Midas had often said to people that his little daughter was worth her weight in gold, and it had become really true. Now when it was too late, he felt how much more precious was the warm tender heart that loved him than all the gold that could be piled up between the earth and sky.
He began to wring his hands and to wish that he was the poorest man in the wide world, if the loss of all his money might bring back the rosy color to his dear child’s face.
While he was in despair he suddenly saw a stranger standing near the door, the same visitor he had seen yesterday for the first time in his treasure-room, and who had granted his wish.
“Well, friend Midas,” he said, “pray how are you enjoying your new power?”
Midas shook his head. “I am very miserable,” he said.
“Very miserable, are you?” exclaimed the stranger. “And how does that happen: have I not faithfully kept my promise; have you not everything that your heart desired?”
“Gold is not everything,” answered Midas, “and I have lost all that my heart really cared for.”
“Ah!” said the stranger, “I see you have made some discoveries since yesterday. Tell me truly, which of these things do you really think is most worth—a cup of clear cold water and a crust of bread, or the power of turning everything you touch into gold; your own little daughter, alive and loving, or that solid statue of a child which would be valued at thousands of dollars?”
“O my child, my child!” sobbed Midas, wringing his hands. “I would not have given one of her curls for the power of changing all the world into gold, and I would give all I possess for a cup of cold water and a crust of bread.”
“You are wiser than you were, King Midas,” said the stranger. “Tell me, do you really wish to get rid of your fatal gift?”
“Yes,” said Midas, “it is hateful to me.”
“Go then,” said the stranger, “and plunge into the river that flows at the bottom of the garden: take also a pitcher of the same water, and sprinkle it over anything that you wish to change back again from gold to its former substance.”
King Midas bowed low, and when he lifted his head the stranger was nowhere to be seen.
You may easily believe that King Midas lost no time in getting a big pitcher, then he ran towards the river. On reaching the water he jumped in without even waiting to take off his shoes. “How delightful!” he said, as he came out with his hair all dripping, “this is really a most refreshing bath, and surely it must have washed away the magic gift.”
Then he dipped the pitcher into the water, and how glad he was to see that it became just a common earthen pitcher and not a golden one as it had been five minutes before! He was conscious, also of a change in himself: a cold, heavy weight seemed to have gone, and he felt light, and happy, and human once more. Maybe his heart had been changing into gold too, though he could not see it, and now it had softened again and become gentle and kind.