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This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.

Rhoecus.

From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.

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Long ago there lived a Grecian youth named Rhoecus. Just outside the city where Rhoecus dwelt was a wood. This wood was very old. Some said there were oaks in the forest that had been growing for a thousand years. One day Rhoecus was passing through the wood. Before him he saw a noble oak about to fall. He ran and propped its mossy trunk with great branches that he took from the ground. As he was turning away, he heard a soft voice say, "Rhoecus." There beside the tree stood a beautiful dryad. "I am the spirit of this tree," she said. "As long as it lives, I live. When it falls, I die. You, Rhoecus, have just saved my life. Ask what you will and it is yours." Rhoecus gazed at the dryad with wonder and awe. "You are the fairest being I have ever seen. Give me your love," he cried. "You shall have it, Rhoecus," replied the dryad sadly. "Meet me here an hour before the sunset." With a happy heart and a gay step Rhoecus went on his way to the town. He had won a most beautiful bride. To celebrate his joy, he thought he would play a game of dice with his friends.



The game took all his thought, for he was most unlucky. He lost once, twice, and even a third time. He forgot all about the dryad. The sun sank lower and lower and still he played on. At last a bee entered the window and brushed against his forehead. Rhoecus shook it off. Again and again the bee returned. At last Rhoecus, in anger, struck the little creature and wounded it. Away flew the bee and Rhoecus, looking after it, saw the red sun setting over the trees of the thousand-year-old forest. He was too late! Through the city and out of its gates he rushed. He sped across the plain and entered the wood. At the tree no fair dryad awaited him. But he heard a voice saying sadly, "Ah, Rhoecus, you forgot your promise to me. You drove away with a cruel blow my little messenger who sought to remind you of me. Because you have been harsh to the little bee, your punishment is this: You shall never see me again." "Ah, no! sweet spirit," cried Rhoecus. "Forgive me this once. I will never sin again." "Alas! it cannot be. Farewell," sighed the dryad. And Rhoecus saw her no more. In that hour he changed from a happy youth to a sad and lonely man. All his life he longed to see the dryad whom he had lost for ever.

       



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