Classic Myths

Page: 23

When the south wind blows, earth's voices become low and sweet, and the birds sing soft melodies to greet its coming.

Old books tell us that Orpheus was really the south wind itself.



"What is it in the thermometer that shines so, mother?"

"Oh, that is quicksilver, Ethel. See the line of silver run up the tube while I hold it in my hand."

"Quicksilver? I should think it was quick! See it run back, now the tube is cool. But father called it something else the other night. What was it?"

"Oh, yes; he called it mercury, my dear. It is named after one of the gods the Greeks used to worship, their swift wind-god, Mercury. We read of him in many old stories. He was so quick that he became a messenger boy for the other gods."

"Oh, I like those old myths. Tell me about Mercury. I am going to name my dove after him, for it takes messages for me. Tell me a long one, please."

"Well, my dear, Mercury is also the name of the planet that will soon be our evening star. And, Ethel, if I tell you this story now, you must tell it to me sometime when we watch his beautiful namesake in the sky. Will you try to remember it?"

"Oh, yes, indeed, I'll remember. I love the stories about the stars. It makes them seem so real. I know Venus and Jupiter, and Mars with his red eye, and now I am going to have another friend among them. Oh, I am glad I asked about that quicksilver," and Ethel settled down on a footstool at her mother's feet.

This is the story Mrs. Brown told Ethel:

"In the days when the earth was young, a little baby lay alone in its cradle in a beautiful cave in a mountain side. This baby was Mercury. His mother had left him because someone had called her away for a moment, but for some reason she stayed an hour.

"As soon as she had gone, this wee baby turned over, lifted his head, and, seeing the door of the cave ajar, put out his hand. Touching the sides of the cradle, he sprang out like a boy ten years old. Slipping through the doorway, Mercury ran quickly down to the river bank near his home. A river tortoise was in his way. His tiny toes tripped over it and he fell. Vexed to be stopped by such a slow, clumsy creature, Mercury dashed it on a rock and killed it. Then he threw it into the river and watched the fish feed on its flesh. It seemed but a minute before the empty shell drifted to his feet. Mercury picked it up and felt sorry for what he had done.

"'I will make this shell live forever,' he said. 'I do not mean to be cruel to earth's creatures.'

"Quick as a thought he bored nine holes in each side, and taking the lacings from his tiny sandals, he split them and strung them into the holes in the shell.