|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 |
NE evening, in times long ago, old Philemon and his
old wife Baucis sat at their cottage-door, enjoying the
calm and beautiful sunset. They had already eaten their
frugal supper, and intended now to spend a quiet hour
or two before bedtime. So they talked together about
their garden, and their cow, and their bees, and their
grapevine, which clambered over the cottage-wall, and
on which the grapes were beginning to turn purple. But
the rude shouts of children, and the fierce barking of
dogs, in the village near at hand, grew louder and
louder, until, at last, it was hardly possible for
Baucis and Philemon to hear each other speak.
"Ah, wife," cried Philemon, "I fear some poor traveler
is seeking hospitality among our neighbors yonder, and,
instead of giving him food and lodging, they have set
their dogs at him, as their custom is!"
"Well-a-day!" answered old Baucis, "I do wish our
neighbors felt a little more kindness for their
 fellow-creatures. And only think of bringing up their
children in this naughty way, and patting them on the
head when they fling stones at strangers!"
"Those children will never come to any good," said
Philemon, shaking his white head. "To tell you the
truth, wife, I should not wonder if some terrible thing
were to happen to all the people in the village, unless
they mend their manners. But, as for you and me, so
long as Providence affords us a crust of bread, let us
be ready to give half to any poor, homeless stranger,
that may come along and need it."
"That's right, husband!" said Baucis. "So we will!"
These old folks, you must know, were quite poor, and
had to work pretty hard for a living. Old Philemon
toiled diligently in his garden, while Baucis was
always busy with her distaff, or making a little butter
and cheese with their cow's milk, or doing one thing
and another about the cottage. Their food was seldom
anything but bread, milk, and vegetables, with
sometimes a portion of honey from their beehive, and
now and then a bunch of grapes, that had ripened
against the cottage wall. But they were two of the
kindest old people in the world, and would cheerfully
have gone without their dinners, any day, rather than
refuse a slice of their brown loaf, a cup of new milk,
and a spoonful of honey, to the weary traveler who
might pause before their door. They felt as if such
guests had a sort of holiness, and that they ought,
therefore, to treat them better and more bountifully
than their own selves.
 Their cottage stood on a rising ground, at some short
distance from a village, which lay in a hollow valley,
that was about half a mile in breadth. This valley, in
past ages, when the world was new, had probably been
the bed of a lake. There, fishes had glided to and fro
in the depths, and water-weeds had grown along the
margin, and trees and hills had seen their reflected
images in the broad and peaceful mirror. But, as the
waters subsided, men had cultivated the soil, and built
houses on it, so that it was now a fertile spot, and
bore no traces of the ancient lake, except a very small
brook, which meandered through the midst of the
village, and supplied the inhabitants with water. The
valley had been dry land so long, that oaks had sprung
up, and grown great and high, and perished with old
age, and been succeeded by others, as tall and stately
as the first. Never was there a prettier or more
fruitful valley. The very sight of the plenty around
them should have made the inhabitants kind and gentle,
and ready to show their gratitude to Providence by
doing good to their fellow-creatures.
But, we are sorry to say, the people of this lovely
village were not worthy to dwell in a spot on which
Heaven had smiled so beneficently. They were a very
selfish and hard-hearted people, and had no pity for
the poor, nor sympathy with the homeless. They would
only have laughed, had anybody told them that human
beings owe a debt of love to one another, because there
is no other method of paying the debt of love and care
which all of us owe to Providence. You will
believe what I am going to tell you. These naughty
people taught their children to be no better than
themselves, and used to clap their hands, by way of
encouragement, when they saw the little boys and girls
run after some poor stranger, shouting at his heels,
and pelting him with stones. They kept large and fierce
dogs, and whenever a traveler ventured to show himself
in the village street, this pack of disagreeable curs
scampered to meet him, barking, snarling, and showing
their teeth. Then they would seize him by his leg, or
by his clothes, just as it happened; and if he were
ragged when he came, he was generally a pitiable object
before he had time to run away. This was a very
terrible thing to poor travelers, as you may suppose,
especially when they chanced to be sick, or feeble, or
lame, or old. Such persons (if they once knew how badly
these unkind people, and their unkind children and
curs, were in the habit of behaving) would go miles and
miles out of their way, rather than try to pass through
the village again.
What made the matter seem worse, if possible, was that
when rich persons came in their chariots, or riding on
beautiful horses, with their servants in rich liveries
attending on them, nobody could be more civil and
obsequious than the inhabitants of the village. They
would take off their hats, and make the humblest bows
you ever saw. If the children were rude, they were
pretty certain to get their ears boxed; and as for the
dogs, if a single cur in the pack presumed to yelp, his
master instantly beat him with a club, and tied him up
 without any supper. This would have been all very well,
only it proved that the villagers cared much about the
money that a stranger had in his pocket, and nothing
whatever for the human soul, which lives equally in the
beggar and the prince.
So now you can understand why old Philemon spoke so
sorrowfully, when he heard the shouts of the children
and the barking of the dogs, at the farther extremity
of the village street. There was a confused din, which
lasted a good while, and seemed to pass quite through
the breadth of the valley.
"I never heard the dogs so loud!" observed the good old
"Nor the children so rude!" answered his good old wife.
They sat shaking their heads, one to another, while the
noise came nearer and nearer; until, at the foot of the
little eminence on which their cottage stood, they saw
two travelers approaching on foot. Close behind them
came the fierce dogs, snarling at their very heels. A
little farther off, ran a crowd of children, who sent
up shrill cries, and flung stones at the two strangers,
with all their might. Once or twice, the younger of the
two men (he was a slender and very active figure)
turned about and drove back the dogs with a staff which
he carried in his hand. His companion, who was a very
tall person, walked calmly along, as if disdaining to
notice either the naughty children, or the pack of
curs, whose manners the children seemed to imitate.
Both of the travelers were very humbly clad,
looked as if they might not have money enough in their
pockets to pay for a night's lodging. And this, I am
afraid, was the reason why the villagers had allowed
their children and dogs to treat them so rudely.
"Come, wife," said Philemon to Baucis, "let us go and
meet these poor people. No doubt, they feel almost too
heavy-hearted to climb the hill."
"Go you and meet them," answered Baucis, "while I make
haste within doors, and see whether we can get them
anything for supper. A comfortable bowl of bread and
milk would do wonders towards raising their spirits."
Accordingly, she hastened into the cottage. Philemon,
on his part, went forward, and extended his hand with
so hospitable an aspect that there was no need of
saying what nevertheless he did say, in the heartiest
"Welcome, strangers! welcome!"
"Thank you!" replied the younger of the two, in a
lively kind of way, notwithstanding his weariness and
trouble. "This is quite another greeting than we have
met with yonder in the village. Pray, why do you live
in such a bad neighborhood?"
"Ah!" observed old Philemon, with a quiet and benign
smile, "Providence put me here, I hope, among other
reasons, in order that I may make you what amends I can
for the inhospitality of my neighbors."
"Well said, old father!" cried the traveler, laughing;
"and, if the truth must be told, my companion and
myself need some amends.
 Those children (the little
rascals!) have bespattered us finely with their
mud-balls; and one of the curs has torn my cloak, which
was ragged enough already. But I took him across the
muzzle with my staff; and I think you may have heard
him yelp, even thus far off."
Philemon was glad to see him in such good spirits; nor,
indeed, would you have fancied, by the traveler's look
and manner, that he was weary with a long day's
journey, besides being disheartened by rough treatment
at the end of it. He was dressed in rather an odd way,
with a sort of cap on his head, the brim of which stuck
out over both ears. Though it was a summer evening, he
wore a cloak, which he kept wrapt closely about him,
perhaps because his under garments were shabby.
Philemon perceived, too, that he had on a singular pair
of shoes; but, as it was now growing dusk, and as the
old man's eyesight was none the sharpest, he could not
precisely tell in what the strangeness consisted. One
thing, certainly seemed queer. The traveler was so
wonderfully light and active, that it appeared as if
his feet sometimes rose from the ground of their own
accord, or could only be kept down by an effort.
"I used to be light-footed, in my youth," said Philemon
to the traveler. "But I always found my feet grow
heavier towards nightfall."
"There is nothing like a good staff to help one along,"
answered the stranger; "and I happen to have an
excellent one, as you see."
This staff, in fact, was the oddest-looking staff that
Philemon had ever beheld. It was made of
and had something like a little pair of wings near the
top. Two snakes, carved in the wood, were represented
as twining themselves about the staff, and were so very
skillfully executed that old Philemon (whose eyes, you
know, were getting rather dim) almost thought them
alive, and that he could see them wriggling and
"A curious piece of work, sure enough!" said he. "A
staff with wings! It would be an excellent kind of
stick for a little boy to ride astride of!"
By this time, Philemon and his two guests had reached
the cottage door.
"Friends," said the old man, "sit down and rest
yourselves here on this bench. My good wife Baucis has
gone to see what you can have for supper. We are poor
folks; but you shall be welcome to whatever we have in
The younger stranger threw himself carelessly on the
bench, letting his staff fall, as he did so. And here
happened something rather marvelous, though trifling
enough, too. The staff seemed to get up from the ground
of its own accord, and, spreading its little pair of
wings, it half hopped, half flew, and leaned itself
against the wall of the cottage. There it stood quite
still, except that the snakes continued to wriggle.
But, in my private opinion, old Philemon's eyesight had
been playing him tricks again.
Before he could ask any questions, the elder stranger
drew his attention from the wonderful staff, by
speaking to him.
"Was there not," asked the stranger, in a
re-  markably deep tone of voice, "a lake, in very ancient times,
covering the spot where now stands yonder village?"
"Not in my day, friend," answered Philemon; "and yet I
am an old man, as you see. There were always the fields
and meadows, just as they are now, and the old trees,
and the little stream murmuring through the midst of
the valley. My father, nor his father before him, ever
saw it otherwise, so far as I know; and doubtless it
will still be the same, when old Philemon shall be gone
"That is more than can be safely foretold," observed
the stranger; and there was something very stern in his
deep voice. He shook his head, too, so that his dark
and heavy curls were shaken with the movement. "Since
the inhabitants of yonder village have forgotten the
affections and sympathies of their nature, it were
better that the lake should be rippling over their
The traveler looked so stern, that Philemon was really
almost frightened; the more so, that, at his frown, the
twilight seemed suddenly to grow darker, and that, when
he shook his head, there was a roll as of thunder in
But, in a moment afterwards, the stranger's face became
so kindly and mild, that the old man quite forgot his
terror. Nevertheless, he could not help feeling that
this elder traveler must be no ordinary personage,
although he happened now to be attired so humbly and to
be journeying on foot. Not that Philemon fancied him a
dis-  guise, or any character of that sort; but
rather some exceedingly wise man, who went about the
world in this poor garb, despising wealth and all
worldly objects, and seeking everywhere to add a mite
to his wisdom. This idea appeared the more probable,
because, when Philemon raised his eyes to the
stranger's face, he seemed to see more thought there,
in one look, than he could have studied out in a
While Baucis was getting the supper, the travelers
both began to talk very sociably with Philemon. The
younger, indeed, was extremely loquacious, and made
such shrewd and witty remarks, that the good old man
continually burst out a-laughing, and pronounced him
the merriest fellow whom he had seen for many a day.
"Pray, my young friend," said he, as they grew familiar
together, "what may I call your name?"
"Why, I am very nimble, as you see," answered the
traveler. "So, if you call me Quicksilver, the name
will fit tolerably well."
"Quicksilver? Quicksilver?" repeated Philemon, looking
in the traveler's face, to see if he were making fun
of him. "It is a very odd name! And your companion
there? Has he as strange a one?"
"You must ask the thunder to tell it you!" replied
Quicksilver, putting on a mysterious look. "No other
voice is loud enough."
This remark, whether it were serious or in jest, might
have caused Philemon to conceive a very great awe of
the elder stranger, if, on venturing to gaze at him, he
had not beheld so much
benefi-  cence in his visage. But,
undoubtedly, here was the grandest figure that ever sat
so humbly beside a cottage door. When the stranger
conversed, it was with gravity, and in such a way that
Philemon felt irresistibly moved to tell him everything
which he had most at heart. This is always the feeling
that people have, when they meet with any one wise
enough to comprehend all their good and evil, and to
despise not a tittle of it.
But Philemon, simple and kind-hearted old man that he
was, had not many secrets to disclose. He talked,
however, quite garrulously, about the events of his
past life, in the whole course of which he had never
been a score of miles from this very spot. His wife
Baucis and himself had dwelt in the cottage from their
youth upward, earning their bread by honest labor,
always poor, but still contented. He told what excellent
butter and cheese Baucis made, and how nice were the
vegetables which he raised in his garden. He said, too,
that, because they loved one another so very much, it
was the wish of both that death might not separate
them, but that they should die, as they had lived,
As the stranger listened, a smile beamed over his
countenance, and made its expression as sweet as it was
"You are a good old man," said he to Philemon, "and you
have a good old wife to be your helpmeet. It is fit
that your wish be granted."
And it seemed to Philemon, just then, as if the sunset
clouds threw up a bright flash from the west, and
kindled a sudden light in the sky.
 Baucis had now got supper ready, and, coming to the
door, began to make apologies for the poor fare which
she was forced to set before her guests.
"Had we known you were coming," said she, "my good man
and myself would have gone without a morsel, rather
than you should lack a better supper. But I took the
most part of to-day's milk to make cheese; and our last
loaf is already half eaten. Ah me! I never feel the
sorrow of being poor, save when a poor traveler knocks
at our door."
"All will be very well; do not trouble yourself, my
good dame," replied the elder stranger, kindly. "An
honest, hearty welcome to a guest works miracles with
the fare, and is capable of turning the coarsest food
to nectar and ambrosia."
"A welcome you shall have," cried Baucis, "and likewise
a little honey that we happen to have left, and a bunch
of purple grapes besides."
"Why, Mother Baucis, it is a feast!" exclaimed
Quicksilver, laughing, "an absolute feast! and you
shall see how bravely I will play my part at it! I
think I never felt hungrier in my life."
"Mercy on us!" whispered Baucis to her husband. "If the
young man has such a terrible appetite, I am afraid
there will not be half enough supper!"
They all went into the cottage.
And now, my little auditors, shall I tell you something
that will make you open your eyes very wide? It is
really one of the oddest
circum-  stances in the whole
story. Quicksilver's staff, you recollect, had set
itself up against the wall of the cottage. Well; when
its master entered the door, leaving this wonderful
staff behind, what should it do but immediately spread
its little wings, and go hopping and fluttering up the
door-steps! Tap, tap, went the staff, on the kitchen
floor; nor did it rest until it had stood itself on
end, with the greatest gravity and decorum, beside
Quicksilver's chair. Old Philemon, however, as well as
his wife, was so taken up in attending to their guests,
that no notice was given to what the staff had been
As Baucis had said, there was but a scanty supper for
two hungry travelers. In the middle of the table was
the remnant of a brown loaf, with a piece of cheese on
one side of it, and a dish of honeycomb on the other.
There was a pretty good bunch of grapes for each of the
guests. A moderately sized earthen pitcher, nearly full
of milk, stood at a corner of the board; and when
Baucis had filled two bowls, and set them before the
strangers, only a little milk remained in the bottom of
the pitcher. Alas! it is a very sad business, when a
bountiful heart finds itself pinched and squeezed among
narrow circumstances. Poor Baucis kept wishing that she
might starve for a week to come, if it were possible,
by so doing, to provide these hungry folks a more
And, since the supper was so exceedingly small, she
could not help wishing that their appetites had not
been quite so large. Why, at their
 very first sitting
down, the travelers both drank off all the milk in
their two bowls, at a draught.
"A little more milk, kind Mother Baucis, if you
please," said Quicksilver. "The day has been hot, and I
am very much athirst."
"Now, my dear people," answered Baucis, in great
confusion, "I am so sorry and ashamed! But the truth
is, there is hardly a drop more milk in the pitcher. O
husband! husband! why did n't we go without our
"Why, it appears to me," cried Quicksilver, starting up
from table and taking the pitcher by the handle, "it
really appears to me that matters are not quite so bad
as you represent them. Here is certainly more milk in
So saying, and to the vast astonishment of Baucis, he
proceeded to fill, not only his own bowl, but his
companion's likewise, from the pitcher, that was
supposed to be almost empty. The good woman could
scarcely believe her eyes. She had certainly poured out
nearly all the milk, and had peeped in afterwards, and
seen the bottom of the pitcher, as she set it down upon
"But I am old," thought Baucis to herself, "and apt to
be forgetful. I suppose I must have made a mistake. At
all events, the pitcher cannot help being empty now,
after filling the bowls twice over."
"What excellent milk!" observed Quicksilver, after
quaffing the contents of the second bowl. "Excuse me,
my kind hostess, but I must really ask you for a little
 Now Baucis had seen, as plainly as she could see
anything, that Quicksilver had turned the pitcher
upside down, and consequently had poured out every drop
of milk, in filling the last bowl. Of course, there
could not possibly be any left. However, in order to
let him know precisely how the case was, she lifted the
pitcher, and made a gesture as if pouring milk into
Quicksilver's bowl, but without the remotest idea that
any milk would stream forth. What was her surprise,
therefore, when such an abundant cascade fell bubbling
into the bowl, that it was immediately filled to the
brim, and overflowed upon the table! The two snakes
that were twisted about Quicksilver's staff (but
neither Baucis nor Philemon happened to observe this
circumstance) stretched out their heads, and began to
lap up the spilt milk.
And then what a delicious fragrance the milk had! It
seemed as if Philemon's only cow must have pastured,
that day, on the richest herbage that could be found
anywhere in the world. I only wish that each of you, my
beloved little souls, could have a bowl of such nice
milk, at supper-time!
"And now a slice of your brown loaf, Mother Baucis,"
said Quicksilver, "and a little of that honey!"
Baucis cut him a slice, accordingly; and though the
loaf, when she and her husband ate of it, had been
rather too dry and crusty to be palatable, it was now
as light and moist as if but a few hours out of the
oven. Tasting a crumb, which had fallen on the table,
she found it more delicious
 than bread ever was before,
and could hardly believe that it was a loaf of her own
kneading and baking. Yet, what other loaf could it
But, oh the honey! I may just as well let it alone,
without trying to describe how exquisitely it smelt and
looked. Its color was that of the purest and most
transparent gold; and it had the odor of a thousand
flowers; but of such flowers as never grew in an
earthly garden, and to seek which the bees must have
flown high above the clouds. The wonder is, that, after
alighting on a flower-bed of so delicious fragrance and
immortal bloom, they should have been content to fly
down again to their hive in Philemon's garden. Never
was such honey tasted, seen, or smelt. The perfume
floated around the kitchen, and made it so delightful,
that, had you closed your eyes, you would instantly
have forgotten the low ceiling and smoky walls, and
have fancied yourself in an arbor, with celestial
honeysuckles creeping over it.
Although good Mother Baucis was a simple old dame, she
could not but think that there was something rather out
of the common way, in all that had been going on. So,
after helping the guests to bread and honey, and laying
a bunch of grapes by each of their plates, she sat down
by Philemon, and told him what she had seen, in a
"Did you ever hear the like?" asked she.
"No, I never did," answered Philemon, with a smile.
"And I rather think, my dear old wife, you have been
walking about in a sort of a dream. If I had poured out
the milk, I should have seen
 through the business at
once. There happened to be a little more in the pitcher
than you thought,—that is all."
"Ah, husband," said Baucis, "say what you will, these
are very uncommon people."
"Well, well," replied Philemon, still smiling, "perhaps
they are. They certainly do look as if they had seen
better days; and I am heartily glad to see them making
so comfortable a supper."
Each of the guests had now taken his bunch of grapes
upon his plate. Baucis (who rubbed her eyes, in order
to see the more clearly) was of opinion that the
clusters had grown larger and richer, and that each
separate grape seemed to be on the point of bursting
with ripe juice. It was entirely a mystery to her how
such grapes could ever have been produced from the old
stunted vine that climbed against the cottage wall.
"Very admirable grapes these!" observed Quicksilver, as
he swallowed one after another, without apparently
diminishing his cluster. "Pray, my good host, whence
did you gather them?"
"From my own vine," answered Philemon. "You may see one
of its branches twisting across the window, yonder. But
wife and I never thought the grapes very fine ones."
"I never tasted better," said the guest. "Another cup
of this delicious milk, if you please, and I shall then
have supped better than a prince."
This time, old Philemon bestirred himself, and took up
the pitcher; for he was curious to discover whether
there was any reality in the marvels which Baucis had
whispered to him. He
 knew that his good old wife was
incapable of falsehood, and that she was seldom
mistaken in what she supposed to be true; but this was
so very singular a case, that he wanted to see into it
with his own eyes. On taking up the pitcher, therefore,
he slyly peeped into it, and was fully satisfied that
it contained not so much as a single drop. All at once,
however, he beheld a little white fountain, which
gushed up from the bottom of the pitcher, and speedily
filled it to the brim with foaming and deliciously
fragrant milk. It was lucky that Philemon, in his
surprise, did not drop the miraculous pitcher from his
"Who are ye, wonder-working strangers!" cried he, even
more bewildered than his wife had been.
"Your guests, my good Philemon, and your friends,"
replied the elder traveler, in his mild, deep voice,
that had something at once sweet and awe-inspiring in
it. "Give me likewise a cup of the milk; and may your
pitcher never be empty for kind Baucis and yourself,
any more than for the needy wayfarer!"
The supper being now over, the strangers requested to
be shown to their place of repose. The old people would
gladly have talked with them a little longer, and have
expressed the wonder which they felt, and their delight
at finding the poor and meagre supper prove so much
better and more abundant than they hoped. But the elder
traveler had inspired them with such reverence, that
they dared not ask him any questions. And when Philemon
drew Quicksilver aside, and inquired how under the sun
a fountain of milk
 could have got into an old earthen
pitcher, this latter personage pointed to his staff.
"There is the whole mystery of the affair," quoth
Quicksilver; "and if you can make it out, I 'll thank
you to let me know. I can't tell what to make of my
staff. It is always playing such odd tricks as this;
sometimes getting me a supper, and, quite as often,
stealing it away. If I had any faith in such nonsense,
I should say the stick was bewitched!"
He said no more, but looked so slyly in their faces,
that they rather fancied he was laughing at them. The
magic staff went hopping at his heels, as Quicksilver
quitted the room. When left alone, the good old couple
spent some little time in conversation about the events
of the evening, and then lay down on the floor, and
fell fast asleep. They had given up their sleeping-room
to the guests, and had no other bed for themselves,
save these planks, which I wish had been as soft as
their own hearts.
The old man and his wife were stirring, betimes, in the
morning, and the strangers likewise arose with the sun,
and made their preparations to depart. Philemon
hospitably entreated them to remain a little longer,
until Baucis could milk the cow, and bake a cake upon
the hearth, and, perhaps, find them a few fresh eggs,
for breakfast. The guests, however, seemed to think it
better to accomplish a good part of their journey
before the heat of the day should come on. They,
therefore, persisted in setting out immediately, but
asked Philemon and Baucis to walk forth with
 them a
short distance, and show them the road which they were
So they all four issued from the cottage, chatting
together like old friends. It was very remarkable,
indeed, how familiar the old couple insensibly grew
with the elder traveler, and how their good and simple
spirits melted into his, even as two drops of water
would melt into the illimitable ocean. And as for
Quicksilver, with his keen, quick, laughing wits, he
appeared to discover every little thought that but
peeped into their minds, before they suspected it
themselves. They sometimes wished, it is true, that he
had not been quite so quick-witted, and also that he
would fling away his staff, which looked so
mysteriously mischievous, with the snakes always
writhing about it. But then, again, Quicksilver showed
himself so very good-humored, that they would have been
rejoiced to keep him in their cottage, staff, snakes,
and all, every day, and the whole day long.
"Ah me! Well-a-day!" exclaimed Philemon, when they had
walked a little way from their door. "If our neighbors
only knew what a blessed thing it is to show
hospitality to strangers, they would tie up all their
dogs, and never allow their children to fling another
"It is a sin and shame for them to behave so,—that it
is!" cried good old Baucis, vehemently. "And I mean to
go this very day, and tell some of them what naughty
people they are!"
"I fear," remarked Quicksilver, slyly smiling, "that
you will find none of them at home."
 The elder traveler's brow, just then, assumed such a
grave, stern, and awful grandeur, yet serene withal,
that neither Baucis nor Philemon dared to speak a word.
They gazed reverently into his face, as if they had
been gazing at the sky.
"When men do not feel towards the humblest stranger as
if he were a brother," said the traveler, in tones so
deep that they sounded like those of an organ, "they
are unworthy to exist on earth, which was created as
the abode of a great human brotherhood!"
"And, by the by, my dear old people," cried
Quicksilver, with the liveliest look of fun and
mischief in his eyes, "where is this same village that
you talk about? On which side of us does it lie?
Methinks I do not see it hereabouts."
Philemon and his wife turned towards the valley, where,
at sunset, only the day before, they had seen the
meadows, the houses, the gardens, the clumps of trees,
the wide, green-margined street, with children playing
in it, and all the tokens of business, enjoyment, and
prosperity. But what was their astonishment! There was
no longer any appearance of a village! Even the fertile
vale, in the hollow of which it lay, had ceased to have
existence. In its stead, they beheld the broad, blue
surface of a lake, which filled the great basin of the
valley from brim to brim, and reflected the surrounding
hills in its bosom with as tranquil an image as if it
had been there ever since the creation of the world.
For an instant, the lake remained perfectly smooth.
 little breeze sprang up, and caused the water
to dance, glitter, and sparkle in the early sunbeams,
and to dash, with a pleasant rippling murmur, against
the hither shore.
The lake seemed so strangely familiar, that the old
couple were greatly perplexed, and felt as if they
could only have been dreaming about a village having
lain there. But, the next moment, they remembered the
vanished dwellings, and the faces and characters of the
inhabitants, far too distinctly for a dream. The
village had been there yesterday, and now was gone!
"Alas!" cried these kind-hearted old people, "what has
become of our poor neighbors?"
"They exist no longer as men and women," said the elder
traveler, in his grand and deep voice, while a roll of
thunder seemed to echo it at a distance. "There was
neither use nor beauty in such a life as theirs; for
they never softened or sweetened the hard lot of
mortality by the exercise of kindly affections between
man and man. They retained no image of the better life
in their bosoms; therefore, the lake, that was of old,
has spread itself forth again, to reflect the sky!"
"And as for those foolish people," said Quicksilver,
with his mischievous smile, "they are all transformed
to fishes. There needed but little change, for they
were already a scaly set of rascals, and the
coldest-blooded beings in existence. So, kind Mother
Baucis, whenever you or your husband have an appetite
for a dish of broiled trout, he can throw in a line,
and pull out half a dozen of your old neighbors!"
 "Ah," cried Baucis, shuddering, "I would not, for the
world, put one of them on the gridiron!"
"No," added Philemon, making a wry face, "we could
never relish them!"
"As for you, good Philemon," continued the elder
traveler,—"and you, kind Baucis,—you, with your
scanty means, have mingled so much heartfelt
hospitality with your entertainment of the homeless
stranger, that the milk became an inexhaustible fount
of nectar, and the brown loaf and the honey were
ambrosia. Thus, the divinities have feasted, at your
board, off the same viands that supply their banquets
on Olympus. You have done well, my dear old friends.
Wherefore, request whatever favor you have most at
heart, and it is granted."
Philemon and Baucis looked at one another, and then,—I
know not which of the two it was who spoke, but that
one uttered the desire of both their hearts.
"Let us live together, while we live, and leave the
world at the same instant, when we die! For we have
always loved one another!"
"Be it so!" replied the stranger, with majestic
kindness. "Now, look towards your cottage!"
They did so. But what was their surprise on beholding a
tall edifice of white marble, with a wide-open portal,
occupying the spot where their humble residence had so
"There is your home," said the stranger, beneficently
smiling on them both. "Exercise your hospitality in
yonder palace as freely as in the poor hovel to which
you welcomed us last evening."
 The old folks fell on their knees to thank him; but,
behold! neither he nor Quicksilver was there.
So Philemon and Baucis took up their residence in the
marble palace, and spent their time, with vast
satisfaction to themselves, in making everybody jolly
and comfortable who happened to pass that way. The
milk-pitcher, I must not forget to say, retained its
marvelous quality of being never empty, when it was
desirable to have it full. Whenever an honest,
good-humored, and free-hearted guest took a draught
from this pitcher, he invariably found it the sweetest
and most invigorating fluid that ever ran down his
throat. But, if a cross and disagreeable curmudgeon
happened to sip, he was pretty certain to twist his
visage into a hard knot, and pronounce it a pitcher of
Thus the old couple lived in their palace a great,
great while, and grew older and older, and very old
indeed. At length, however, there came a summer morning
when Philemon and Baucis failed to make their
appearance, as on other mornings, with one hospitable
smile overspreading both their pleasant faces, to
invite the guests of over-night to breakfast. The
guests searched everywhere, from top to bottom of the
spacious palace, and all to no purpose. But, after a
great deal of perplexity, they espied, in front of the
portal, two venerable trees, which nobody could
remember to have seen there the day before. Yet there
they stood, with their roots fastened deep into the
soil, and a huge breadth of foliage overshadowing
 the whole front of the edifice. One was an oak, and the
other a linden-tree. Their boughs—it was strange and
beautiful to see—were intertwined together, and
embraced one another, so that each tree seemed to live
in the other tree's bosom much more than in its own.
While the guests were marveling how these trees, that
must have required at least a century to grow, could
have come to be so tall and venerable in a single
night, a breeze sprang up, and set their intermingled
boughs astir. And then there was a deep, broad murmur
in the air, as if the two mysterious trees were
"I am old Philemon!" murmured the oak.
"I am old Baucis!" murmured the linden-tree.
But, as the breeze grew stronger, the trees both spoke
at once,—"Philemon! Baucis! Baucis! Philemon!"—as if
one were both and both were one, and talking together
in the depths of their mutual heart. It was plain
enough to perceive that the good old couple had renewed
their age, and were now to spend a quiet and delightful
hundred years or so, Philemon as an oak, and Baucis as
a linden-tree. And oh, what a hospitable shade did they
fling around them. Whenever a wayfarer paused beneath
it, he heard a pleasant whisper of the leaves above his
head, and wondered how the sound should so much
resemble words like these:—
"Welcome, welcome, dear traveler, welcome!
And some kind soul, that knew what would have pleased
old Baucis and old Philemon best, built a circular seat
around both their trunks,
 where, for a great while
afterwards, the weary, and the hungry, and the thirsty
used to repose themselves, and quaff milk abundantly
out of the miraculous pitcher.
And I wish, for all our sakes, that we had the pitcher
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