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From Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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Age Rating 8 to 10.
When they were bidding him farewell Cilix burst into tears, and told
his mother that it seemed just as melancholy a dream to stay there, in
solitude, as to go onward. If she really believed that they would ever
find Europa, he was willing to continue the search with them, even now.
But Telephassa bade him remain there, and be happy, if his own heart
would let him. So the pilgrims took their leave of him, and departed,
and were hardly out of sight before some other wandering people came
along that way, and saw Cilix's habitation, and were greatly delighted
with the appearance of the place. There being abundance of unoccupied
ground in the neighborhood, these strangers built huts for themselves,
and were soon joined by a multitude of new settlers, who quickly formed
a city. In the middle of it was seen a magnificent palace of colored
marble, on the balcony of which, every noontide, appeared Cilix, in
a long purple robe, and with a jeweled crown upon his head; for
the inhabitants, when they found out that he was a king's son, had
considered him the fittest of all men to be a king himself.
One of the first acts of King Cilix's government was to send out an
expedition, consisting of a grave ambassador, and an escort of bold
and hardy young men, with orders to visit the principal kingdoms of
the earth, and inquire whether a young maiden had passed through those
regions, galloping swiftly on a white bull. It is, therefore, plain to
my mind, that Cilix secretly blamed himself for giving up the search for
Europa, as long as he was able to put one foot before the other.
As for Telephassa, and Cadmus, and the good Thasus, it grieves me to
think of them, still keeping up that weary pilgrimage. The two young men
did their best for the poor queen, helping her over the rough places,
often carrying her across rivulets in their faithful arms and seeking to
shelter her at nightfall, even when they themselves lay on the ground.
Sad, sad it was to hear them asking of every passer-by if he had seen
Europa, so long after the white bull had carried her away. But, though
the gray years thrust themselves between, and made the child's figure
dim in their remembrance, neither of these true-hearted three ever
dreamed of giving up the search.
One morning, however, poor Thasus found that he had sprained his ankle,
and could not possibly go a step farther.
"After a few days, to be sure," said he, mournfully, "I might make shift
to hobble along with a stick. But that would only delay you, and perhaps
hinder you from finding dear little Europa, after all your pains and
trouble. Do you go forward, therefore, my beloved companions, and leave
me to follow as I may."
"Thou hast been a true friend, dear Thasus," said Queen Telephassa,
kissing his forehead. "Being neither my son, nor the brother of our lost
Europa, thou hast shown thyself truer to me and her than Phoenix and
Cilix did, whom we have left behind us. Without thy loving help, and
that of my son Cadmus, my limbs could not have borne me half so far as
this. Now, take thy rest, and be at peace. For--and it is the first time
I have owned it to myself--I begin to question whether we shall ever
find my beloved daughter in this world."
Saying this, the poor queen shed tears, because it was a grievous trial
to the mother's heart to confess that her hopes were growing faint. From
that day forward, Cadmus noticed that she never traveled with the same
alacrity of spirit that had heretofore supported her. Her weight was
heavier upon his arm.
Before setting out, Cadmus helped Thasus build a bower; while
Telephassa, being too infirm to give any great assistance, advised them
how to fit it up and furnish it, so that it might be as comfortable as
a hut of branches could. Thasus, however, did not spend all his days in
this green bower. For it happened to him, as to Phoenix and Cilix,
that other homeless people visited the spot, and liked it, and built
themselves habitations in the neighborhood. So here, in the course of a
few years, was another thriving city, with a red freestone palace in
the center of it, where Thasus sat upon a throne, doing justice to the
people, with a purple robe over his shoulders, a sceptre in his hand,
and a crown upon his head. The inhabitants had made him king, not for
the sake of any royal blood (for none was in his veins), but because
Thasus was an upright, true-hearted, and courageous man, and therefore
fit to rule.
But when the affairs of his kingdom were all settled, King Thasus laid
aside his purple robe and crown, and sceptre, and bade his worthiest
subjects distribute justice to the people in his stead. Then, grasping
the pilgrim's staff that had supported him so long, he set forth again,
hoping still to discover some hoof-mark of the snow-white bull, some
trace of the vanished child. He returned after a lengthened absence, and
sat down wearily upon his throne. To his latest hour, nevertheless, King
Thasus showed his true-hearted remembrance of Europa, by ordering that
a fire should always be kept burning in his palace, and a bath steaming
hot, and food ready to be served up, and a bed with snow-white sheets,
in case the maiden should arrive, and require immediate refreshment.
And, though Europa never came, the good Thasus had the blessings of many
a poor traveler, who profited by the food and lodging which were meant
for the little playmate of the king's boyhood.
Telephassa and Cadmus were now pursuing their weary way, with no
companion but each other. The queen leaned heavily upon her son's arm,
and could walk only a few miles a day. But for all her weakness and
weariness, she would not be persuaded to give up the search. It
was enough to bring tears into the eyes of bearded men to hear the
melancholy tone with which she inquired of every stranger whether he
could not tell her any news of the lost child.
"Have you seen a little girl--no, no, I mean a young maiden of full
growth--passing by this way, mounted on a snow-white bull, which gallops
as swiftly as the wind?"
"We have seen no such wondrous sight," the people would reply; and very
often, taking Cadmus aside, they whispered to him, "Is this stately and
sad-looking woman your mother? Surely she is not in her right mind; and
you ought to take her home, and make her comfortable, and do your best
to get this dream out of her fancy."
"It is no dream," said Cadmus. "Everything else is a dream, save that."
But, one day, Telephassa seemed feebler than usual, and leaned almost
her whole weight on the arm of Cadmus, and walked more slowly than ever
before. At last they reached a solitary spot, where she told her son
that she must needs lie down, and take a good long rest.
"A good long rest!" she repeated, looking Cadmus tenderly in the face.
"A good long rest, thou dearest one!"
"As long as you please, dear mother," answered Cadmus.
Telephassa bade him sit down on the turf beside her, and then she took
"My son," said she, fixing her dim eyes most lovingly upon him, "this
rest that I speak of will be very long indeed! You must not wait till
it is finished. Dear Cadmus, you do not comprehend me. You must make a
grave here, and lay your mother's weary frame into it. My pilgrimage is
Cadmus burst into tears, and, for a long time, refused to believe that
his dear mother was now to be taken from him. But Telephassa reasoned
with him, and kissed him, and at length made him discern that it was
better for her spirit to pass away out of the toil, the weariness, and
grief, and disappointment which had burdened her on earth, ever since
the child was lost. He therefore repressed his sorrow, and listened to
her last words.
"Dearest Cadmus," said she, "thou hast been the truest son that ever
mother had, and faithful to the very last. Who else would have borne
with my infirmities as thou hast! It is owing to thy care, thou
tenderest child, that my grave was not dug long years ago, in some
valley, or on some hillside, that lies far, far behind us. It is enough.
Thou shalt wander no more on this hopeless search. But, when thou hast
laid thy mother in the earth, then go, my son, to Delphi, and inquire of
the oracle what thou shalt do next."
"O mother, mother," cried Cadmus, "couldst thou but have seen my sister
before this hour!"
"It matters little now," answered Telephassa, and there was a smile upon
her face. "I go now to the better world, and, sooner or later, shall
find my daughter there."
I will not sadden you, my little hearers, with telling how Telephassa
died and was buried, but will only say, that her dying smile grew
brighter, instead of vanishing from her dead face; so that Cadmus left
convinced that, at her very first step into the better world, she had
caught Europa in her arms. He planted some flowers on his mother's
grave, and left them to grow there, and make the place beautiful, when
he should be far away.
After performing this last sorrowful duty, he set forth alone, and took
the road towards the famous oracle of Delphi, as Telephassa had advised
him. On his way thither, he still inquired of most people whom he met
whether they had seen Europa; for, to say the truth, Cadmus had grown so
accustomed to ask the question, that it came to his lips as readily as a
remark about the weather. He received various answers. Some told him one
thing, and some another. Among the rest, a mariner affirmed, that, many
years before, in a distant country, he had heard a rumor about a white
bull, which came swimming across the sea with a child on his back,
dressed up in flowers that were blighted by the sea water. He did not
know what had become of the child or the bull; and Cadmus suspected,
indeed, by a queer twinkle in the mariner's eyes, that he was putting a
joke upon him, and had never really heard anything about the matter.
Poor Cadmus found it more wearisome to travel alone than to bear all
his dear mother's weight, while she had kept him company. His heart, you
will understand, was now so heavy that it seemed impossible, sometimes,
to carry it any farther. But his limbs were strong and active, and well
accustomed to exercise. He walked swiftly along, thinking of King Agenor
and Queen Telephassa, and his brothers, and the friendly Thasus, all of
whom he had left behind him, at one point of his pilgrimage or another,
and never expected to see them any more. Full of these remembrances, he
came within sight of a lofty mountain, which the people thereabouts told
him was called Parnassus. On the slope of Mount Parnassus was the famous
Delphi, whither Cadmus was going.
This Delphi was supposed to be the very midmost spot of the whole world.
The place of the oracle was a certain cavity in the mountain side, over
which, when Cadmus came thither, he found a rude bower of branches.
It reminded him of those which he had helped to build for Phoenix and
Cilix, and afterwards for Thasus. In later times, when multitudes of
people came from great distances to put questions to the oracle, a
spacious temple of marble was erected over the spot. But in the days of
Cadmus, as I have told you, there was only this rustic bower, with its
abundance of green foliage, and a tuft of shrubbery, that ran wild over
the mysterious hole in the hillside.
When Cadmus had thrust a passage through the tangled boughs, and made
his way into the bower, he did not at first discern the half-hidden
cavity. But soon he felt a cold stream of air rushing out of it, with
so much force that it shook the ringlets on his cheek. Pulling away the
shrubbery which clustered over the hole, he bent forward, and spoke in
a distinct but reverential tone, as if addressing some unseen personage
inside of the mountain.
"Sacred oracle of Delphi," said he, "whither shall I go next in quest of
my dear sister Europa?"
There was at first a deep silence, and then a rushing sound, or a noise
like a long sigh, proceeding out of the interior of the earth. This
cavity, you must know, was looked upon as a sort of fountain of truth,
which sometimes gushed out in audible words; although, for the most
part, these words were such a riddle that they might just as well have
staid at the bottom of the hole. But Cadmus was more fortunate than many
others who went to Delphi in search of truth. By and by, the rushing
noise began to sound like articulate language. It repeated, over and
over again, the following sentence, which, after all, was so like the
vague whistle of a blast of air, that Cadmus really did not quite know
whether it meant anything or not:
"Seek her no more! Seek her no more! Seek her no more!"
"What, then, shall I do?" asked Cadmus.
For, ever since he was a child, you know, it had been the great
object of his life to find his sister. From the very hour that he left
following the butterfly in the meadow, near his father's palace, he had
done his best to follow Europa, over land and sea. And now, if he must
give up the search, he seemed to have no more business in the world.
But again the sighing gust of air grew into something like a hoarse
"Follow the cow!" it said. "Follow the cow! Follow the cow!"
And when these words had been repeated until Cadmus was tired of hearing
them (especially as he could not imagine what cow it was, or why he was
to follow her), the gusty hole gave vent to another sentence.
"Where the stray cow lies down, there is your home."
These words were pronounced but a single time, and died away into
a whisper before Cadmus was fully satisfied that he had caught the
meaning. He put other questions, but received no answer; only the gust
of wind sighed continually out of the cavity, and blew the withered
leaves rustling along the ground before it.
"Did there really come any words out of the hole?" thought Cadmus; "or
have I been dreaming all this while?"
He turned away from the oracle, and thought himself no wiser than when
he came thither. Caring little what might happen to him, he took the
first path that offered itself, and went along at a sluggish pace;
for, having no object in view, nor any reason to go one way more than
another, it would certainly have been foolish to make haste. Whenever he
met anybody, the old question was at his tongue's end.
"Have you seen a beautiful maiden, dressed like a king's daughter, and
mounted on a snow-white bull, that gallops as swiftly as the wind?"
But, remembering what the oracle had said, he only half uttered the
words, and then mumbled the rest indistinctly; and from his confusion,
people must have imagined that this handsome young man had lost his
I know not how far Cadmus had gone, nor could he himself have told you,
when at no great distance before him, he beheld a brindled cow. She was
lying down by the wayside, and quietly chewing her cud; nor did she take
any notice of the young man until he had approached pretty nigh. Then,
getting leisurely upon her feet, and giving her head a gentle toss, she
began to move along at a moderate pace, often pausing just long enough
to crop a mouthful of grass. Cadmus loitered behind, whistling idly to
himself, and scarcely noticing the cow; until the thought occurred to
him, whether this could possibly be the animal which, according to
the oracle's response, was to serve him for a guide. But he smiled at
himself for fancying such a thing. He could not seriously think that
this was the cow, because she went along so quietly, behaving just like
any other cow. Evidently she neither knew nor cared so much as a wisp of
hay about Cadmus, and was only thinking how to get her living along the
wayside, where the herbage was green and fresh. Perhaps she was going
home to be milked.
"Cow, cow, cow!" cried Cadmus. "Hey, Brindle, hey! Stop, my good cow!"
He wanted to come up with the cow, so as to examine her, and see if she
would appear to know him, or whether there were any peculiarities to
distinguish her from a thousand other cows, whose only business is to
fill the milk-pail, and sometimes kick it over. But still the brindled
cow trudged on, whisking her tail to keep the flies away, and taking as
little notice of Cadmus as she well could. If he walked slowly, so did
the cow, and seized the opportunity to graze. If he quickened his pace,
the cow went just so much the faster; and once, when Cadmus tried to
catch her by running, she threw out her heels, stuck her tail straight
on end, and set off at a gallop, looking as queerly as cows generally
do, while putting themselves to their speed.
When Cadmus saw that it was impossible to come up with her, he walked on
moderately, as before. The cow, too, went leisurely on, without looking
behind. Wherever the grass was greenest, there she nibbled a mouthful
or two. Where a brook glistened brightly across the path, there the cow
drank, and breathed a comfortable sigh, and drank again, and trudged
onward at the pace that best suited herself and Cadmus.
"I do believe," thought Cadmus, "that this may be the cow that was
foretold me. If it be the one, I suppose she will lie down somewhere
Whether it were the oracular cow or some other one, it did not seem
reasonable that she should travel a great way farther. So, whenever
they reached a particularly pleasant spot on a breezy hillside, or in a
sheltered vale, or flowery meadow, on the shore of a calm lake, or along
the bank of a clear stream, Cadmus looked eagerly around to see if the
situation would suit him for a home. But still, whether he liked the
place or no, the brindled cow never offered to lie down. On she went
at the quiet pace of a cow going homeward to the barn yard; and, every
moment, Cadmus expected to see a milkmaid approaching with a pail, or a
herdsman running to head the stray animal, and turn her back towards the
pasture. But no milkmaid came; no herdsman drove her back; and Cadmus
followed the stray Brindle till he was almost ready to drop down with
"O brindled cow," cried he, in a tone of despair, "do you never mean to
He had now grown too intent on following her to think of lagging behind,
however long the way, and whatever might be his fatigue. Indeed, it
seemed as if there were something about the animal that bewitched
people. Several persons who happened to see the brindled cow, and Cadmus
following behind, began to trudge after her, precisely as he did. Cadmus
was glad of somebody to converse with, and therefore talked very freely
to these good people. He told them all his adventures, and how he had
left King Agenor in his palace, and Phoenix at one place, and Cilix at
another, and Thasus at a third, and his dear mother, Queen Telephassa,
under a flowery sod; so that now he was quite alone, both friendless
and homeless. He mentioned, likewise, that the oracle had bidden him
be guided by a cow, and inquired of the strangers whether they supposed
that this brindled animal could be the one.
"Why, 'tis a very wonderful affair," answered one of his new companions.
"I am pretty well acquainted with the ways of cattle, and I never knew
a cow, of her own accord, to go so far without stopping. If my legs will
let me, I'll never leave following the beast till she lies down."
"Nor I!" said a second.
"Nor I!" cried a third. "If she goes a hundred miles farther, I am
determined to see the end of it."
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