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Chapter 1 - The Three Golden Apples | Chapter 2 - The Pomegranate Seeds | Chapter 3 - The Chimaera | Chapter 4 - The Golden Touch | Chapter 5 - The Gorgon's Head | Chapter 6 - The Dragon's Teeth | Chapter 7 - The Miraculous Pitcher | Chapter 8 - The Paradise of Children | Chapter 9 - The Cyclops | Chapter 11 - The Giant Builder | Chapter 12 - How Odin Lost His Eye

Chapter 4 - The Golden Touch



 

Once upon a time, there lived a very rich man, and a king besides, whose
name was Midas; and he had a little daughter, whom nobody but myself
ever heard of, and whose name I either never knew, or have entirely
forgotten. So, because I love odd names for little girls, I choose to
call her Marygold.

This King Midas was fonder of gold than of anything else in the world.
He valued his royal crown chiefly because it was composed of that
precious metal. If he loved anything better, or half so well, it was the
one little maiden who played so merrily around her father's footstool.
But the more Midas loved his daughter, the more did he desire and seek
for wealth. He thought, foolish man! that the best thing he could
possibly do for this dear child would be to bequeath her the immensest
pile of yellow, glistening coin, that had ever been heaped together
since the world was made. Thus, he gave all his thoughts and all his
time to this one purpose. If ever he happened to gaze for an instant at
the gold-tinted clouds of sunset, he wished that they were real gold,
and that they could be squeezed safely into his strong box. When little
Marygold ran to meet him, with a bunch of buttercups and dandelions, he
used to say, "Poh, poh, child! If these flowers were as golden as they
look, they would be worth the plucking!"

And yet, in his earlier days, before he was so entirely possessed of
this insane desire for riches, King Midas had shown a great taste for
flowers. He had planted a garden, in which grew the biggest and
beautifullest and sweetest roses that any mortal ever saw or smelt.
These roses were still growing in the garden, as large, as lovely, and
as fragrant as when Midas used to pass whole hours in gazing at them,
and inhaling their perfume. But now, if he looked at them at all, it was
only to calculate how much the garden would be worth if each of the
innumerable rose petals were a thin plate of gold. And though he once
was fond of music (in spite of an idle story about his ears, which were
said to resemble those of an ass), the only music for poor Midas, now,
was the chink of one coin against another.

At length (as people always grow more and more foolish, unless they take
care to grow wiser and wiser), Midas had got to be so exceedingly
unreasonable that he could scarcely bear to see or touch any object that
was not gold. He made it his custom, therefore, to pass a large portion
of every day in a dark and dreary apartment, under ground, at the
basement of his palace. It was here that he kept his wealth. To this
dismal hole--for it was little better than a dungeon--Midas betook
himself, whenever he wanted to be particularly happy. Here, after
carefully locking the door, he would take a bag of gold coin, or a gold
cup as big as a washbowl, or a heavy golden bar, or a peck measure of
gold dust, and bring them from the obscure corners of the room into the
one bright and narrow sunbeam that fell from the dungeon-like window. He
valued the sunbeam for no other reason but that his treasure would not
shine without its help. And then would he reckon over the coins in the
bag; toss up the bar, and catch it as it came down; sift the gold dust
through his fingers; look at the funny image of his own face, as
reflected in the burnished circumference of the cup, and whisper to
himself, "O Midas, rich King Midas, what a happy man art thou!" But it
was laughable to see how the image of his face kept grinning at him, out
of the polished surface of the cup. It seemed to be aware of his foolish
behaviour, and to have a naughty inclination to make fun of him.

Midas called himself a happy man, but felt that he was not yet quite so
happy as he might be. The very tiptop of enjoyment would never be
reached, unless the whole world were to become his treasure room, and be
filled with yellow metal which should be all his own.

Now, I need hardly remind such wise little people as you are, that in
the old, old times, when King Midas was alive, a great many things came
to pass, which we should consider wonderful if they were to happen in
our own day and country. And, on the other hand, a great many things
take place nowadays, which seem not only wonderful to us, but at which
the people of old times would have stared their eyes out. On the whole,
I regard our own times as the strangest of the two; but, however that
may be, I must go on with my story.

Midas was enjoying himself in his treasure room, one day, as usual, when
he perceived a shadow fall over the heaps of gold; and, looking suddenly
up, what should he behold but the figure of a stranger, standing in the
bright and narrow sunbeam! It was a young man, with a cheerful and ruddy
face. Whether it was that the imagination of King Midas threw a yellow
tinge over everything, or whatever the cause might be, he could not
help fancying that the smile with which the stranger regarded him had a
kind of golden radiance in it. Certainly, although his figure
intercepted the sunshine, there was now a brighter gleam upon all the
piled-up treasures than before. Even the remotest corners had their
share of it, and were lighted up, when the stranger smiled, as with tips
of flame and sparkles of fire.

As Midas knew that he had carefully turned the key in the lock, and that
no mortal strength could possibly break into his treasure room, he, of
course, concluded that his visitor must be something more than mortal.
It is no matter about telling you who he was. In those days, when the
earth was comparatively a new affair, it was supposed to be often the
resort of beings endowed with supernatural power, and who used to
interest themselves in the joys and sorrows of men, women, and children,
half playfully and half seriously. Midas had met such beings before now,
and was not sorry to meet one of them again. The stranger's aspect,
indeed, was so good humoured and kindly, if not beneficent, that it
would have been unreasonable to suspect him of intending any mischief.
It was far more probable that he came to do Midas a favour. And what
could that favour be, unless to multiply his heaps of treasure?

The stranger gazed about the room; and when his lustrous smile had
glistened upon all the golden objects that were there, he turned again
to Midas.

"You are a wealthy man, friend Midas!" he observed. "I doubt whether any
other four walls, on earth, contain so much gold as you have contrived
to pile up in this room."

"I have done pretty well--pretty well," answered Midas, in a
discontented tone. "But, after all, it is but a trifle, when you
consider that it has taken me my whole life to get it together. If one
could live a thousand years, he might have time to grow rich!"

"What!" exclaimed the stranger. "Then you are not satisfied?"

Midas shook his head.

"And pray what would satisfy you?" asked the stranger. "Merely for the
curiosity of the thing, I should be glad to know."

Midas paused and meditated. He felt a presentiment that this stranger,
with such a golden lustre in his good-humoured smile, had come hither
with both the power and the purpose of gratifying his utmost wishes.
Now, therefore, was the fortunate moment, when he had but to speak, and
obtain whatever possible, or seemingly impossible thing, it might come
into his head to ask. So he thought, and thought, and thought, and
heaped up one golden mountain upon another, in his imagination, without
being able to imagine them big enough. At last, a bright idea occurred
to King Midas. It seemed really as bright as the glistening metal which
he loved so much.

Raising his head, he looked the lustrous stranger in the face.

"Well, Midas," observed his visitor, "I see that you have at length hit
upon something that will satisfy you. Tell me your wish."

"It is only this," replied Midas. "I am weary of collecting my treasures
with so much trouble, and beholding the heap so diminutive, after I have
done my best. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to gold!"

The stranger's smile grew so very broad, that it seemed to fill the room
like an outburst of the sun, gleaming into a shadowy dell, where the
yellow autumnal leaves--for so looked the lumps and particles of
gold--lie strewn in the glow of light.

"The Golden Touch!" exclaimed he. "You certainly deserve credit, friend
Midas, for striking out so brilliant a conception. But are you quite
sure that this will satisfy you?"

"How could it fail?" said Midas.

"And will you never regret the possession of it?"

"What could induce me?" asked Midas. "I ask nothing else, to render me
perfectly happy."

"Be it as you wish, then," replied the stranger, waving his hand in
token of farewell. "To-morrow, at sunrise, you will find yourself gifted
with the Golden Touch."

The figure of the stranger then became exceedingly bright, and Midas
involuntarily closed his eyes. On opening them again, he beheld only one
yellow sunbeam in the room, and, all around him, the glistening of the
precious metal which he had spent his life in hoarding up.

Whether Midas slept as usual that night, the story does not say. Asleep
or awake, however, his mind was probably in the state of a child's, to
whom a beautiful new plaything has been promised in the morning. At any
rate, day had hardly peeped over the hills, when King Midas was broad
awake, and, stretching his arms out of bed, began to touch the objects
that were within reach. He was anxious to prove whether the Golden Touch
had really come, according to the stranger's promise. So he laid his
finger on a chair by the bedside, and on various other things, but was
grievously disappointed to perceive that they remained of exactly the
same substance as before. Indeed, he felt very much afraid that he had
only dreamed about the lustrous stranger, or else that the latter had
been making game of him. And what a miserable affair would it be, if,
after all his hopes, Midas must content himself with what little gold he
could scrape together by ordinary means, instead of creating it by a
touch!

All this while, it was only the gray of the morning, with but a streak
of brightness along the edge of the sky, where Midas could not see it.
He lay in a very disconsolate mood, regretting the downfall of his hopes
and kept growing sadder and sadder, until the earliest sunbeam shone
through the window, and gilded the ceiling over his head. It seemed to
Midas that this bright yellow sunbeam was reflected in rather a singular
way on the white covering of the bed. Looking more closely, what was his
astonishment and delight, when he found that this linen fabric had been
transmuted to what seemed a woven texture of the purest and brightest
gold! The Golden Touch had come to him with the first sunbeam!

Midas started up, in a kind of joyful frenzy, and ran about the room,
grasping at everything that happened to be in his way. He seized one of
the bedposts, and it became immediately a fluted golden pillar. He
pulled aside a window curtain, in order to admit a clear spectacle of
the wonders which he was performing; and the tassel grew heavy in his
hand--a mass of gold. He took up a book from the table. At his first
touch, it assumed the appearance of such a splendidly bound and
gilt-edged volume as one often meets with, nowadays; but, on running his
fingers through the leaves, behold! it was a bundle of thin golden
plates, in which all the wisdom of the book had grown illegible. He
hurriedly put on his clothes, and was enraptured to see himself in a
magnificent suit of gold cloth, which retained its flexibility and
softness, although it burdened him a little with its weight. He drew out
his handkerchief, which little Marygold had hemmed for him. That was
likewise gold, with the dear child's neat and pretty stitches running
all along the border, in gold thread!

Somehow or other, this last transformation did not quite please King
Midas. He would rather that his little daughter's handiwork should have
remained just the same as when she climbed his knee and put it into his
hand.

But it was not worth while to vex himself about a trifle. Midas now took
his spectacles from his pocket, and put them on his nose, in order that
he might see more distinctly what he was about. In those days,
spectacles for common people had not been invented, but were already
worn by kings: else, how could Midas have had any? To his great
perplexity, however, excellent as the glasses were, he discovered that
he could not possibly see through them. But this was the most natural
thing in the world; for, on taking them off, the transparent crystals
turned out to be plates of yellow metal, and, of course, were worthless
as spectacles, though valuable as gold. It struck Midas, as rather
inconvenient that, with all his wealth, he could never again be rich
enough to own a pair of serviceable spectacles.

"It is no great matter, nevertheless," said he to himself, very
philosophically. "We cannot expect any great good, without its being
accompanied with some small inconvenience. The Golden Touch is worth
the sacrifice of a pair of spectacles, at least, if not of one's very
eyesight. My own eyes will serve for ordinary purposes, and little
Marygold will soon be old enough to read to me."

Wise King Midas was so exalted by his good fortune, that the palace
seemed not sufficiently spacious to contain him. He therefore went
downstairs, and smiled, on observing that the balustrade of the
staircase became a bar of burnished gold, as his hand passed over it, in
his descent. He lifted the doorlatch (it was brass only a moment ago,
but golden when his fingers quitted it), and emerged into the garden.
Here, as it happened, he found a great number of beautiful roses in full
bloom, and others in all the stages of lovely bud and blossom. Very
delicious was their fragrance in the morning breeze. Their delicate
blush was one of the fairest sights in the world; so gentle, so modest,
and so full of sweet tranquillity, did these roses seem to be.

But Midas knew a way to make them far more precious, according to his
way of thinking, than roses had ever been before. So he took great pains
in going from bush to bush, and exercised his magic touch most
indefatigably; until every individual flower and bud, and even the worms
at the heart of some of them, were changed to gold. By the time this
good work was completed, King Midas was summoned to breakfast; and as
the morning air had given him an excellent appetite, he made haste back
to the palace.

What was usually a king's breakfast in the days of Midas, I really do
not know, and cannot stop now to investigate. To the best of my belief,
however, on this particular morning, the breakfast consisted of hot
cakes, some nice little brook trout, roasted potatoes, fresh boiled
eggs, and coffee, for King Midas himself, and a bowl of bread and milk
for his daughter Marygold. At all events, this is a breakfast fit to set
before a king; and, whether he had it or not, King Midas could not have
had a better.

Little Marygold had not yet made her appearance. Her father ordered her
to be called, and, seating himself at table, awaited the child's coming,
in order to begin his own breakfast. To do Midas justice, he really
loved his daughter, and loved her so much the more this morning, on
account of the good fortune which had befallen him. It was not a great
while before he heard her coming along the passageway crying bitterly.
This circumstance surprised him, because Marygold was one of the
cheerfullest little people whom you would see in a summer's day, and
hardly shed a thimbleful of tears in a twelvemonth. When Midas heard her
sobs, he determined to put little Marygold into better spirits, by an
agreeable surprise; so, leaning across the table, he touched his
daughter's bowl (which was a china one, with pretty figures all around
it), and transmuted it to gleaming gold.

Meanwhile, Marygold slowly and disconsolately opened the door, and
showed herself with her apron at her eyes, still sobbing as if her heart
would break.

"How now, my little lady!" cried Midas. "Pray what is the matter with
you, this bright morning?"

Marygold, without taking the apron from her eyes, held out her hand, in
which was one of the roses which Midas had so recently transmuted.

"Beautiful!" exclaimed her father. "And what is there in this
magnificent golden rose to make you cry?"

"Ah, dear father!" answered the child, as well as her sobs would let
her; "it is not beautiful, but the ugliest flower that ever grew! As
soon as I was dressed I ran into the garden to gather some roses for
you; because I know you like them, and like them the better when
gathered by your little daughter. But, oh dear, dear me. What do you
think has happened? Such a misfortune! All the beautiful roses, that
smelled so sweetly and had so many lovely blushes, are blighted and
spoilt! They are grown quite yellow, as you see this one, and have no
longer any fragrance! What can have been the matter with them?"

"Poh, my dear little girl--pray don't cry about it!" said Midas, who was
ashamed to confess that he himself had wrought the change which so
greatly afflicted her, "Sit down and eat your bread and milk! You will
find it easy enough to exchange a golden rose like that (which will last
hundreds of years) for an ordinary one which would wither in a day."

"I don't care for such roses as this!" cried Marygold, tossing it
contemptuously away. "It has no smell, and the hard petals prick my
nose!"

The child now sat down to table, but was so occupied with her grief for
the blighted roses that she did not even notice the wonderful
transmutation of her china bowl. Perhaps this was all the better; for
Marygold was accustomed to take pleasure in looking at the queer
figures, and strange trees and houses, that were painted on the
circumference of the bowl; and these ornaments were now entirely lost in
the yellow hue of the metal.

Midas, meanwhile, had poured out a cup of coffee, and, as a matter of
course, the Coffee-pot, whatever metal it may have been when he took it
up, was gold when he set it down. He thought to himself, that it was
rather an extravagant style of splendour, in a king of his simple
habits, to breakfast off a service of gold, and began to be puzzled with
the difficulty of keeping his treasures safe. The cupboard and the
kitchen would no longer be a secure place of deposit for articles so
valuable as golden bowls and coffee-pots.

Amid these thoughts, he lifted a spoonful of coffee to his lips, and,
sipping it, was astonished to perceive that, the instant his lips
touched the liquid, it became molten gold, and, the next moment,
hardened into a lump!

"Ha!" exclaimed Midas, rather aghast.

"What is the matter, father?" asked little Marygold, gazing at him, with
the tears still standing in her eyes.

"Nothing, child, nothing!" said Midas. "Eat your milk, before it gets
quite cold."

He took one of the nice little trouts on his plate, and, by way of
experiment, touched its tail with his finger. To his horror, it was
immediately transmuted from an admirably fried brook trout into a
gold-fish, though not one of those gold-fishes which people often keep
in glass globes, as ornaments for the parlour. No; but it was really a
metallic fish, and looked as if it had been very cunningly made by the
nicest goldsmith in the world. Its little bones were now golden wires;
its fins and tail were thin plates of gold; and there were the marks of
the fork in it, and all the delicate, frothy appearance of a nicely
fried fish, exactly imitated in metal. A very pretty piece of work, as
you may suppose; only King Midas, just at that moment, would much rather
have had a real trout in his dish than this elaborate and valuable
imitation of one.

"I don't quite see," thought he to himself, "how I am to get any
breakfast!"

He took one of the smoking-hot cakes, and had scarcely broken it, when,
to his cruel mortification, though, a moment before, it had been of the
whitest wheat, it assumed the yellow hue of Indian meal. To say the
truth, if it had really been a hot Indian cake, Midas would have prized
it a good deal more than he now did, when its solidity and increased
weight made him too bitterly sensible that it was gold. Almost in
despair, he helped himself to a boiled egg, which immediately underwent
a change similar to those of the trout and the cake. The egg, indeed,
might have been mistaken for one of those which the famous goose, in the
story book, was in the habit of laying; but King Midas was the only
goose that had had anything to do with the matter.

"Well, this is a quandary!" thought he, leaning back in his chair, and
looking quite enviously at little Marygold, who was now eating her bread
and milk with great satisfaction. "Such a costly breakfast before me,
and nothing that can be eaten!"

Hoping that, by dint of great dispatch, he might avoid what he now felt
to be a considerable inconvenience, King Midas next snatched a hot
potato, and attempted to cram it into his mouth, and swallow it in a
hurry. But the Golden Touch was too nimble for him. He found his mouth
full, not of mealy potato, but of solid metal, which so burnt his tongue
that he roared aloud, and, jumping up from the table, began to dance and
stamp about the room, both with pain and affright.

"Father, dear father!" cried little Marygold, who was a very
affectionate child, "pray what is the matter? Have you burnt your
mouth?"

"Ah, dear child," groaned Midas, dolefully, "I don't know what is to
become of your poor father!"

And, truly, my dear little folks, did you ever hear of such a pitiable
case in all your lives? Here was literally the richest breakfast that
could be set before a king, and its very richness made it absolutely
good for nothing. The poorest labourer, sitting down to his crust of
bread and cup of water, was far better off than King Midas, whose
delicate food was really worth its weight in gold. And what was to be
done? Already, at breakfast, Midas was excessively hungry. Would he be
less so by dinner-time? And how ravenous would be his appetite for
supper, which must undoubtedly consist of the same sort of indigestible
dishes as those now before him! How many days, think you, would he
survive a continuance of this rich fare?

These reflections so troubled wise King Midas, that he began to doubt
whether, after all, riches are the one desirable thing in the world, or
even the most desirable. But this was only a passing thought. So
fascinated was Midas with the glitter of the yellow metal, that he would
still have refused to give up the Golden Touch for so paltry a
consideration as a breakfast. Just imagine what a price for one meal's
victuals! It would have been the same as paying millions and millions of
money (and as many millions more as would take forever to reckon up) for
some fried trout, an egg, a potato, a hot cake, and a cup of coffee!

"It would be quite too dear," thought Midas.

Nevertheless, so great was his hunger, and the perplexity of his
situation, that he again groaned aloud, and very grievously, too. Our
pretty Marygold could endure it no longer. She sat, a moment, gazing at
her father, and trying, with all the might of her little wits, to find
out what was the matter with him. Then, with a sweet and sorrowful
impulse to comfort him, she started from her chair, and, running to
Midas, threw her arms affectionately about his knees. He bent down and
kissed her. He felt that his little daughter's love was worth a thousand
times more than he had gained by the Golden Touch.

"My precious, precious Marygold!" cried he.

But Marygold made no answer.

Alas, what had he done? How fatal was the gift which the stranger
bestowed! The moment the lips of Midas touched Marygold's forehead, a
change had taken place. Her sweet, rosy face, so full of affection as it
had been, assumed a glittering yellow colour, with yellow tear-drops
congealing on her cheeks. Her beautiful brown ringlets took the same
tint. Her soft and tender little form grew hard and inflexible within
her father's encircling arms. Oh, terrible misfortune! The victim of his
insatiable desire for wealth, little Marygold was a human child no
longer, but a golden statue!

Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, and pity,
hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and most woeful sight that
ever mortal saw. All the features and tokens of Marygold were there;
even the beloved little dimple remained in her golden chin. But, the
more perfect was the resemblance, the greater was the father's agony at
beholding this golden image, which was all that was left him of a
daughter. It had been a favourite phrase of Midas, whenever he felt
particularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth her weight in
gold. And now the phrase had become literally true. And, now, at last,
when it was too late, he felt how infinitely a warm and tender heart,
that loved him, exceeded in value all the wealth that could be piled up
betwixt the earth and sky!

It would be too sad a story, if I were to tell you how Midas, in the
fulness of all his gratified desires, began to wring his hands and
bemoan himself; and how he could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor
yet to look away from her. Except when his eyes were fixed on the image,
he could not possibly believe that she was changed to gold. But,
stealing another glance, there was the precious little figure, with a
yellow tear-drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so piteous and tender,
that it seemed as if that very expression must needs soften the gold,
and make it flesh again. This, however, could not be. So Midas had only
to wring his hands, and to wish that he were the poorest man in the wide
world, if the loss of all his wealth might bring back the faintest rose
colour to his dear child's face.

While he was in this tumult of despair, he suddenly beheld a stranger
standing near the door. Midas bent down his head, without speaking; for
he recognised the same figure which had appeared to him, the day before,
in the treasure-room, and had bestowed on him this disastrous faculty of
the Golden Touch. The stranger's countenance still wore a smile, which
seemed to shed a yellow lustre all about the room, and gleamed on little
Marygold's image, and on the other objects that had been transmuted by
the touch of Midas.

"Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, "pray how do you succeed with
the Golden Touch?"

Midas shook his head.

"I am very miserable," said he.

"Very miserable, indeed!" exclaimed the stranger.

"And how happens that? Have I not faithfully kept my promise with you?
Have you not everything that your heart desired?"

"Gold is not everything," answered Midas. "And I have lost all that my
heart really cared for."

"Ah! So you have made a discovery, since yesterday?" observed the
stranger. "Let us see, then. Which of these two things do you think is
really worth the most--the gift of the Golden Touch, or one cup of clear
cold water?"

"O blessed water!" exclaimed Midas. "I will never moisten my parched
throat again!"

"The Golden Touch," continued the stranger, "or a crust of bread?"

"A piece of bread," answered Midas, "is worth all the gold on earth!"

"The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, "or your own little Marygold,
warm, soft, and loving as she was an hour ago?"

"Oh, my child, my dear child!" cried poor Midas, wringing his hands. "I
would not have given that one small dimple in her chin for the power of
changing this whole big earth into a solid lump of gold!"

"You are wiser than you were, King Midas!" said the stranger, looking
seriously at him. "Your own heart, I perceive, has not been entirely
changed from flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would indeed be
desperate. But you appear to be still capable of understanding that the
commonest things, such as lie within everybody's grasp, are more
valuable than the riches which so many mortals sigh and struggle after.
Tell me, now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this Golden
Touch?"

"It is hateful to me!" replied Midas.

A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the floor; for it,
too, had become gold. Midas shuddered.

"Go, then," said the stranger, "and plunge into the river that glides
past the bottom of your garden. Take likewise a vase of the same water,
and sprinkle it over any object that you may desire to change back again
from gold into its former substance. If you do this in earnestness and
sincerity, it may possibly repair the mischief which your avarice has
occasioned."

King Midas bowed low; and when he lifted his head, the lustrous stranger
had vanished.

You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in snatching up a great
earthen pitcher (but, alas me! it was no longer earthen after he touched
it), and hastening to the river-side. As he scampered along, and forced
his way through the shrubbery, it was positively marvellous to see how
the foliage turned yellow behind him, as if the autumn had been there,
and nowhere else. On reaching the river's brink, he plunged headlong in,
without waiting so much as to pull off his shoes.

"Poof! poof! poof!" snorted King Midas, as his head emerged out of the
water. "Well; this is really a refreshing bath, and I think it must have
quite washed away the Golden Touch. And now for filling my pitcher!"

As he dipped the pitcher into the water, it gladdened his very heart to
see it change from gold into the same good, honest earthen vessel which
it had been before he touched it. He was conscious, also, of a change
within himself. A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have gone out
of his bosom. No doubt, his heart had been gradually losing its human
substance, and transmuting itself into insensible metal, but had now
softened back again into flesh. Perceiving a violet, that grew on the
bank of the river, Midas touched it with his finger, and was overjoyed
to find that the delicate flower retained its purple hue, instead of
undergoing a yellow blight. The curse of the Golden Touch had,
therefore, really been removed from him.

King Midas hastened back to the palace; and, I suppose, the servants
knew not what to make of it when they saw their royal master so
carefully bringing home an earthen pitcher of water. But that water,
which was to undo all the mischief that his folly had wrought, was more
precious to Midas than an ocean of molten gold could have been. The
first thing he did, as you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by
handfuls over the golden figure of little Marygold.

No sooner did it fall on her than you would have laughed to see how the
rosy colour came back to the dear child's cheek! and how she began to
sneeze and sputter!--and how astonished she was to find herself dripping
wet, and her father still throwing more water over her!

"Pray do not, dear father!" cried she. "See how you have wet my nice
frock, which I put on only this morning!"

For Marygold did not know that she had been a little golden statue; nor
could she remember anything that had happened since the moment when she
ran with outstretched arms to comfort poor King Midas.

Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved child how very
foolish he had been, but contented himself with showing how much wiser
he had now grown. For this purpose, he led little Marygold into the
garden, where he sprinkled all the remainder of the water over the
rose-bushes, and with such good effect that above five thousand roses
recovered their beautiful bloom. There were two circumstances, however,
which, as long as he lived, used to put King Midas in mind of the Golden
Touch. One was, that the sands of the river sparkled like gold; the
other, that little Marygold's hair had now a golden tinge, which he had
never observed in it before she had been transmuted by the effect of his
kiss. This change of hue was really an improvement, and made Marygold's
hair richer than in her babyhood.

When King Midas had grown quite an old man, and used to trot Mary gold's
children on his knee, he was fond of telling them this marvellous story,
pretty much as I have now told it to you. And then would he stroke their
glossy ringlets, and tell them that their hair, likewise, had a rich
shade of gold, which they had inherited from their mother.

"And to tell you the truth, my precious little folks," quoth King Midas,
diligently trotting the children all the while, "ever since that
morning, I have hated the very sight of all other gold, save this!"

golden touch - royalty-free image from www.sxc.hu.jpg

golden touch - royalty-free image from www.sxc.hu.jpg
golden touch - royalty-free image from www.sxc.hu.jpg