THE THREE GOLDEN APPLES, By Nathaniel Hawthorne
I know not how long it was before, to his unspeakable joy, he beheld the huge shape
of the giant, like a cloud, on the far-off edge
of the sea. At his nearer approach
, Atlas held up his hand, in which Hercules could perceive
golden apples, as big as pumpkins, all banging from one branch
"I am glad to see you again," shouted Hercules, when the giant was within hearing. "So you have got the golden apples?"
," answered Atlas; "and very fair
apples they are. I took the finest that grew on the tree, I assure
you. Ah! it is a beautiful spot, that garden of the Hesperides. Yes; and the dragon with a hundred heads is a sight
worth any man's seeing. After all, you had better have gone for the apples yourself."
," replied Hercules. "You have had a pleasant ramble
, and have done the business as well as I could. I heartily thank you for your trouble. And now, as I have a long way to go, and am rather in haste
,—and as the king, my cousin, is anxious
the golden apples,—will you be kind enough to take the sky off my shoulders again?"
"Why, as to that," said the giant, chucking the golden apples into the air, twenty miles high, or thereabouts, and catching them as they came down,—"as to that, my good friend, I consider
you a little unreasonable. Cannot I carry
the golden apples to the king, your cousin, much quicker than you could? As his majesty
is in such a hurry to get them, I promise
you to take my longest strides. And, besides, I have no fancy
for burdening myself with the sky, just now."
Here Hercules grew impatient
, and gave a great shrug of his shoulders. It being now twilight
, you might
have seen two or three stars tumble
out of their places. Everybody on earth
looked upward in affright, thinking that the sky might
be going to fall next.
"O, that will never do!" cried Giant Atlas, with a great roar
of laughter. "I have not let fall so many stars within the last five centuries. By the time you have stood there as long as I did, you will begin to learn patience
"What!" shouted Hercules, very wrathfully, "do you intend
to make me bear this burden forever
"We will see about that, one of these days," answered the giant. "At all events, you ought not to complain
, if you have to bear it the next hundred years, or perhaps the next thousand. I bore
it a good while longer, in spite
of the back-ache. Well, then, after a thousand years, if I happen to feel in the mood
, we may possibly shift
about again. You are certainly
a very strong man, and can never have a better opportunity
it. Posterity will talk of you, I warrant
"Pish! a fig for its talk!" cried Hercules, with another hitch
of his shoulders. "Just take the sky upon your head one instant
, will you? I want to make a cushion
of my lion's skin, for the weight
to rest upon. It really chafes me, and will cause unnecessary inconvenience
in so many centuries as I am to stand here."
"That's no more than fair
, and I'll do it!" quoth the giant; for he had no unkind feeling towards Hercules, and was merely
acting with a too selfish consideration
of his own ease
. "For just five minutes, then, I'll take back the sky. Only for five minutes, recollect
! I have no idea of spending another thousand years as I spent the last. Variety is the spice of life, say I."
Ah, the thick-witted old rogue
of a giant! He threw down the golden apples, and received back the sky, from the head and shoulders of Hercules, upon his own, where it rightly belonged. And Hercules picked up the three golden apples, that were as big or bigger than pumpkins, and straightway set out on his journey
homeward, without paying the slightest heed
to the thundering tones of the giant, who bellowed after him to come back. Another forest
sprang up around his feet, and grew ancient
there; and again might
be seen oak-trees, of six or seven centuries old, that had waxed thus
again betwixt his enormous
And there stands the giant, to this day; or, at any rate, there stands a mountain as tall as he, and which bears his name; and when the thunder rumbles about its summit
, we may imagine
it to be the voice of Giant Atlas, bellowing after Hercules!