|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 |
T noon, our juvenile party assembled in a dell,
through the depths of which ran a little brook. The
dell was narrow, and its steep sides, from the margin
of the stream upward, were thickly set with trees,
chiefly walnuts and chestnuts, among which grew a few
oaks and maples. In the summer time, the shade of so
many clustering branches, meeting and intermingling
across the rivulet, was deep enough to produce a
noontide twilight. Hence came the name of Shadow Brook.
But now, ever since autumn had crept into this secluded
place, all the dark verdure was changed to gold, so
that it really kindled up the dell, instead of shading
it. The bright yellow leaves, even had it been a cloudy
day, would have seemed to keep the sunlight among them;
and enough of them had fallen to strew all the bed and
margin of the brook with sunlight, too. Thus the shady
nook, where summer had cooled
 herself, was now the
sunniest spot anywhere to be found.
The little brook ran along over its pathway of gold,
here pausing to form a pool, in which minnows were
darting to and fro; and then it hurried onward at a
swifter pace, as if in haste to reach the lake; and,
forgetting to look whither it went, it tumbled over the
root of a tree, which stretched quite across its
current. You would have laughed to hear how noisily it
babbled about this accident. And even after it had run
onward, the brook still kept talking to itself, as if
it were in a maze. It was wonder-smitten, I suppose, at
finding its dark dell so illuminated, and at hearing
the prattle and merriment of so many children. So it
stole away as quickly as it could, and hid itself in
In the dell of Shadow Brook, Eustace Bright and his
little friends had eaten their dinner. They had brought
plenty of good things from Tanglewood, in their
baskets, and had spread them out on the stumps of
trees and on mossy trunks, and had feasted merrily,
and made a very nice dinner indeed. After it was over,
nobody felt like stirring.
"We will rest ourselves here," said several of the
children, "while Cousin Eustace tells us another of his
Cousin Eustace had a good right to be tired, as well as
the children, for he had performed great feats on that
memorable forenoon. Dandelion, Clover, Cowslip, and
Buttercup were almost persuaded that he had winged
slippers, like those which the Nymphs gave Perseus; so
 the student shown himself at the tiptop of a
nut-tree, when only a moment before he had been
standing on the ground. And then, what showers of
walnuts had he sent rattling down upon their heads, for
their busy little hands to gather into the baskets! In
short, he had been as active as a squirrel or a monkey,
and now, flinging himself down on the yellow leaves,
seemed inclined to take a little rest.
But children have no mercy nor consideration for
anybody's weariness; and if you had but a single breath
left, they would ask you to spend it in telling them a
"Cousin Eustace," said Cowslip, "that was a very nice
story of the Gorgon's Head. Do you think you could tell
us another as good?"
"Yes, child," said Eustace, pulling the brim of his cap
over his eyes, as if preparing for a nap. "I can tell
you a dozen, as good or better, if I choose."
"O Primrose and Periwinkle, do you hear what he says?"
cried Cowslip, dancing with delight. "Cousin Eustace is
going to tell us a dozen better stories than that about
the Gorgon's Head!"
"I did not promise you even one, you foolish little
Cowslip!" said Eustace, half pettishly. "However, I
suppose you must have it. This is the consequence of
having earned a reputation! I wish I were a great deal
duller than I am, or that I had never shown half the
bright qualities with which nature has endowed me; and
then I might have my nap out, in peace and comfort!"
But Cousin Eustace, as I think I have hinted
was as fond of telling his stories as the children of
hearing them. His mind was in a free and happy state,
and took delight in its own activity, and scarcely
required any external impulse to set it at work.
How different is this spontaneous play of the intellect
from the trained diligence of maturer years, when toil
has perhaps grown easy by long habit, and the day's
work may have become essential to the day's comfort,
although the rest of the matter has bubbled away! This
remark, however, is not meant for the children to hear.
Without further solicitation, Eustace Bright proceeded
to tell the following really splendid story. It had
come into his mind as he lay looking upward into the
depths of a tree, and observing how the touch of Autumn
had transmuted every one of its green leaves into what
resembled the purest gold. And this change, which we
have all of us witnessed, is as wonderful as anything
that Eustace told about in the story of Midas.
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