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your wings. Everybody who sees you will guess who you are."
"O father," cried Mercury, "I get so tired without my wings."
"Never mind," replied the father; "you may take your staff, which will help you just as much. Nobody will notice that."
It must have been a very strange staff which could be as much help to a boy as a pair of wings, and so, indeed, it was. For it had two little wings of its own, and it made the person who carried it so light that he could scarcely keep his feet on the ground.
The clothes which Jupiter and Mercury put on for this trip were old and shabby, and so, when they came to the town in Phrygia which they meant to visit, people thought they were just beggars. Now, if they had come riding on fine horses, and wearing gold chains about their necks and diamond rings on their fingers, the people in this wicked town would have given them their softest, whitest beds to sleep in, and would have cooked for them fine dinners, for they were always ready to give good things to people who could just as well have paid for them. But when poor, hungry men came to the town, children were sent out to drive them away, and—for the people were very wicked—fierce dogs were turned loose. And that's the way they treated Jupiter and Mercury. How different it would have been had they known who their visitors were!
Mercury, who was young and proud, and had always been used to having his own way, grew very angry, and cried to his father, "Just let me wave my staff over these wicked children and dogs, and turn them all into stone children and iron dogs." But Jupiter said, "No; let us see just how bad they really can be."
So the two travelers were chased out of the village and up a little hill, almost to the gate of a cottage which stood back from the country road. Now it was evening by the time they reached this place, and the two old people who lived in the cottage had finished their work and eaten their supper and were sitting on a bench beside their door. It was a very hard bench and a very plain, low door, for old Philemon and his wife Baucis were as poor as Jupiter and Mercury looked in their old clothes. But the old couple were very different from the bad people in the town, and as soon as they saw the two men coming they hurried to the gate as fast as their old feet would take them, and Philemon cried:
"Come in! Come in! Have those saucy children and those snappy dogs been treating you as they treat every stranger? You'll find no saucy children or snappy dog here."
Jupiter and Mercury, smiling at each other, followed the old people to the cottage door, and sat down on the bench there.
"I'm very sorry," said Baucis, "that there is so little in the house to give you to eat. You can see without my telling you that we are very poor. But what there is I shall be very glad to give you."
While Philemon talked to the visitors and brought water in a wooden bowl that they might wash, his old wife got supper. And even though she thought the visitors were only beggar men, she was just as careful about the meal as she would have been had she known that they were really gods.
Finally, she called Philemon in and said: "Everything is ready, but this table is so crooked that I am ashamed to ask them to sit at it. One leg is shorter than the rest."
It was hard for Philemon to get down on his knees, for he was old and stiff; but he knelt and shoved pieces of slate under the short table leg until that corner was as high as the rest. Then Baucis put the supper on the table and called the guests.
And after all, it was not such a bad supper. There was a stew—not very rich or very strong, it is true, but piping hot and nicely seasoned; and there was cheese and brown bread and honey and milk. To be sure, the pitcher that held the milk and the bowl that held the stew were of the commonest brown ware, while the cups and the plates were of wood. But these things the visitors did not seem to mind at all.
Poor Baucis was very much worried for fear there was not enough milk, for the strangers seemed very thirsty after their walk? and when Mercury asked for the third cup of milk she said sadly, "I'm sorry, young man, but the milk is all gone. I poured the last of it into your cup."
Mercury winked at his father, and there was even a twinkle in Jupiter's eye, though the old people did not see it.
"Just try and see," said Mercury; "maybe you can squeeze out a drop for me."
To show him that she was right, Baucis seized the pitcher and held it upside down over his cup; when lo and behold! the milk came flowing out in such a stream that it filled the cup and ran over onto the floor. Baucis was so startled that she almost dropped the pitcher. She knew that there was no mistake; the pitcher had been empty and was now full, yet no one had poured in a drop. It did not take her as long to guess what had happened as it would take you or me if such a thing should come to pass in our homes; and as soon as she could speak, she cried:
"O Philemon, these are the gods, for nobody but a god could fill an empty pitcher without even touching it. Get down on your knees, Philemon, for these are in truth the gods!"
This time it did not take Philemon so long to kneel—he never stopped to think of his age and stiffness, but down he dropped beside his wife. They both hid their faces in their hands, for they were frightened half to death—not because they had done anything bad, for they knew they hadn't; but just because it was all so wonderful that it almost took their breath away.
"Do not be afraid, good people," said Jupiter in a deep voice. "It is true that we are gods. I am Jupiter, and this is Mercury. But no one who does good need fear the gods, and to you we shall bring nothing but happiness, because you were kind to us when you knew not who we were. The pitcher of milk shall never be empty, no matter how much you drink; the loaf of bread shall never be eaten up, no matter how much you eat, and there shall always be honey to eat with your bread."
"But, father," put in Mercury, "what about those bad people in the village yonder?"
Spoiled boy that he was, he was thinking much more about the punishment that should come to the bad people whose children had thrown stones at him and whose dogs had torn his clothes, than he was about any reward for the good people who had fed him.
"Come," said Jupiter, "let us go out and look at the village."
Baucis and Philemon scrambled to their feet and followed their guests out of doors, still too excited to speak. From the hilltop on which their house stood, they looked down toward the village, as they