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From Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Age Rating 8 to 10.
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Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, the three sons of King Agenor, and their
little sister Europa (who was a very beautiful child), were at play
together near the seashore in their father's kingdom of Phoenicia. They
had rambled to some distance from the palace where their parents dwelt,
and were now in a verdant meadow, on one side of which lay the sea, all
sparkling and dimpling in the sunshine, and murmuring gently against the
beach. The three boys were very happy, gathering flowers, and twining
them into garlands, with which they adorned the little Europa. Seated
on the grass, the child was almost hidden under an abundance of buds and
blossoms, whence her rosy face peeped merrily out, and, as Cadmus said,
was the prettiest of all the flowers.
Just then, there came a splendid butterfly, fluttering along the meadow;
and Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix set off in pursuit of it, crying out
that it was a flower with wings. Europa, who was a little wearied with
playing all day long, did not chase the butterfly with her brothers, but
sat still where they had left her, and closed her eyes. For a while,
she listened to the pleasant murmur of the sea, which was like a voice
saying "Hush!" and bidding her go to sleep. But the pretty child, if she
slept at all, could not have slept more than a moment, when she heard
something trample on the grass, not far from her, and, peeping out from
the heap of flowers, beheld a snow-white bull.
And whence could this bull have com? Europa and her brothers had been
a long time playing in the meadow, and had seen no cattle, nor other
living thing, either there or on the neighboring hills.
"Brother Cadmus!" cried Europa, starting up out of the midst of the
roses and lilies. "Phoenix! Cilix! Where are you all? Help! Help! Come
and drive away this bull!"
But her brothers were too far off to hear; especially as the fright took
away Europa's voice, and hindered her from calling very loudly. So there
she stood, with her pretty mouth wide open, as pale as the white lilies
that were twisted among the other flowers in her garlands.
Nevertheless, it was the suddenness with which she had perceived the
bull, rather than anything frightful in his appearance, that caused
Europa so much alarm. On looking at him more attentively, she began
to see that he was a beautiful animal, and even fancied a particularly
amiable expression in his face. As for his breath--the breath of cattle,
you know, is always sweet--it was as fragrant as if he had been grazing
on no other food than rosebuds, or at least, the most delicate of clover
blossoms. Never before did a bull have such bright and tender eyes, and
such smooth horns of ivory, as this one. And the bull ran little races,
and capered sportively around the child; so that she quite forgot how
big and strong he was, and, from the gentleness and playfulness of his
actions, soon came to consider him as innocent a creature as a pet lamb.
Thus, frightened as she at first was, you might by and by have seen
Europa stroking the bull's forehead with her small white hand, and
taking the garlands off her own head to hang them on his neck and ivory
horns. Then she pulled up some blades of grass, and he ate them out of
her hand, not as if he were hungry, but because he wanted to be friends
with the child, and took pleasure in eating what she had touched. Well,
my stars! was there ever such a gentle, sweet, pretty, and amiable
creature as this bull, and ever such a nice playmate for a little girl?
When the animal saw (for the bull had so much intelligence that it is
really wonderful to think of), when he saw that Europa was no longer
afraid of him, he grew overjoyed, and could hardly contain himself
for delight. He frisked about the meadow, now here, now there, making
sprightly leaps, with as little effort as a bird expends in hopping
from twig to twig. Indeed, his motion was as light as if he were flying
through the air, and his hoofs seemed hardly to leave their print in the
grassy soil over which he trod. With his spotless hue, he resembled a
snow drift, wafted along by the wind. Once he galloped so far away that
Europa feared lest she might never see him again; so, setting up her
childish voice, called him back.
"Come back, pretty creature!" she cried. "Here is a nice clover
And then it was delightful to witness the gratitude of this amiable
bull, and how he was so full of joy and thankfulness that he capered
higher than ever. He came running, and bowed his head before Europa, as
if he knew her to be a king's daughter, or else recognized the important
truth that a little girl is everybody's queen. And not only did the
bull bend his neck, he absolutely knelt down at her feet, and made such
intelligent nods, and other inviting gestures, that Europa understood
what he meant just as well as if he had put it in so many words.
"Come, dear child," was what he wanted to say, "let me give you a ride
on my back."
At the first thought of such a thing, Europa drew back. But then she
considered in her wise little head that there could be no possible
harm in taking just one gallop on the back of this docile and friendly
animal, who would certainly set her down the very instant she desired
it. And how it would surprise her brothers to see her riding across the
green meadow! And what merry times they might have, either taking turns
for a gallop, or clambering on the gentle creature, all four children
together, and careering round the field with shouts of laughter that
would be heard as far off as King Agenor's palace!
"I think I will do it," said the child to herself.
And, indeed, why not? She cast a glance around, and caught a glimpse of
Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, who were still in pursuit of the butterfly,
almost at the other end of the meadow. It would be the quickest way
of rejoining them, to get upon the white bull's back. She came a step
nearer to him therefore; and--sociable creature that he was--he showed
so much joy at this mark of her confidence, that the child could not
find in her heart to hesitate any longer. Making one bound (for this
little princess was as active as a squirrel), there sat Europa on the
beautiful bull, holding an ivory horn in each hand, lest she should fall
"Softly, pretty bull, softly!" she said, rather frightened at what she
had done. "Do not gallop too fast."
Having got the child on his back, the animal gave a leap into the air,
and came down so like a feather that Europa did not know when his hoofs
touched the ground. He then began a race to that part of the flowery
plain where her three brothers were, and where they had just caught
their splendid butterfly. Europa screamed with delight; and Phoenix,
Cilix, and Cadmus stood gaping at the spectacle of their sister mounted
on a white bull, not knowing whether to be frightened or to wish the
same good luck for themselves. The gentle and innocent creature (for who
could possibly doubt that he was so?) pranced round among the children
as sportively as a kitten. Europa all the while looked down upon her
brothers, nodding and laughing, but yet with a sort of stateliness in
her rosy little face. As the bull wheeled about to take another gallop
across the meadow, the child waved her hand, and said, "Good-bye,"
playfully pretending that she was now bound on a distant journey, and
might not see her brothers again for nobody could tell how long.
"Good-bye," shouted Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, all in one breath.
But, together with her enjoyment of the sport, there was still a little
remnant of fear in the child's heart; so that her last look at the three
boys was a troubled one, and made them feel as if their dear sister were
really leaving them forever. And what do you think the snowy bull
did next? Why, he set off, as swift as the wind, straight down to the
seashore, scampered across the sand, took an airy leap, and plunged
right in among the foaming billows. The white spray rose in a shower
over him and little Europa, and fell spattering down upon the water.
Then what a scream of terror did the poor child send forth! The three
brothers screamed manfully, likewise, and ran to the shore as fast as
their legs would carry them, with Cadmus at their head. But it was too
late. When they reached the margin of the sand, the treacherous animal
was already far away in the wide blue sea, with only his snowy head and
tail emerging, and poor little Europa between them, stretching out one
hand towards her dear brothers, while she grasped the bull's ivory horn
with the other. And there stood Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix, gazing at
this sad spectacle, through their tears, until they could no longer
distinguish the bull's snowy head from the white-capped billows that
seemed to boil up out of the sea's depths around him. Nothing more was
ever seen of the white bull--nothing more of the beautiful child.
This was a mournful story, as you may well think, for the three boys to
carry home to their parents. King Agenor, their father, was the ruler of
the whole country; but he loved his little daughter Europa better than
his kingdom, or than all his other children, or than anything else in
the world. Therefore, when Cadmus and his two brothers came crying home,
and told him how that a white bull had carried off their sister, and
swam with her over the sea, the king was quite beside himself with grief
and rage. Although it was now twilight, and fast growing dark, he bade
them set out instantly in search of her.
"Never shall you see my face again," he cried, "unless you bring me back
my little Europa, to gladden me with her smiles and her pretty ways.
Begone, and enter my presence no more, till you come leading her by the
As King Agenor said this, his eyes flashed fire (for he was a very
passionate king), and he looked so terribly angry that the poor boys
did not even venture to ask for their suppers, but slunk away out of the
palace, and only paused on the steps a moment to consult whither they
should go first. While they were standing there, all in dismay, their
mother, Queen Telephassa (who happened not to be by when they told the
story to the king), came hurrying after them, and said that she too
would go in quest of her daughter.
"O, no, mother!" cried the boys. "The night is dark, and there is no
knowing what troubles and perils we may meet with."
"Alas! my dear children," answered poor Queen Telephassa; weeping
bitterly, "that is only another reason why I should go with you. If I
should lose you, too, as well as my little Europa, what would become of
"And let me go likewise!" said their playfellow Thasus, who came running
to join them.
Thasus was the son of a seafaring person in the neighborhood; he had
been brought up with the young princes, and was their intimate friend,
and loved Europa very much; so they consented that he should accompany
them. The whole party, therefore, set forth together. Cadmus, Phoenix,
Cilix, and Thasus clustered round Queen Telephassa, grasping her skirts,
and begging her to lean upon their shoulders whenever she felt weary. In
this manner they went down the palace steps, and began a journey, which
turned out to be a great deal longer than they dreamed of. The last that
they saw of King Agenor, he came to the door, with a servant holding a
torch beside him, and called after them into the gathering darkness:
"Remember! Never ascend these steps again without the child!"
"Never!" sobbed Queen Telephassa; and the three brothers and Thasus
answered, "Never! Never! Never! Never!"
And they kept their word. Year after year, King Agenor sat in the
solitude of his beautiful palace, listening in vain for their returning
footsteps, hoping to hear the familiar voice of the queen, and the
cheerful talk of his sons and their playfellow Thasus, entering the door
together, and the sweet, childish accents of little Europa in the midst
of them. But so long a time went by, that, at last, if they had
really come, the king would not have known that this was the voice of
Telephassa, and these the younger voices that used to make such joyful
echoes, when the children were playing about the palace. We must now
leave King Agenor to sit on his throne, and must go along with Queen
Telephassa, and her four youthful companions.
They went on and on, and traveled a long way, and passed over mountains
and rivers, and sailed over seas. Here, and there, and everywhere, they
made continual inquiry if any person could tell them what had become of
Europa. The rustic people, of whom they asked this question, paused
a little while from their labors in the field, and looked very much
surprised. They thought it strange to behold a woman in the garb of a
queen (for Telephassa in her haste had forgotten to take off her crown
and her royal robes), roaming about the country, with four lads around
her, on such an errand as this seemed to be. But nobody could give them
any tidings of Europa; nobody had seen a little girl dressed like a
princess, and mounted on a snow-white bull, which galloped as swiftly as
I cannot tell you how long Queen Telephassa, and Cadmus, Phoenix, and
Cilix, her three sons, and Thasus, their playfellow, went wandering
along the highways and bypaths, or through the pathless wildernesses of
the earth, in this manner. But certain it is, that, before they reached
any place of rest, their splendid garments were quite worn out. They
all looked very much travel-stained, and would have had the dust of many
countries on their shoes, if the streams, through which they waded, had
not washed it all away. When they had been gone a year, Telephassa threw
away her crown, because it chafed her forehead.
"It has given me many a headache," said the poor queen, "and it cannot
cure my heartache."
As fast as their princely robes got torn and tattered, they exchanged
them for such mean attire as ordinary people wore. By and by, they come
to have a wild and homeless aspect; so that you would much sooner have
taken them for a gypsy family than a queen and three princes, and
a young nobleman, who had once a palace for a home, and a train of
servants to do their bidding. The four boys grew up to be tall young
men, with sunburnt faces. Each of them girded on a sword, to defend
themselves against the perils of the way. When the husbandmen, at whose
farmhouses they sought hospitality, needed their assistance in the
harvest field, they gave it willingly; and Queen Telephassa (who had
done no work in her palace, save to braid silk threads with golden ones)
came behind them to bind the sheaves. If payment was offered, they shook
their heads, and only asked for tidings of Europa.
"There are bulls enough in my pasture," the old farmers would reply;
"but I never heard of one like this you tell me of. A snow-white bull
with a little princess on his back! Ho! ho! I ask your pardon, good
folks; but there never such a sight seen hereabouts."
At last, when his upper lip began to have the down on it, Phoenix grew
weary of rambling hither and thither to no purpose. So one day, when
they happened to be passing through a pleasant and solitary tract of
country, he sat himself down on a heap of moss.
"I can go no farther," said Phoenix. "It is a mere foolish waste of
life, to spend it as we do, always wandering up and down, and never
coming to any home at nightfall. Our sister is lost, and never will be
found. She probably perished in the sea; or, to whatever shore the white
bull may have carried her, it is now so many years ago, that there would
be neither love nor acquaintance between us, should we meet again. My
father has forbidden us to return to his palace, so I shall build me a
hut of branches, and dwell here."
"Well, son Phoenix," said Telephassa, sorrowfully, "you have grown to be
a man, and must do as you judge best. But, for my part, I will still go
in quest of my poor child."
"And we three will go along with you!" cried Cadmus and Cilix, and their
faithful friend Thasus.
But, before setting out, they all helped Phoenix to build a habitation.
When completed, it was a sweet rural bower, roofed overhead with an arch
of living boughs. Inside there were two pleasant rooms, one of which
had a soft heap of moss for a bed, while the other was furnished with
a rustic seat or two, curiously fashioned out of the crooked roots of
trees. So comfortable and home-like did it seem, that Telephassa and her
three companions could not help sighing, to think that they must still
roam about the world, instead of spending the remainder of their lives
in some such cheerful abode as they had here built for Phoenix. But,
when they bade him farewell, Phoenix shed tears, and probably regretted
that he was no longer to keep them company.
However, he had fixed upon an admirable place to dwell in. And by and by
there came other people, who chanced to have no homes; and, seeing how
pleasant a spot it was, they built themselves huts in the neighborhood
of Phoenix's habitation. Thus, before many years went by, a city had
grown up there, in the center of which was seen a stately palace of
marble, wherein dwelt Phoenix, clothed in a purple robe, and wearing a
golden crown upon his head. For the inhabitants of the new city, finding
that he had royal blood in his veins, had chosen him to be their king.
The very first decree of state which King Phoenix issued was, that, if a
maiden happened to arrive in the kingdom, mounted on a snow-white bull,
and calling herself Europa, his subjects should treat her with the
greatest kindness and respect, and immediately bring her to the palace.
You may see, by this, that Phoenix's conscience never quite ceased to
trouble him, for giving up the quest of his dear sister, and sitting
himself down to be comfortable, while his mother and her companions went
But often and often, at the close of a weary day's journey, did
Telephassa and Cadmus, Cilix, and Thasus, remember the pleasant spot
in which they had left Phoenix. It was a sorrowful prospect for these
wanderers, that on the morrow they must again set forth, and that, after
many nightfalls, they would perhaps be no nearer the close of their
toilsome pilgrimage than now. These thoughts made them all melancholy at
times, but appeared to torment Cilix more than the rest of the party. At
length, one morning, when they were taking their staffs in hand to set
out, he thus addressed them:
"My dear mother, and you, good brother Cadmus, and my friend Thasus,
methinks we are like people in a dream. There is no substance in the
life which we are leading. It is such a dreary length of time since the
white bull carried off my sister Europa, that I have quite forgotten
how she looked, and the tones of her voice, and, indeed, almost doubt
whether such a little girl ever lived in the world. And whether she
once lived or no, I am convinced that she no longer survives, and that
therefore it is the merest folly to waste our own lives and happiness
in seeking her. Were we to find her, she would now be a woman grown, and
would look upon us all as strangers. So, to tell you the truth, I have
resolved to take up my abode here; and I entreat you, mother, brother,
and friend, to follow my example."
"Not I, for one," said Telephassa; although the poor queen, firmly as
she spoke, was so travel-worn that she could hardly put her foot to the
ground. "Not I, for one! In the depths of my heart, little Europa is
still the rosy child who ran to gather flowers so many years ago.
She has not grown to womanhood, nor forgotten me. At noon, at night,
journeying onward, sitting down to rest, her childish voice is always
in my ears, calling, 'Mother! mother!' Stop here who may, there is no
repose for me."
"Nor for me," said Cadmus, "while my dear mother pleases to go onward."
And the faithful Thasus, too, was resolved to bear them company. They
remained with Cilix a few days, however, and helped him to build a
rustic bower, resembling the one which they had formerly built for
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