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Turn page to read me!

A WONDER BOOK
by
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
edited by
C. KINGSLEY WILLIAMS, M.A.

    CONTENTS:
  • THE GORGON'S HEAD
  • THE GOLDEN TOUCH
  • THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN
  • THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES
  • THE MIRACULOUS POT
  • THE CHIMÆRA
THE PARADISE OF CHILDREN
Long, long ago there was a child, named Epimetheus, who never had either father or mother; and that he might not be lonely, another child, fatherless and motherless like himself, was sent from a far country to live with him, and be his playfellow and helpmate. Her name was Pandora. The first thing that Pandora saw, when she entered the cottage where Epimetheus lived, was a great box. And almost the first
question which she put to him, after passing the doorway, was this:

"Epimetheus, what have you in that box?"

"My dear little Pandora," answered Epimetheus, "that is a secret, and you must be kind enough not to ask any questions about it. The box was left here to be kept safely, and I do not myself know what it contains."

"But who gave it to you?" asked Pandora. "And where did it come from?"

"That is a
secret, too," replied Epimetheus.

"How troublesome!" said Pandora, crossly. "I wish the great ugly box were out of the way!"

"Oh, come, don't think of it any more," cried Epimetheus. "Let us run out of doors, and have some nice play with the other children."

It is thousands of years since Epimetheus and Pandora were alive; and the world, nowadays, is a very different sort of thing from what it was in their
time. Then, everybody was a child. There needed no fathers and mothers to take care of the children; because there was no danger or trouble of any kind, and no clothes to be mended, and there was always plenty to eat and drink. Whenever a child wanted his dinner, he found it growing on a tree. It was a very pleasant life indeed. No work to be done, no lessons to be studied; nothing but sports and dances, and
sweet voices of children talking, or singing like birds, or bursting out in merry laughter, throughout the whole day long.

HAPPY CHILDREN
What was most wonderful of all, the children never quarrelled among themselves; neither had they any crying fits; nor since time first began had a single one of them ever gone away into a corner angry. Oh, what a good time was that to be alive in! The truth is, those
ugly little things called Troubles - and there are now almost as many of them as mosquitoes - had never yet been seen on the earth. It is probable that the very greatest trouble which a child had ever had was Pandora's anger at not being able to discover the secret of the wonderful box.

This was at first only the faint shadow of a Trouble: but, every day, it grew more and more solid until, before a great while,
the cottage of Epimetheus and Pandora was less sunshiny than those of the other children.

"Where can the box have come from?" Pandora kept saying to herself and to Epimetheus.

"And what on earth can be inside of it?"

"Always talking about this box!" said Epimetheus at last; for he had grown very tired of the subject. "I wish, dear Pandora, you would try to talk of something else. Come, let us go and gather
some ripe figs, and eat them under the trees for our supper. And I know a vine that has the sweetest and juiciest grapes you ever tasted."

"Always talking about grapes and figs!" cried Pandora, crossly.

"Well, then," said Epimetheus, who was a very good-tempered child, like many children in those days, "let us run out and have a merry time with our playmates."

"I'm tired of merry times, and don't care if I
never have any more!" answered Pandora.

"And, besides, I never do have any. This ugly box! I am so taken up with thinking about it all the time. You must tell me what is inside of it."

"As I have already said, fifty times over, I do not know!" replied Epimetheus, getting a little angry too. "How, then, can I tell you what is inside?"

"You might open it," said Pandora, looking sideways at Epimetheus, "and then
we could see for ourselves."

"Pandora, what are you thinking of?" said Epiemtheus.

And his face expressed so much fear of looking into a box (which has been given in trust to his care) that Pandora thought it best not to ask him any more. Still, however, she could not help thinking and talking about the box.

QUICKSILVER
"At least," said she, "you can tell me how it came here."

"It was left at the
door," replied Epimetheus, "just before you came, by a person who looked very smiling and wise, and who could hardly help laughing as he put it down. He was dressed in an odd kind of a cloak, and had on a cap that seemed to be made partly of feathers, so that is looked almost as if it had wings."

"What sort of a staff had he?" asked Pandora.

"Oh, the strangest staff you ever saw!" cried Epimetheus. "It was
like two serpents twisting around a stick, and was carved so naturally that I, at first, thought the serpents were alive."

"I know him," said Pandora, thoughtfully. "Nobody else has such a staff. It was Quicksilver; and he brought me here, as well as the box. No doubt he intended it for me; and most probably it contains pretty dresses for me to wear, or toys for you and me to play with, or something very nice
for us both to eat!"

"Perhaps so," answered Epimetheus, turning away. "But, until Quicksilver comes back and tells us so, we have neither of us any right to lift the lid of the box."

"What a dull boy he is!" said Pandora, as Epimetheus left the cottage. "I do wish he would do things!"

For the first time since she had come, Epimetheus had gone out without asking Pandora to go with him. He went to gather figs
and grapes by himself, or to seek whatever fun he could find. He was tired to death of hearing about the box, and heartily wished that Quicksilver had left it at some other child's door, where Pandora would never have set eyes on it. She was always talking about this one thing! The box, the box, and nothing but the box! It seemed as if the box were bewitched, and as if the cottage were not big enough to hold it,
without Pandora's continually falling over it, an making Epimetheus fall over it likewise, and hurting all four of their legs.

Well, it was really hard that poor Epimetheus should have a box in his ears from morning till night; especially as children, in those happy days, had so few troubles that they knew not how to deal with them.

PANDORA TEMPTED
After Epimetheus was gone, Pandora stood looking at
the box. She had called it ugly above a hundred times; but, in spite of all that she had said against it, it was really a very fine piece of furniture. It was made of a beautiful kind of wood, so highly polished that little Pandora could see her face in it.

The edges and corners of the box were carved with most wonderful skill. Around the edge there were figures of beautiful men and women, and the prettiest
children ever seen, amid flowers and leaves. But here and there, looking out from behind the carved leaves, Pandora once or twice thought that she saw a face not so lovely, or something or other that was unpleasant, and which took away the beauty out of all the rest. Still, on looking more closely, and touching the spot with her finger, she could discover nothing of the kind. Some face, that was really
beautiful, had been made to look ugly by her looking sideways at it.

The most beautiful face of all was done in the centre of the lid. There was nothing else but the dark, smooth, rich, polished wood and this one face in the centre, with a crown of flowers about its brow. Pandora had looked at this face a great many times, and thought that the mouth could smile if it liked, or be grave when it chose, the same
as any living mouth.

Had the mouth spoken, it would probably have said something like this:

"Do not be afraid, Pandora! What harm can there be in opening the box? Never mind that poor, simple Epimetheus! You are wiser than he, and have ten times as much spirit. Open the box, and see if you do not find something very pretty!"

The box was fastened; not by a lock, nor by any other such thing, but by a very
difficult knot of gold cord. There appeared to be no end to this knot, and no beginning. Never was a knot so cleverly twisted, nor with so many ins and outs. And yet, by the very difficulty that there was in it. Pandora was the more tempted to examine the knot, and see how it was made. Two or three times already she had stooped over the box, and taken the knot between her thumb and forefinger, but without trying
to undo it.

"I really believe," she said to herself, "that I begin to see how it was done. Perhaps I could tie it up again, after undoing it. There could be no harm in that, surely. Even Epimetheus would not blame me for that. I need not open the box, and should not, of course, without his consent, even if the knot were untied."

It might have been better for Pandora if she had had a little work to do, or
anything to fill her mind, so as not to be so constantly thinking of this one subject. But children led so easy a life before any troubles came into the world, that they had really a great deal too much time to spare. They could not be for ever playing at hide-and-seek among the flower-shrubs, or at blind-man's-buff with crowns of flowers over their eyes, or at whatever other games had been found out. There was
absolutely nothing to do. A little sweeping and cleaning about the cottage, I suppose, and the gathering of fresh flowers, and arranging them in vases, and poor little Pandora's day's work was over. And then, for the rest of the day, there was the box! It was really an endless task to guess what was inside. What could it be, indeed?

Pandora was sure that it was something very beautiful and valuable, and
therefore she felt just as anxious to have a look as any of you would have felt.
On this particular day, however, her desire grew so much greater than it usually was, that, at last, she approached the box. She was more than half determined to open it, if she could.

THE BOX
First, however, she tried to lift it. It was heavy; much too heavy for the strength of a child like Pandora. She raised one end of
the box a few inches from the floor, and let it fall again, with a rather loud noise. A moment afterwards, she almost fancied that she heard something move inside the box. She put her ear as close as possible, and listened. There did seem to be a kind of murmur within. Or was it merely the singing in Pandora's ears? Or could it be the beating of her heart? The child could not be quite sure whether she had heard
anything or no. But, at all events, her desire to look inside was stronger than ever.

As she drew back her head, her eyes fell upon the knot of gold cord.

"It must have been a very clever person who tied this knot," said Pandora to herself. "But I think I could untie it. I am determined, at least, to find the two ends of the cord."

So she took the golden knot in her fingers, and looked into it as sharply as
she could. Almost without intending it, or quite knowing what she was about, she was soon busily trying to undo it. Meanwhile, the bright sunshine came through the open window; and the merry voices of the children, playing at a distance, and the voice of Epimetheus among them. Pandora stopped to listen. What a beautiful day it was! Would it not be wiser, if she were to let the troublesome knot alone, and think
no more about the box, but run and join her little playfellows, and be happy?

All this time, however, her fingers were busy with the knot; and happening to glance at the face on the lid of the box, she seemed to see it smiling at her.

"That face looks very wicked," thought Pandora. "I wonder whether it smiles because I am doing wrong! I have the greatest mind in the world to run away!"

But just then, by
chance, she gave the knot a kind of a twist, which produced a wonderful result. The gold cord loosed itself, as if by magic, and left the box without a fastening.

"This is the strangest thing I ever knew!" said Pandora. "What will Epimetheus say? And how can I possibly tie it up again?"

She made one or two attempts to tie the knot, but soon found she could not. Nothing was to be done, therefore, but to let
the box remain as it was until Epimetheus should come in.

"But," said Pandora, "when he finds the knot untied, he will know that I have done it. How shall I make him believe that I have not looked into the box?"

And then the thought came into her naughty little heart, that, since he would believe that she had looked into the box, she might just as well do so at once.

She could not tell whether it was fancy or
no; but there were whispers in her ear - or else it was her own desire that whispered:

"Let us out, dear Pandora - please let us out! We will be such nice, pretty playfellows for you! Only let us out!"

"What can it be?" thought Pandora. "Is there something alive in the box? Well! - yes! - I am determined to take just one look! Only one look; and then the lid shall be shut down as safely as ever! There cannot
possibly be any harm in just one little look!"

But it is now time for us to see what Epimetheus was doing.

This was the first time since his little playmate had come to live with him, that he had tried to enjoy any pleasure without her. But nothing went right; nor was he nearly so happy as on other days. He could not find a sweet grape or a ripe fig, or, if ripe at all, they were over-ripe, and so sweet as to
be nasty. There was no joy in his heart, such as usually made his voice burst out of its own accord, and swell the merriment of his companions. In short, he grew so uneasy and unhappy, that the other children could not think what was the matter with Epimetheus. Neither did he himself know what was wrong with him, any better than they did. For, at the time we are speaking of, it was everybody's nature and habit
to be happy. Not a single soul or body, since these children were first sent to enjoy themselves on the beautiful earth, had ever been sick.

At length, discovering that he put a stop to all the play, Epimetheus thought it best to go back to Pandora. But, with a hope of giving her pleasure, he gathered some flowers, and made them into a crown, which he meant to put upon her head. The flowers were very lovely -
roses and lilies, and orange-blossoms, and a great many more, which left a sweet smell behind as Epimetheus carried them along.

A STRANGE CLOUD
Just as he reached the cottage-door, a cloud began to cut off the sunshine, and thus to make a sudden and sad dullness.

He entered softly; for he meant, if possible, to creep quietly behind Pandora and throw the crown of flowers over her head before she knew he
was coming. But, as it happened, there was no need of his treading so very lightly. He might have trod as heavily as he pleased - as heavily as a grown man, as heavily as an elephant - without Pandora's hearing his footsteps. She was too busy with her purpose. At the moment of his entering the cottage, the naughty child had put her hand to the lid, and was just going to open the box. Epimetheus saw her. If he
had cried out, Pandora would probably have withdrawn her hand, and the secret of the box might never have been known.

But Epimetheus himself, although he said very little about it, had a desire to know what was inside. Seeing that Pandora was determined to find out the secret, he determined that his playfellow should not be the only wise person in the cottage. And if there were anything pretty or valuable in
the box, he meant to take half of it to himself. Thus, after all his wise speeches to Pandora, Epimetheus turned out to be quite as foolish, and nearly as much in fault as she. So, whenever we blame Pandora for what happened, we must not forget to shake our heads at Epimetheus, too.

As Pandora raised the lid, the cottage grew very dark, for the black cloud had now swept quite over the sun, and seemed to have
buried it alive. There had, for a little while past, been a low noise which all at once broke into a heavy peal of thunder. But Pandora, noticing nothing of all this, lifted the lid nearly upright, and looked inside. It seemed as if a sudden swarm of winged creatures flew past her out of the box, while, at the same instant, she heard the voice of Epimetheus, as if he were in pain.

"Oh, I am stung!" cried he. "I
am stung! Naughty Pandora! why have you opened this wicked box?"

Pandora let fall the lid, and starting up, looked about her, to see what had happened to Epimetheus. The thunder-cloud had so darkened the room that she could not very clearly see what was in it. But she heard an unpleasant buzzing, as if a great many huge flies, or gigantic mosquitoes, were flying about. And, as her eyes grew used to the dim
light, she saw a crowd of ugly little shapes, with bats' wings, looking very wicked, and armed with terribly long stings in their tails. It was one of these that had stung Epimetheus. Nor was it a great while before Pandora herself began to cry out, in no less pain and fright than her playfellow, and making a great deal more noise about it. A hateful little creature had settled on her forehead, and would have
stung her deeply, if Epimetheus had not run and brushed it away.

TROUBLES
Now, if you wish to know what these ugly things might be which had made their escape out of the box, I must tell you that they were the whole family of earthly Troubles. There were evil Passions; there were a great many kinds of Cares; there were more than a hundred and fifty Sorrows; there were Diseases, in a great number of
miserable and painful shapes; there were more kinds of Naughtiness than it would be of any use to talk about. In short, everything that has since troubled the souls and bodies of mankind had been shut up in the box, and given to Epimetheus and Pandora to be kept safely, in order that the happy children of the world might never be troubled by them. If they had been faithful to their trust, all would have gone
well. No grown person would ever have been sad, nor any child have had cause to shed a single tear, from that hour until this moment.

But - and you may see by this how a wrong act of any one person brings evil to the whole world - by Pandora's lifting the lid of that miserable box, and by the fault of Epimetheus, too, in not preventing her, these Troubles have settled among us, and do not seem very likely to
be driven away. For it was impossible, as you will easily guess, that the two children should keep the ugly creatures in their own little cottage. The first thing that they did was to throw open the doors and windows in hope of getting rid of them; and, sure enough, away flew the winged Troubles all abroad, and so pained and hurt the small people, everywhere about, that none of them smiled for many days
afterwards. And all the flowers and blossoms on earth, which had never faded before, now began to drop their leaves and die after a day or two. The children, moreover, who before had been children always, now grew older, day by day, an came soon to be youths and maidens, and men and women by and by, and old people before they even thought of such a thing.

Meanwhile, the naughty Pandora, and hardly less naughty
Epimetheus, stayed in their cottage. Both of them had been badly stung, and were in a good deal of pain, which seemed the more difficult to bear, because it was the very first pain that had ever been felt since the world began. Besides all this, they were in a very bad temper, both with themselves and with one another. Epimetheus sat down in a corner with his back towards Pandora; while Pandora flung herself
upon the floor and rested her head on the cruel, wicked box. She was crying bitterly, and sobbing as if her heart would break.

Suddenly there was a gentle little tap on the inside of the lid.

WHAT WAS IT?
"What can that be?" cried Pandora, lifting her head.

But either Epimetheus had not heard the tap, or was too bad-tempered to notice it. At any rate, he made no answer.

"You are very unkind," said
Pandora, sobbing, "not to speak to me!"

Again the tap! It sounded like a fairy's tiny hand, knocking lightly and playfully on the inside of the box.

"Who are you?" asked Pandora. "Who are you, inside of this naughty box?"

A sweet little voice spoke from within: "Only lift the lid, and you shall see."

"No, no," answered Pandora, again beginning to sob, "I have had enough of lifting the lid! You are inside of
the box, naughty creature, and there you shall stay! There are plenty of your ugly brothers and sisters already flying about the world. You need never think that I shall be so foolish as to let you out!"

She looked towards Epimetheus as she spoke, perhaps expecting that he would praise her for her wisdom. But the angry boy only said that she was wise a little too late.

"Ah," said the sweet little voice again,
"you had much better let me out. I am not like those naughty creatures that have stings in their tails. They are no brothers and sisters of mine, as you would see at once, if you were only to have a look at me. Come, come, my pretty Pandora! I am sure you will let me out!"

And, indeed, there was a kind of cheerfulness in the tone, that made it almost impossible to refuse anything which this little voice asked.
Pandora's heart had grown lighter at every word that came from within the box. Epimetheus, too, though still in the corner, had turned half round, and seemed to be in rather better spirits than before.

"My dear Epimetheus," cried Pandora, "have you heard this little voice?"

"Yes, to be sure I have," answered he, but in no very good temper as yet. "And what of it?"

"Shall I lift the lid again?" asked
Pandora.

"Just as you please," said Epimetheus. "You have done so much harm already, that perhaps you may as well do a little more. One other Trouble, in such a large number as you have set flying about the world, can make no very great difference."

"You might speak a little more kindly!" murmured Pandora, wiping her eyes.

"Ah, naughty boy!" cried the little voice within the box, in a laughing tone. "He knows
he is longing to see me. Come, my dear Pandora, lift up the lid. I am in a great hurry to comfort you. Only let me have some fresh air, and you shall soon see that matters are not quite so sad as you think them!"

"Epimetheus," exclaimed Pandora, "come what may, I am determinded to open the box!"

"And, as the lid seems very heavy," cried Epimetheus, running across the room, "I will help you!"

So, with one
consent, the two children again lifted the lid. Out came a sunny and smiling little person, and flew about the room, throwing a light wherever she went. Have you never made the sunlight dance into dark corners by making it shine from a bit of looking-glass? Well, so looked the winged brightness of this fairy-like stranger amid the darkness of the cottage. She flew to Epimetheus, and laid the least touch of her
finger on the sore spot where the Trouble had stung him, and immediately the pain of it was gone. Then she kissed Pandora on the forehead, and her hurt, too, was cured.

After this, the bright stranger flew playfully over the children's heads, and looked so sweetly at them that they both began to think it a good thing that they had opened the box; for, if they had not, their cheery guest must have been kept a
prisoner among those naughty creatures with stings in their tails.

HOPE
"And who are you, beautiful one?" asked Pandora.

"I am to be called Hope!" answered the sunshiny figure. "And because I am such a cheery little body, I was packed into the box, to cheer the human race for those ugly Troubles which were let loose among them. Never fear! We shall do pretty well in spite of them all."

"Your wings are
coloured like the rainbow!" exclaimed Pandora. "How very beautiful!"

"Yes, they are like the rainbow," said Hope, "because, glad as my nature is, I am partly made of tears as well as smiles."

"And will you stay with us," asked Epimetheus, "for ever and ever?"

"As long as you need me," said Hope, with her pleasant smile, "and that will be as long as you live in the world, I promise never to leave you. There
may be times, now and then, when you will think that I have gone away. But again, and again, and again, when perhaps you least think of it, you shall see the shining of my wings on the ceiling of your cottage. Yes, my dear children, and I know something very good and beautiful that is to be given you, hereafter!"

"Oh, tell us," they exclaimed; "tell us what it is!"

"Do not ask me," replied Hope, putting her
finger on her rosy mouth. "But do not lose heart, even if it should never happen while you live on this earth. Trust in my promise, for it is true."

"We do trust you!" cried Epimetheus and Pandora, both in one breath.

And so they did, and not only they, but so has everybody trusted Hope ever since. And, to tell you the truth, I cannot help being glad that our foolish Pandora looked into the box. No doubt - no
doubt - the Troubles are still flying about the world, and have increased in number, rather than lessened, and are a very ugly set of creatures, and carry most poisonous stings in their tails. I have felt them already, and expect to feel them more as I grow older. But then that lovely, shining little figure of Hope! What in the world could we do without her? Hope makes the earth pure; Hope makes it always new;
and, even in the earth's best and brightest joy, Hope shows it to be only the shadow of perfect happiness hereafter!

~THE END~