PANDORA AND THE GREAT BOX
Long, long ago, when this old world was in its infancy,
there was a child named Epimetheus
who never had either father or mother. In order that he might not be lonely, another
fatherless and motherless like himself, was sent from a far country to be his playfellow.
Her name was Pandora.
The first thing that Pandora saw when she entered the
cottage where Epimetheus dwelt was a great box. And almost the first question which she
put to him, after crossing the threshold, was
"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 provoking!" exclaimed Pandora, pouting her
lip. "I wish the great ugly box were out of the way!"
"0 come, don't think of it any more,!' cried
Epimetheus. "Let us run out of doors, and play
with the other children."
It is thousands of years since Epimetheus and Pandora
were alive. Then, everybody was a
child. Children needed no fathers and mothers to take care of them; because there was no
danger or trouble of any kind, and there were no clothes to be mended, and there were
always plenty of things to eat and to drink.
Whenever a child wanted his dinner, he found it growing
on a tree; and if he looked at the tree in the morning, he could see the blossom of that
night's supper; or at eventide he saw the tender bud of tomorrow's breakfast. It was a
very pleasant life indeed. No labor to be done, no lessons to be studied; nothing but
sports and dances and sweet voices of children talking or singing.
What was most wonderful of all, the children never
quarreled among themselves; neither had they any crying fits; nor, since time first began,
had a single one of them ever gone into a corner and sulked. Oh, what a good time was that
to be alive in! The truth is, those ugly little winged monsters called Troubles, which are
now almost as numerous as mosquitoes, had never yet been seen on the earth. Perhaps the
very greatest uneasiness which a child had ever felt was Pandora's vexation at not being
able to discover the secret of the mysterious box.
"Whence can the box have come?" Pandora
continually 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 tired of the
subject. "I wish, dear Pandora, you would try to talk of something else. Come, let us
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
"Well, then," said Epimetheus, who was a very
good-tempered child, "let us run out and have a merry time with our playmates.
I am tired of merry times, and don't care if I never have
any more!" answered pettish little
Pandora. "And, besides, I never do have any. This ugly box! I am so taken up with
thinking about it all the time. I insist upon your telling me what is inside of it."
"As I have already said fifty times over, I do not
know!" replied Epimetheus, getting a little vexed himself. "How, then, can I
tell you what is inside?"
"You might open it," said Pandora, "and
then we could see for ourselves."
"Pandora, what are you thinking of?" exclaimed Epimetheus.
His face showed so much horror at the idea of looking
into a box which had been given to
him on his promise never to open it, that Pandora thought it best not to suggest it any
more. Still, she could not help thinking and talking about the box.
"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 who could
hardly keep from laughing as he put it down. He was dressed in an odd kind of cloak, and
had on a cap that seemed to be made partly of feathers, so that it looked almost as if it
"What sort of staff had he?" asked Pandora.
"Oh, the most curious staff you ever saw!" cried Epimetheus" It was like
twisting around a stick and was carved so naturally that I at first thought the serpents
"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 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!" muttered Pandora, as Epimetheus left the cottage.
THE KNOT OF GOLDEN CORD
For the first time since her arrival, Epimetheus had gone
out without asking Pandora to
accompany him. He went to gather figs and grapes for himself, or to seek whatever
amusement he could find with other children. 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.
How she did babble about this one thing! The box, the
box, and nothing but the box! It was
really hard that poor Epimetheus should have a box in his ears from morning till night;
especially as the little people of the earth in those happy days knew not how to deal with
troubles. Thus a small-trouble made as much disturbance then as a far bigger one would in
our own time.
After Epimetheus was gone, Pandora stood gazing at the
box. She had called it ugly over a
hundred times; but in spite of all that she had said against it, it was a very handsome
article of furniture. It was made of a beautiful kind of wood with dark and rich veins
spreading over its
surface, which was so highly polished that little Pandora could see herself in it. The
edges and corners of the box were carved with most wonderful skill. Around the edges there
were figures of graceful men and women, and the prettiest children ever seen. But here and
there, Pandora once or twice thought that she saw a face not so lovely, or something or
other which stole the beauty out of all the rest. Nevertheless, 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 catching a sideways glimpse at
The most beautiful face of all was carved in the center
of the lid. There was nothing else
except the dark, smooth richness of the polished wood, and this one face in the center
with a garland of flowers about its brow. Pandora had looked at this face a great many
imagined that the mouth could smile if it liked, or be grave when it chose, the same as
any living mouth. The features, indeed, all wore a very lively and rather mischievous
Had this 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, I had almost forgotten to say, was fastened not
by a lock but by a very fine knot of gold cord. There appeared to be no end to this knot,
and no beginning. Never was a knot so
cunningly twisted with so many ins and outs. And yet, by the very difficulty that there
was in it, Pandora was there tempted to examine the knot, and just 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," said she to herself,
"that I begin to see how it was done. Nay, perhaps I
could tie it up again after undoing it. Even Epimetheus would not blame me for that. I
need not open the box, and should not, of course, without that foolish boy's consent, even
if the knot were untied."
It might have been better for Pandora if she had had a
little work to do 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 a great deal too much leisure. They could not
be forever playing at hide-and-seek among the flower-shrubs, or at blind-man's buff with
garlands over their eyes, or at whatever other games had been found out while Mother Earth
was in her babyhood. When life is all sport, toil is the real play. There was nothing to
do. A little sweeping and dusting 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 always the box!
After all, I am not quite sure that the fascinating box
was not a blessing to Pandora in its way It supplied her with so many ideas to think of,
and to talk about, whenever she had anybody who would listen to her! When she was in good
humor, she could admire the bright polish of its sides and the rich border of beautiful
faces that ran all around it. Or, if she happened to be ill-tempered, she could give it an
angry push, or kick it with her naughty little foot. And many a kick did the mischievous
box receive, you may be sure! But certain it is if it had not been for the box, little
Pandora would not have known half so well how to spend her time as she now did.
GUESSING WHAT WAS IN THE BOX
For it was really an endless employment to guess what was
inside. What could it be, indeed? Just imagine, my little hearers, how busy your wits
would be if there were a great box in the
house, which you might suppose contained something new and pretty for your Christmas or
New Year's gifts. Do you think that you should be less curious than Pandora? If you were
left alone with the box, might you not feel a little tempted to lift the lid? But you
would not do it. Oh, fie!
No, no! Only, if you thought there were toys in it, it
would be so very hard to let slip an
opportunity of taking just one peep!
I know not whether Pandora expected any toys; for none
had yet begun to be made, probably, in those days, when the world itself was one great
plaything for the children that dwelt upon it.
But Pandora was certain that there was something very beautiful and valuable in the box,
and therefore she felt just as anxious to take a peep as any little girl would have felt.
On this particular day, however, her curiosity 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
First, however, she tried to lift it. It was heavy; much
too heavy for the slender 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 loud thump. A moment afterwards
she almost thought that she heard something stir inside the box.
She listened as closely as possible. There did seem to be
a kind of stifled 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 sure herself whether she had heard anything or not. But, at all events, her
curiosity was stronger than ever.
Her eyes fell upon the, knot of gold cord !
"It must have been a clever person who tied this
knot," . said Pandora to herself. "But I think I could untie 'it, nevertheless.
I believe I will at least try 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 quite knowing what she was about, she was soon busily trying to undo it.
Meanwhile, the bright sunshine came through the open window; as did also the merry voices
of the children, playing at a distance, and perhaps the voice of Epimetheus among them.
Pandora stopped to listen. What a beautiful day it was! Would it not be wiser if she were
let the troublesome knot alone and think no more about the box, but run and join her
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 enchanted box, she seemed to see it slyly grinning at her.
"That face looks very mischievous," thought
Pandora. "I wonder whether it smiles because I am doing wrong! I have a great notion
to run away!"
But just then, by the merest accident, she gave the knot
a kind of twist the gold cord
untwined 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 it quite beyond her skill. It had untied itself so suddenly that she could not in
the least remember how the strings had been
doubled into one another; and when she tried to recollect the shape and appearance of the
knot, it seemed to have gone entirely out of her mind. 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 she would be suspected of having looked into the box, she might just as well do
so at once. The enchanted face on the lid of the box looked at her bewitchingly, and she
seemed to hear, more distinctly than before, the murmur of small voices within. She could
not tell whether it was fancy or not; but there was quite a little tumult of whispers in
her ear--or else it was her curiosity that whispered: "Let us out dear Pandora--pray
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 will take just one peep! Only one peep,
and then the lid shall be shut down as safely as ever! There cannot possibly be any harm
in just one little peep !"'
HOW TROUBLES CAME INTO THE WORLD
But it is now time for us to see what Epimetheus was
doing. This was the first time since his
playmate had come that he had tried to enjoy any pleasure in which she did not take part.
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 overripe, and so sweet as to be
distasteful. There was no gladness in his heart; he grew so uneasy and discontented that
the other children could not imagine what was the matter with him. Neither did he himself
know what ailed him, any better than they did.
For at the time we are speaking of, it was everybody's
nature and habit to be happy. The
world had not yet learned to be unhappy. Not a single soul or body, since these children
were first sent to enjoy themselves on the beautiful earth, had ever been sick or
At length, discovering that somehow or other 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 wreath 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 trail of fragrance behind as Epimetheus carried them along; and the wreath
was put together with as much skill as could be expected of a boy.
And here I must mention that a great black cloud had been
gathering in the sky for some time past, although it had not yet overspread the sun. But,
just as Epimetheus reached the cottage-door this cloud began to cut off the sunshine, and
thus to make a sudden darkness.
He entered softly; for he meant, if possible, to steal
behind Pandora and fling a wreath of
flowers over her head before she knew that he was there. 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 interested in what she was doing. At the very moment of his
entering the cottage, the naughty child had put her hand to the lid, and was on the point
of opening the mysterious box, when Epimetheus saw her.
But Epimetheus himself, although he said very little
about it, had his own share of curiosity
to know what was inside. Seeing that Pandora intended 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.
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 growling and muttering which all at once broke into a heavy peal of thunder.
unmindful of all this, lifted the lid nearly upright and looked inside. It seemed as if a
swarm of winged creatures brushed past her, taking flight out of the box,. while at the
instant she heard Epimetheus calling as if in pain.
"Oh, I am stung!' he cried. 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 thundercloud had so darkened the room that she could not very clearly see
what was in it. But she heard a disagreeable buzzing, as if a great many huge flies, or
giant mosquitoes, were darting about. And as her eyes grew more accustomed to the
imperfect light, she saw a crowd of ugly little shapes, with bats wings, looking very
spiteful 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 scream in no
less pain than her playfellow. An ugly little monster had settled on her forehead, and
would have stung her if Epimetheus had not run and brushed it away.
Now, if you wish to know what these ugly things were
which had made their escape out of
the box, I must tell you that they were the whole family of earthly Troubles. There were a
great many kinds of Cares; there were more than a hundred fifty Sorrows; there were
Diseases, in a vast number of miserable and painful shape; there were more kinds of
Naughtiness than it would be of any use for us to talk about.
In short, everything that has since troubled our souls
and bodies had been shut up in the
mysterious box and given to Epimetheus and Pandora to be kept safely, in order. that the
happy children of the world might never be harmed by them. But by Pandora's lifting the
lid of that miserable box, and by the fault of Epimetheus, too, in not preventing her,
these Troubles have gained a foothold among us, and do not seem likely to be driven away
in a hurry.
For it was impossible, as you will easily guess, that the two children should keep the
swarm in their own little cottage. The first thing that they did was to fling open the
windows in hope of getting rid of them: Sure enough, away flew the winged Troubles all
to torment the small people, everywhere.
And what was very strange, all the flowers and dewy
blossoms on earth, not one of which had before faded, now began to droop and shed their
leaves, after a day or two. The children who
before seemed always young now day by day grew older and came to be men and women
WHAT HOPE DOES FOR US
Meanwhile the naughty Pandora and hardly less naughty
Epimetheus remained in their
cottage. Both of them had been grievously stung, and were in a good deal of pain, which
seemed the more unbearable to them because it was the very first pain that had ever been
felt since the world began. Besides this, they were in very bad humor, both with
themselves and with one another. Epimetheus sat down sullenly in a corner with his back
toward Pandora, while Pandora flung herself upon the floor and rested her head on the
fatal box. She was sobbing as if her heart would break.
Suddenly there was a gentle tap on the inside of the lid.
"What can that be?" cried Pandora,
lifting her head.
But either Epimetheus had not heard the tap, or was too.
much upset to notice it. At any rate, he made no answer. "You are very unkind,"
said Pandora, sobbing again, "not to speak to me!"
Again the tap! It sounded like the tiny knuckles of a fairy's hand, knocking playfully on
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!"
"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. Come, come, my pretty Pandora! I am sure you will let me out
And, indeed, there was a kind of cheerful witchery 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," he answered. "And what of it?" "Shall I
lift the lid again?" asked
"Just as you please," said Epimetheus.
"You have done so much mischief already that perhaps you may as well do a little
more. One other Trouble 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
wants to see me. Come, my dear Pandora, lift up the lid. I am in a great hurry to comfort
"Epimetheus," exclaimed Pandora, "no
matter what happens, I will open the box!"
"And, as the lid seems very heavy," cried
Epimetheus, running across the room, "I will help you!"
So the two children again lifted the lid. Out flew a
sunny and smiling little person, and
hovered about the room, throwing a light wherever she went. She flew to Epimetheus and
laid the lightest touch of her finger on the spot where the Trouble had stung him, and
immediately the pain was gone. Then she kissed Pandora on the forehead, and her hurt was
After performing these good deeds, the bright stranger fluttered over the children's
heads, and looked so sweetly at them that they both began to think it not so very much
wrong to have opened the box, since otherwise their cheery guest must have been kept a
prisoner among those naughty imps with stings in their tails.
"Pray, who are you, beautiful creature?"
inquired 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 make up for that swarm of ugly Troubles which was to be let
"Your wings are colored like the rainbow!"
exclaimed Pandora. "How very beautiful !"
"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 vanished.
But again, and again, and again, when perhaps you least dream of my being with you, you
shall see the glimmer of my wings on the ceiling of your cottage."