This is a chapter of Evergreen Stories by W. M. L. Hutchinson. It includes the following stories: King Midas and His Strange Adventures — Alcestis, the Noble Wife — The Real Helen — Cupid and Psyche — The Vision of Er
A very singular change in the temper and habits of King Midas was indeed observable from that time, and one which gave great satisfaction to his subjects. From the most avaricious and grasping of rulers, he suddenly became indifferent to gain and open-handed to the point of lavishness. It was said, moreover, that his fondness for gold, which had been proverbial, had turned to such an aversion that he could not endure the very sight of that metal. This was scarcely believed in the city until a surprising discovery was made, a few months after the memorable coming of Silenus.
During the rains of late autumn, the river Pactolus overflowed its banks; and when the flood went down, the silt that covered them was seen to be sparkling with grains of gold. Fishermen then dredged the river and found its bed full of golden sand. But when word of this find was brought by the chief citizens to the king, to whom all treasure trove belonged of right, he answered them most strangely.
“Gold in the Pactolus, say you?” he exclaimed. “Ay, there well may be… the charm fell from me there… and now the river holds it. And the river may keep the gold, for me; I will not meddle with it. And let whoever does so beware it bring not a curse upon him. I have spoken. Go!”
The chief citizens withdrew much perplexed by these words, which they repeated to the rest in their assembly. No one could fathom the king’s meaning, but all agreed that it would be safer not to touch this river treasure. So, for a long while, only the boldest spirits did so, and that, furtively. But it is not on record that they were any the worse. For ages after, legends say, the Pactolus rolled down golden sand to the greater river Hermus, into which it fell.
Another change noted in Midas, when the spring came round again, was the delight he took in frequenting the hill country, and especially the Valley of Roses, where he would spend whole days and nights, attended only by a few trusty slaves. Even these were not permitted to follow him beyond the entrance into the valley. The chief butler, who, to his no small pride, had now become the king’s favorite personal attendant and served him as barber, had his own thoughts about this. Being an incurable tattler, he could not keep them to himself.
“I have a shrewd guess,” he would say to his fellows, “why our lord the king chooses to be private in this glen. He has never forgotten Silenus — to say truth, he has deigned more than once to speak to me of him, and I think my present high favor is partly due to my having played cupbearer the night they drank together. How if they meet sometimes in yonder garden close? I have an inkling that they do and would I might be within hearing; for I tell you, the discourse of that old man —if man he be— would wile the bird from the bough, as the saying is.”