Classic Myths

Page: 43

"I will try here," said the shorter of the two strangers. The other was silent.

But before they reached the door, Philemon came to meet them. And Baucis placed the best chairs for them as they entered, first spreading over the chairs pieces of cloth she had woven.

"You are hungry," she said, and she went to the fire-place and uncovered the few coals she had saved in the ashes for her morning fire. On these she put sticks and dry bark, and with all her little strength, blew hard on them, and the fire began to burn.

On a hook over the fire she hung a small iron kettle, and getting ready the beans her husband had brought in from their little garden, she put them in to stew. All this she did eagerly, as if the strangers were invited friends. While his wife set the table, Philemon brought a bowl of water for the guests to bathe their hands. As one leg of the table was too short, Baucis put a flat shell under to make it level with the rest. Tired and trembling, she set out a few rude dishes. They were her best. She added the pitcher of milk Philemon had bought for their own meal, and when the beans were cooked, everything was ready. For dessert, she had apples and wild honey.

Drawing a bench to the table, she laid on it a thin cushion made soft with dried seaweed, and then called the strangers. The smiles and gentle welcome of the two old people made the meal seem like a feast.

The strangers were very thirsty, but each time Baucis poured out a cup of milk the pitcher filled again.

"You are people from the skies, and not men!" the old couple cried, and fell on their knees and begged the strangers to forgive them for their poor meal.

"Why did you come to us? Others could have done so much better."

"You have done the best you could; who could do better than that?" said the tall one. "Come with us," and he led them to the top of the hill.

Then he stretched out his hand toward the village, and they saw it sink down, down out of sight, and the river came rushing in, and the place was a lake. Nothing could be seen but the house they had just left. It stood on the shore of the lake. Its timbers were growing higher and higher, and the yellow straw that thatched the roof changed to shining gold. It was now a beautiful temple.

"Ask of me anything you wish and I will give it to you," said the tall one.

"I know now you are Jupiter," said Philemon. "Let us take care of your temple while we live, and when it is time for us to leave it let us go together. Let not one be taken and the other left."

Philemon and Baucis cared for the beautiful temple for years. Feeling old and weary, they went to the top of the hill one day to say good-by to all things. As they stood there they saw each other change, one into this oak and the other into this linden.