BAUCIS AND PHILEMON
ADAPTED FROM H. P. MASKELL'S RENDERING OF THE GREEK MYTH
ON the slopes of the Phrygian hills, there once dwelt a
pious old couple named Baucis and Philemon. They had lived
all their lives in a tiny cottage of wattles, thatched with
straw, cheerful and content in spite of their poverty.
As this worthy couple sat dozing by the fireside one evening
in the late autumn, two strangers came and begged a shelter
for the night. They had to stoop to enter the humble
 the old man welcomed them heartily and bade them rest their
weary limbs on the settle before the fire.
Meanwhile Baucis stirred the embers, blowing them into a
flame with dry leaves, and heaped on the fagots to boil the
stew-pot. Hanging from the blackened beams was a rusty side
of bacon. Philemon cut off a rasher to roast, and, while his
guests refreshed themselves with a wash at the rustic
trough, he gathered pot-herbs from his patch of garden. Then
the old woman, her hands trembling with age, laid the cloth
and spread the table.
It was a frugal meal, but one that hungry wayfarers could
well relish. The first course was an omelette of curdled
milk and eggs, garnished with radishes and served on rude
oaken platters. The cups of turned beechwood were filled
with homemade wine from an earthen jug. The second course
consisted of dried figs and dates, plums, sweet-smelling
apples, and grapes, with a piece of clear, white honeycomb.
What made the meal more grateful to the guests was the
hearty spirit in which it was offered. Their hosts gave all
they had without stint or grudging.
But all at once something happened which startled and amazed
Baucis and Philemon. They poured out wine for their guests,
and, lo! each time the pitcher filled itself again to the
 The old couple then knew that their guests were not mere
mortals; indeed, they were no other than Jupiter and Mercury
come down to earth in the disguise of poor travelers. Being
ashamed of their humble entertainment, Philemon hurried out
and gave chase to his only goose, intending to kill and
roast it. But his guests forbade him, saying:—
"In mortal shape we have come down, and at a hundred houses
asked for lodging and rest. For answer a hundred doors were
shut and locked against us. You alone, the poorest of all,
have received us gladly and given us of your best. Now it is
for us to punish these impious people who treat strangers so
churlishly, but you two shall be spared. Only leave your
cottage and follow us to yonder mountain-top."
So saying, Jupiter and Mercury led the way, and the two old
folks hobbled after them. Presently they reached the top of
the mountain, and Baucis and Philemon saw all the country
round, with villages and people, sinking into a marsh; while
their own cottage alone was left standing.
And while they gazed, their cottage was changed into a white
temple. The doorway became a porch with marble columns. The
thatch grew into a roof of golden tiles. The little garden
about their home became a park.
Then Jupiter, regarding Baucis and Philemon
 with kindly eyes, said: "Tell me, O good old man and you
good wife, what may we do in return for your hospitality?"
Philemon whispered for a moment with Baucis, and she nodded
her approval. "We desire," he replied, "to be your servants,
and to have the care of this temple. One other favor we
would ask. From boyhood I have loved only Baucis, and she
has lived only for me. Let the selfsame hour take us both
away together. Let me never see the tomb of my wife, nor let
her suffer the misery of mourning my death."
Jupiter and Mercury, pleased with these requests, willingly
granted both, and endowed Baucis and Philemon with youth and
strength as well. The gods then vanished from their sight,
but as long as their lives lasted Baucis and Philemon were
the guardians of the white temple that once had been their
And when again old age overtook them, they were standing one
day in front of the sacred porch, and Baucis, turning her
gaze upon her husband, saw him slowly changing into a
gnarled oak tree. And Philemon, as he felt himself rooted to
the ground, saw Baucis at the same time turning into a leafy
And as their faces disappeared behind the green foliage,
each cried unto the other, "Farewell, dearest love!" and
again, "Dearest love,
fare-  well!" And their human forms were changed to trees and
And still, if you visit the spot, you may see an oak and a
linden tree with branches intertwined.