But when she came back to the cottage, there it was in front of her, and instead of paying no heed to it, she began to say to herself: “Whatever can be inside it? I wish I just knew who brought it! Dear Epimetheus, do tell me; I know I cannot be happy till you tell me all about it.”
Then Epimetheus grew a little angry. “How can I tell you, Pandora?” he said, “I do not know any more than you do.”
“Well, you could open it,” said Pandora, “and we could see for ourselves!”
But Epimetheus looked so shocked at the very idea of opening a box that had been given to him in trust, that Pandora saw she had better not suggest such a thing again.
“At least you can tell me how it came here,” she said.
“It was left at the door,” answered Epimetheus, “just before you came, by a queer person dressed in a very strange cloak; he had a cap that seemed to be partly made of feathers; it looked exactly as if he had wings.”
“What kind of a staff had he?” asked Pandora.
“Oh, the most curious staff you ever saw,” cried Epimetheus: “it seemed like two serpents twisted round a stick.”
“I know him,” said Pandora thoughtfully. “It was Mercury, and he brought me here as well as the box. I am sure he meant the box for me, and perhaps there are pretty clothes in it for us to wear, and toys for us both to play with.”
“It may be so,” answered Epimetheus, turning away; “but until Mercury comes back and tells us that we may open it, neither of us has any right to lift the lid;” and he went out of the cottage.
“What a stupid boy he is!” muttered Pandora, “I do wish he had a little more spirit.” Then she stood gazing at the box. She had called it ugly a hundred times, but it was really a very handsome box, and would have been an ornament in any room.
It was made of beautiful dark wood, so dark and so highly polished that Pandora could see her face in it. The edges and the corners were wonderfully carved. On these were faces of lovely women, and of the prettiest children, who seemed to be playing among the leaves and flowers. But the most beautiful face of all was one which had a wreath of flowers about its brow. All around it was the dark, smooth-polished wood with this strange face looking out from it, and some days Pandora thought it was laughing at her, while at other times it had a very grave look which made her rather afraid.
The box was not fastened with a lock and key like most boxes, but with a strange knot of gold cord. There never was a knot so queerly tied; it seemed to have no end and no beginning, but was twisted so cunningly, with so many ins and outs, that not even the cleverest fingers could undo it.
Pandora began to examine the knot just to see how it was made. “I really believe,” she said to herself, “that I begin to see how it is done. I am sure I could tie it up again after undoing it. There could be no harm in that; I need not open the box even if I undo the knot.” And the longer she looked at it, the more she wanted just to try.