|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 |
USTACE BRIGHT told the legend of Bellerophon with as
much fervor and animation as if he had really been
taking a gallop on the winged horse. At the conclusion,
he was gratified to discern, by the glowing
countenances of his auditors, how greatly they had been
interested. All their eyes were dancing in their heads,
except those of Primrose. In her eyes there were
positively tears; for she was conscious of something in
the legend which the rest of them were not yet old
enough to feel. Child's story as it was, the student
had contrived to breathe through it the ardor, the
generous hope, and the imaginative enterprise of youth.
"I forgive you, now, Primrose," said he, "for all your
ridicule of myself and my stories. One tear pays for a
great deal of laughter."
"Well, Mr. Bright," answered Primrose, wiping her eyes,
and giving him another of her mischievous smiles, "it
certainly does elevate your ideas,
 to get your head
above the clouds. I advise you never to tell another
story, unless it be, as at present, from the top of a
"Or from the back of Pegasus," replied Eustace,
laughing. "Don't you think that I succeeded pretty well
in catching that wonderful pony?"
"It was so like one of your madcap pranks!" cried
Primrose, clapping her hands. "I think I see you now on
his back, two miles high, and with your head downward!
It is well that you have not really an opportunity of
trying your horsemanship on any wilder steed than our
sober Davy, or Old Hundred."
"For my part, I wish I had Pegasus here, at this
moment," said the student. "I would mount him
forthwith, and gallop about the country, within a
circumference of a few miles, making literary calls on
my brother-authors. Dr. Dewey would be within my reach,
at the foot of Taconic. In Stockbridge, yonder, is Mr.
James, conspicuous to all the world on his
mountain-pile of history and romance. Longfellow, I
believe, is not yet at the Ox-bow, else the winged
horse would neigh at the sight of him. But, here in
Lenox, I should find our most truthful novelist, who
has made the scenery and life of Berkshire all her own.
On the hither side of Pittsfield sits Herman Melville,
shaping out the gigantic conception of his 'White
Whale,' while the gigantic shape of Graylock looms upon
him from his study-window. Another bound of my flying
steed would bring me to the door of Holmes, whom I
mention last, because
 Pegasus would certainly unseat
me, the next minute, and claim the poet as his rider."
"Have we not an author for our next neighbor?" asked
Primrose. "That silent man, who lives in the old red
house, near Tanglewood Avenue, and whom we sometimes
meet, with two children at his side, in the woods or at
the lake. I think I have heard of his having written a
poem, or a romance, or an arithmetic, or a
school-history, or some other kind of a book."
"Hush, Primrose, hush!" exclaimed Eustace, in a
thrilling whisper, and putting his finger on his lip.
Not a word about that man, even on a hill-top! If our
babble were to reach his ears, and happen not to please
him, he has but to fling a quire or two of paper into
the stove, and you, Primrose, and I, and Periwinkle,
Sweet Fern, Squash-Blossom, Blue Eye, Huckleberry,
Clover, Cowslip, Plantain, Milkweed, Dandelion, and
Buttercup,—yes, and wise Mr. Pringle, with his
unfavorable criticisms on my legends, and poor Mrs.
Pringle, too,—would all turn to smoke, and go
whisking up the funnel! Our neighbor in the red house
is a harmless sort of person enough, for aught I know,
as concerns the rest of the world; but something
whispers to me that he has a terrible power over
ourselves, extending to nothing short of annihilation."
"And would Tanglewood turn to smoke, as well as we?"
asked Periwinkle, quite appalled at the threatened
destruction. "And what would become of Ben and Bruin?"
"Tanglewood would remain," replied the
stu-  dent, "looking just as it does now, but occupied by an
entirely different family. And Ben and Bruin would be
still alive, and would make themselves very comfortable
with the bones from the dinner-table, without ever
thinking of the good times which they and we have had
"What nonsense you are talking!" exclaimed Primrose.
With idle chat of this kind, the party had already
begun to descend the hill, and were now within the
shadow of the woods. Primrose gathered some
mountain-laurel, the leaf of which, though of last
year's growth, was still as verdant and elastic as if
the frost and thaw had not alternately tried their
force upon its texture. Of these twigs of laurel she
twined a wreath, and took off the student's cap, in
order to place it on his brow.
"Nobody else is likely to crown you for your stories,"
observed saucy Primrose, "so take this from me."
"Do not be too sure," answered Eustace, looking really
like a youthful poet, with the laurel among his glossy
curls, "that I shall not win other wreaths by these
wonderful and admirable stories. I mean to spend all my
leisure, during the rest of the vacation, and
throughout the summer term at college, in writing them
out for the press. Mr. J. T. Fields (with whom I became
acquainted when he was in Berkshire, last summer, and
who is a poet, as well as a publisher) will see their
uncommon merit at a glance. He will get them
illustrated, I hope, by Billings, and will bring them
before the world under the very best of auspices,
 the eminent house of TICKNOR & CO. In about
five months from this moment, I make no doubt of being
reckoned among the lights of the age!"
"Poor boy!" said Primrose, half aside. "What a
disappointment awaits him!"
Descending a little lower, Bruin began to bark, and was
answered by the graver bow-wow of the respectable Ben.
They soon saw the good old dog, keeping careful watch
over Dandelion, Sweet Fern, Cowslip, and
Squash-Blossom. These little people, quite recovered
from their fatigue, had set about gathering
checkerberries, and now came clambering to meet their
play-fellows. Thus reunited, the whole party went down
through Luther Butler's orchard, and made the best of
their way home to Tanglewood.
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