so that
Bellerophon's heels were where his head should have
been, and he seemed to look down into the sky, instead
of up. He twisted his head about, and, looking
Bellerophon in the face, with fire flashing from his
eyes, made a terrible attempt to bite him. He fluttered
his pinions so wildly that one of the silver feathers
was shaken out, and floating earthward, was picked up
by the child, who kept it as long as he lived, in
memory of Pegasus and Bellerophon.
But the latter (who, as you may judge, was as good a
horseman as ever galloped) had been watching his
opportunity, and at last clapped the golden bit of the
enchanted bridle between the winged steed's jaws. No
sooner was this done, than Pegasus became as manageable
as if he had taken food, all his life, out of
Bellerophon's hand. To speak what I really feel, it was
almost a sadness to see so wild a creature grow
suddenly so tame. And Pegasus seemed to feel it so,
likewise. He looked round to Bellerophon, with the
tears in his beautiful eyes, instead of the fire that
so recently flashed from them. But when Bellerophon
patted his head, and spoke a few authoritative, yet
kind and soothing words, another look came into the
eyes of Pegasus; for he was glad at heart, after so
many lonely centuries, to have found a companion and a
Thus it always is with winged horses, and with all such
wild and solitary creatures. If you can
 catch and
overcome them, it is the surest way to win their love.
While Pegasus had been doing his utmost to shake
Bellerophon off his back, he had flown a very long
distance; and they had come within sight of a lofty
mountain by the time the bit was in his mouth.
Bellerophon had seen this mountain before, and knew it
to be Helicon, on the summit of which was the winged
horse's abode. Thither (after looking gently into his
rider's face, as if to ask leave) Pegasus now flew,
and, alighting, waited patiently until Bellerophon
should please to dismount. The young man, accordingly,
leaped from his steed's back, but still held him fast
by the bridle. Meeting his eyes, however, he was so
affected by the gentleness of his aspect, and by the
thought of the free life which Pegasus had heretofore
lived, that he could not bear to keep him a prisoner,
if he really desired his liberty.
Obeying this generous impulse he slipped the enchanted
bridle off the head of Pegasus, and took the bit from
"Leave me, Pegasus!" said he. "Either leave me, or love
In an instant, the winged horse shot almost out of
sight, soaring straight upward from the summit of Mount
Helicon. Being long after sunset, it was now twilight
on the mountain-top, and dusky evening over all the
country round about. But Pegasus flew so high that he
overtook the departed day, and was bathed in the upper
radiance of the sun. Ascending higher
 and higher, he
looked like a bright speck, and, at last, could no
longer be seen in the hollow waste of the sky. And
Bellerophon was afraid that he should never behold him
more. But, while he was lamenting his own folly, the
bright speck reappeared, and drew nearer and nearer,
until it descended lower than the sunshine; and,
behold, Pegasus had come back! After this trial there
was no more fear of the winged horse's making his
escape. He and Bellerophon were friends, and put loving
faith in one another.
That night they lay down and slept together, with
Bellerophon's arm about the neck of Pegasus, not as a
caution, but for kindness. And they awoke at peep of
day, and bade one another good morning, each in his own
In this manner, Bellerophon and the wondrous steed
spent several days, and grew better acquainted and
fonder of each other all the time. They went on long
aerial journeys, and sometimes ascended so high that
the earth looked hardly bigger than—the moon. They
visited distant countries, and amazed the inhabitants,
who thought that the beautiful young man, on the back
of the winged horse, must have come down out of the
sky. A thousand miles a day was no more than an easy
space for the fleet Pegasus to pass over. Bellerophon
was delighted with this kind of life, and would have
liked nothing better than to live always in the same
way, aloft in the clear atmosphere; for it was always
sunny weather up there, however cheerless and rainy it
might be in the lower region. But he could
 not forget
the horrible Chimæra, which he had promised King
Iobates to slay. So, at last, when he had become well
accustomed to feats of horsemanship in the air, and
could manage Pegasus with the least motion of his hand,
and had taught him to obey his voice, he determined to
attempt the performance of this perilous adventure.
At daybreak, therefore, as soon as he unclosed his
eyes, he gently pinched the winged horse's ear, in
order to arouse him. Pegasus immediately started from
the ground, and pranced about a quarter of a mile
aloft, and made a grand sweep around the mountain-top,
by way of showing that he was wide awake, and ready for
any kind of an excursion. During the whole of this
little flight, he uttered a loud, brisk, and melodious
neigh, and finally came down at Bellerophon's side, as
lightly as ever you saw a sparrow hop upon a twig.
"Well done, dear Pegasus well done, my sky-skimmer!"
cried Bellerophon, fondly stroking the horse's neck.
"And now, my fleet and beautiful friend, we must break
our fast. To-day we are to fight the terrible Chimæra."
As soon as they had eaten their morning meal, and drank
some sparkling water from a spring called Hippocrene,
Pegasus held out his head, of his own accord, so that
his master might put on the bridle. Then, with a great
many playful leaps and airy caperings, he showed his
impatience to be gone; while Bellerophon was girding on
his sword, and hanging his shield about his neck, and
preparing himself for battle. When everything was
ready, the rider mounted, and (as was his
 custom, when
going a long distance) ascended five miles
perpendicularly, so as the better to see whither he was
directing his course. He then turned the head of
Pegasus towards the east, and set out for Lycia. In
their flight they overtook an eagle, and came so nigh
him, before he could get out of their way, that
Bellerophon might easily have caught him by the leg.
Hastening onward at this rate, it was still early in
the forenoon when they beheld the lofty mountains of
Lycia, with their deep and shaggy valleys. If
Bellerophon had been told truly, it was in one of those
dismal valleys that the hideous Chimæra had taken up
Being now so near their journey's end, the winged horse
gradually descended with his rider; and they took
advantage of some clouds that were floating over the
mountain-tops, in order to conceal themselves. Hovering
on the upper surface of a cloud, and peeping over its
edge, Bellerophon had a pretty distinct view of the
mountainous part of Lycia, and could look into all its
shadowy vales at once. At first there appeared to be
nothing remarkable. It was a wild, savage, and rocky
tract of high and precipitous hills. In the more level
part of the country, there were the ruins of houses
that had been burnt, and, here and there, the carcasses
of dead cattle, strewn about the pastures where they
had been feeding.
"The Chimæra must have done this mischief," thought
Bellerophon. "But where can the monster be?"
As I have already said, there was nothing
re-  markable to be detected, at first sight, in any of the valleys and
dells that lay among the precipitous heights of the
mountains. Nothing at all; unless, indeed, it were
three spires of black smoke, which issued from what
seemed to be the mouth of a cavern, and clambered
sullenly into the atmosphere. Before reaching the
mountain-top, these three black smoke-wreaths mingled
themselves into one. The cavern was almost directly
beneath the winged horse and his rider, at the distance
of about a thousand feet. The smoke, as it crept
heavily upward, had an ugly, sulphurous, stifling
scent, which caused Pegasus to snort and Bellerophon to
sneeze. So disagreeable was it to the marvelous steed
(who was accustomed to breathe only the purest air),
that he waved his wings, and shot half a mile out of
the range of this offensive vapor.
But, on looking behind him, Bellerophon saw something
that induced him first to draw the bridle, and then to
turn Pegasus about. He made a sign, which the winged
horse understood, and sunk slowly through the air,
until his hoofs were scarcely more than a man's height
above the rocky bottom of the valley. In front, as far
off as you could throw a stone, was the cavern's mouth,
with the three smoke-wreaths oozing out of it. And what
else did Bellerophon behold there?
There seemed to be a heap of strange and terrible
creatures curled up within the cavern. Their bodies lay
so close together, that Bellerophon could not
distinguish them apart; but, judging by their heads,
one of these creatures was a
 huge snake, the second a
fierce lion, and the third an ugly goat. The lion and
the goat were asleep; the snake was broad awake, and
kept staring around him with a great pair of fiery
eyes. But—and this was the most wonderful part of the
matter—the three spires of smoke evidently issued from
the nostrils of these three heads! So strange was the
spectacle, that, though Bellerophon had been all along
expecting it, the truth did not immediately occur to
him, that here was the terrible three-headed Chimæra.
He had found out the Chimæra's cavern. The snake, the
lion, and the goat, as he supposed them to be, were not
three separate creatures, but one monster!
The wicked, hateful thing! Slumbering as two thirds of
it were, it still held, in its abominable claws, the
remnant of an unfortunate lamb,—or possibly (but I
hate to think so) it was a dear little boy,—which its
three mouths had been gnawing, before two of them fell
All at once, Bellerophon started as from a dream, and
knew it to be the Chimæra. Pegasus seemed to know it,
at the same instant, and sent forth a neigh, that
sounded like the call of a trumpet to battle. At this
sound the three heads reared themselves erect, and
belched out great flashes of flame. Before Bellerophon
had time to consider what to do next, the monster flung
itself out of the cavern and sprung straight towards
him, with its immense claws extended, and its snaky
tail twisting itself venomously behind. If Pegasus had
not been as nimble as a bird, both
 he and his rider
would have been overthrown by the Chimæra's headlong
rush, and thus the battle have been ended before it was
well begun. But the winged horse was not to be caught
so. In the twinkling of an eye he was up aloft,
halfway to the clouds, snorting with anger. He
shuddered, too, not with affright, but with utter
disgust at the loathsomeness of this poisonous thing
with three heads.
The Chimæra, on the other hand, raised itself up so as
to stand absolutely on the tip-end of its tail, with
its talons pawing fiercely in the air, and its three
heads spluttering fire at Pegasus and his rider. My
stars, how it roared, and hissed, and bellowed!
Bellerophon, meanwhile, was fitting his shield on his
arm, and drawing his sword.
"Now, my beloved Pegasus," he whispered in the winged
horse's ear, "thou must help me to slay this
insufferable monster; or else thou shalt fly back to
thy solitary mountain-peak without thy friend
Bellerophon. For either the Chimæra dies, or its three
mouths shall gnaw this head of mine, which has
slumbered upon thy neck!"
Pegasus whinnied, and, turning back his head, rubbed
his nose tenderly against his rider's cheek. It was his
way of telling him that, though he had wings and was an
immortal horse, yet he would perish, if it were
possible for immortality to perish, rather than leave
"I thank you, Pegasus," answered Bellerophon. "Now,
then, let us make a dash at the monster!"
Uttering these words, he shook the bridle; and Pegasus
darted down aslant, as swift as the flight
 of an arrow,
right towards the Chimæra's threefold head, which, all
this time, was poking itself as high as it could into
the air. As he came within arm's-length, Bellerophon
made a cut at the monster, but was carried onward by
his steed, before he could see whether the blow had
been successful. Pegasus continued his course, but soon
wheeled round, at about the same distance from the
Chimæra as before. Bellerophon then perceived that he
had cut the goat's head of the monster almost off, so
that it dangled downward by the skin, and seemed quite
But, to make amends, the snake's head and the lion's
head had taken all the fierceness of the dead one into
themselves, and spit flame, and hissed, and roared,
with a vast deal more fury than before.
"Never mind, my brave Pegasus!" cried Bellerophon.
"With another stroke like that, we will stop either its
hissing or its roaring."
And again he shook the bridle. Dashing aslantwise, as
before, the winged horse made another arrow-flight
towards the Chimæra, and Bellerophon aimed another
downright stroke at one of the two remaining heads, as
he shot by. But this time, neither he nor Pegasus
escaped so well as at first. With one of its claws, the
Chimæra had given the young man a deep scratch in his
shoulder, and had slightly damaged the left wing of the
flying steed with the other. On his part, Bellerophon
had mortally wounded the lion's head of the monster,
insomuch that it now hung downward, with its fire
almost extinguished, and sending out gasps of thick
black smoke. The
 snake's head, however (which was the
only one now left), was twice as fierce and venomous as
ever before. It belched forth shoots of fire five
hundred yards long, and emitted hisses so loud, so
harsh, and so ear-piercing, that King Iobates heard
them, fifty miles off, and trembled till the throne
shook under him.
"Well-a-day!" thought the poor king; "the Chimæra is
certainly coming to devour me!"
Meanwhile Pegasus had again paused in the air, and
neighed angrily, while sparkles of a pure crystal flame
darted out of his eyes. How unlike the lurid fire of
the Chimæra! The aerial steed's spirit was all aroused,
and so was that of Bellerophon.
"Dost thou bleed, my immortal horse?" cried the young
man, caring less for his own hurt than for the anguish
of this glorious creature, that ought never to have
tasted pain. "The execrable Chimæra shall pay for this
mischief with his last head!"
Then he shook the bridle, shouted loudly, and guided
Pegasus, not aslantwise as before, but straight at the
monster's hideous front. So rapid was the onset, that
it seemed but a dazzle and a flash before Bellerophon
was at close gripes with his enemy.
The Chimæra, by this time, after losing its second
head, had got into a red-hot passion of pain and
rampant rage. It so flounced about, half on earth and
partly in the air, that it was impossible to say which
element it rested upon. It opened its snake-jaws to
such an abominable
 width, that Pegasus might almost, I
was going to say, have flown right down its throat,
wings outspread, rider and all! At their approach it
shot out a tremendous blast of its fiery breath, and
enveloped Bellerophon and his steed in a perfect
atmosphere of flame, singeing the wings of Pegasus,
scorching off one whole side of the young man's golden
ringlets, and making them both far hotter than was
comfortable, from head to foot.
But this was nothing to what followed.
When the airy rush of the winged horse had brought him
within the distance of a hundred yards, the Chimæra
gave a spring, and flung its huge, awkward, venomous,
and utterly detestable carcass right upon poor Pegasus,
clung round him with might and main, and tied up its
snaky tail into a knot! Up flew the aerial steed,
higher, higher, higher, above the mountain-peaks, above
the clouds, and almost out of sight of the solid earth.
But still the earth-born monster kept its hold, and was
borne upward, along with the creature of light and air.
Bellerophon, meanwhile, turning about, found himself
face to face with the ugly grimness of the Chimæra's
visage, and could only avoid being scorched to death,
or bitten right in twain, by holding up his shield.
Over the upper edge of the shield, he looked sternly
into the savage eyes of the monster.
But the Chimæra was so mad and wild with pain, that it
did not guard itself so well as might else have been
the case. Perhaps, after all, the best way to fight a
Chimæra is by getting as close to it as you can. In its
efforts to stick its
hor-  rible iron claws into its
enemy, the creature left its own breast quite exposed;
and perceiving this, Bellerophon thrust his sword up to
the hilt into its cruel heart. Immediately the snaky
tail untied its knot. The monster let go its hold of
Pegasus, and fell from that vast height, downward;
while the fire within its bosom, instead of being put
out, burned fiercer than ever, and quickly began to
consume the dead carcass. Thus it fell out of the sky,
all a-flame, and (it being nightfall before it reached
the earth) was mistaken for a shooting star or a comet.
But, at early sunrise, some cottagers were going to
their day's labor, and saw, to their astonishment, that
several acres of ground were strewn with black ashes.
In the middle of a field, there was a heap of whitened
bones, a great deal higher than a haystack. Nothing
else was ever seen of the dreadful Chimæra!
And when Bellerophon had won the victory, he bent
forward and kissed Pegasus, while the tears stood in
"Back now, my beloved steed!" said he. "Back to the
Fountain of Pirene!"
Pegasus skimmed through the air, quicker than ever he
did before, and reached the fountain in a very short
time. And there he found the old man leaning on his
staff, and the country fellow watering his cow, and the
pretty maiden filling her pitcher.
"I remember now," quoth the old man, "I saw this winged
horse once before, when I was quite a lad. But he was
ten times handsomer in those days."
 "I own a cart-horse, worth three of him!" said the
country fellow. "If this pony were mine, the first
thing I should do would be to clip his wings!"
But the poor maiden said nothing, for she had always
the luck to be afraid at the wrong time. So she ran
away, and let her pitcher tumble down, and broke it.
"Where is the gentle child," asked Bellerophon, "who
used to keep me company, and never lost his faith, and
never was weary of gazing into the fountain?"
"Here am I, dear Bellerophon!" said the child, softly.
For the little boy had spent day after day, on the
margin of Pirene, waiting for his friend to come back;
but when he perceived Bellerophon descending through
the clouds, mounted on the winged horse, he had shrunk
back into the shrubbery. He was a delicate and tender
child, and dreaded lest the old man and the country
fellow should see the tears gushing from his eyes.
"Thou hast won the victory," said he, joyfully, running
to the knee of Bellerophon, who still sat on the back
of Pegasus. "I knew thou wouldst."
"Yes, dear child!" replied Bellerophon, alighting from
the winged horse. "But if thy faith had not helped me,
I should never have waited for Pegasus, and never have
gone up above the clouds, and never have conquered the
terrible Chimæra. Thou, my beloved little friend, hast
done it all. And now let us give Pegasus his liberty."
 So he slipped off the enchanted bridle from the head of
the marvelous steed.
"Be free, forevermore, my Pegasus!" cried he, with a
shade of sadness in his tone. "Be as free as thou art
But Pegasus rested his head on Bellerophon's shoulder,
and would not be persuaded to take flight.
"Well then," said Bellerophon, caressing the airy
horse, "thou shalt be with me, as long as thou wilt;
and we will go together, forthwith, and tell King
Iobates that the Chimæra is destroyed."
Then Bellerophon embraced the gentle child, and
promised to come to him again, and departed. But, in
after years, that child took higher flights upon the
aerial steed than ever did Bellerophon, and achieved
more honorable deeds than his friend's victory over the
Chimæra. For, gentle and tender as he was, he grew to
be a mighty poet!
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