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- Journeys Through Bookland V2 - 30/71 -
Then he shook the bridle, shouted loudly and guided Pegasus, not aslantwise as before, but straight at the monster's hideous front. So rapid was the onset that it seemed but a dazzle and a flash before Bellerophon was at close gripes with his enemy.
The Chimera by this time, after losing its second head, had got into a red-hot passion of pain and rampant rage. It so flounced about, half on earth and partly in the air, that it was impossible to say which element it rested upon. It opened its snake jaws to such an abominable width that Pegasus might almost, I was going to say, have flown right down its throat, wings outspread, rider and all! At their approach it shot out a tremendous blast of its fiery breath and enveloped Bellerophon and his steed in a perfect atmosphere of flame, singeing the wings of Pegasus, scorching off one whole side of the young man's ringlets, and making them both far hotter than was comfortable from head to foot.
But this was nothing to what followed.
When the airy rush of the winged horse had brought him within the distance of a hundred yards, the Chimera gave a spring, and flung its huge, awkward, venomous and utterly detestable carcass right upon poor Pegasus, clung round him with might and main, and tied up its snaky tail into a knot! Up flew the aerial steed, higher, higher, above the mountain peaks, above the clouds, and almost out of sight of the solid earth. But still the earth-born monster kept its hold and was borne upward along with the creature of light and air. Bellerophon, meanwhile, turning about, found himself face to face with the ugly grimness of the Chimera's visage, and could only avoid being scorched to death or bitten right in twain by holding up his shield. Over the upper edge of the shield he looked sternly into the savage eyes of the monster.
But the Chimera was so mad and wild with pain that it did not guard itself so well as might else have been the case. Perhaps, after all, the best way to fight a Chimera is by getting as close to it as you can. In its efforts to stick its horrible iron claws into its enemy the creature left its own breast quite exposed, and, perceiving this, Bellerophon thrust his sword up to the hilt into its cruel heart. Immediately the snaky tail untied its knot. The monster let go its hold of Pegasus and fell from that vast height downward, while the fire within its bosom, instead of being put out, burned fiercer than ever, and quickly began to consume the dead carcass. Thus it fell out of the sky all aflame, and (it being nightfall before it reached the earth) was mistaken for a shooting star or a comet. But at early sunrise some cottagers were going to their day's labor, and saw, to their astonishment, that several acres of ground were strewn with black ashes. In the middle of a field there was a heap of whitened bones a great deal higher than a haystack. Nothing else was ever seen of the dreadful Chimera. And when Bellerophon had won the victory he bent forward and kissed Pegasus, while the tears stood in his eyes.
"Back, now, my beloved steed!" said he. "Back to the fountain of Pirene!"
Pegasus skimmed through the air quicker than ever he did before, and reached the fountain in a very short time. And there he found the old man leaning on his staff, and the country fellow watering his cow, and the pretty maiden filling her pitcher.
"I remember now," quoth the old man, "I saw this winged horse once before, when I was quite a lad. But he was ten times handsomer in those days."
"I own a cart horse worth three of him," said the country fellow. "If this pony were mine, the first thing I should do would be to clip his wings."
But the poor maiden said nothing, for she had always the luck to be afraid at the wrong time. So she ran away, and let her pitcher tumble down, and broke it.
"Where is the gentle child," asked Bellerophon, "who used to keep me company, and never lost his faith, and never was weary of gazing into the fountain?"
"Here am I, dear Bellerophon!" said the child softly.
For the little boy had spent day after day on the margin of Pirene, waiting for his friend to come back; but when he perceived Bellerophon descending through the clouds, mounted on the winged horse, he had shrunk back into the shrubbery. He was a delicate and tender child, and dreaded lest the old man and the country fellow should see the tears gushing from his eyes.
"Thou hast won the victory," said he joyfully, running to the knee of Bellerophon, who still sat on the back of Pegasus. "I knew thou wouldst."
"Yes, dear child!" replied Bellerophon, alighting from the winged horse. "But if thy faith had not helped me, I should never have waited for Pegasus, and never have gone up above the clouds, and never have conquered the terrible Chimera. Thou, my little friend, hast done it all. And now let us give Pegasus his liberty." So he slipped off the enchanted bridle from the head of the marvelous steed.
"Be free for evermore, my Pegasus!" cried he, with a shade of sadness in his tone. "Be as free as thou art fleet."
But Pegasus rested his head on Bellerophon's shoulder, and would not take flight.
"Well, then," said Bellerophon, caressing the airy horse, "thou shalt be with me as long as thou wilt, and we will go together forthwith and tell King Iobates that the Chimera is destroyed."
Then Bellerophon embraced the gentle child and promised to come to him again, and departed. But in after years that child took higher flights upon the aerial steed than ever did Bellerophon, and achieved more honorable deeds than his friend's victory over the Chimera. For, gentle and tender as he was, he grew to be a mighty poet!
A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS
By Clement C. Moore
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads; And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,-- When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave a lustre of midday to objects below; When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall! Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys,--and Saint Nicholas, too. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump,--a right jolly old elf; And I laughed, when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose, He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle; But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote this poem, published a whole volume of poems, but none of the others is as famous as is this. It was written for his own children, and he did not even know that it was to be published. It appeared in the Troy Sentinel in 1823, just two days before Christmas, and we can imagine how delighted children were when they had it read to them for the first time. It is not a great poem; but no Christmas poem that has been published since has been half as popular with children, and even grown people like it for its jolliness and its Christmas spirit.
THE STORY OF PHAETHON
Phaeton, the son of the nymph Clymene, was very proud of his mother's beauty, and used to boast of it greatly to his playmates. Tired of the boy's bragging and conceit, one of his friends said to him one day:
"You're very willing to talk about your mother, but I notice you never
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