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Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 21

Latona was about to go on, but Apollo interrupted her: "Cease your lamentations, mother; you only delay the punishment."

Then he and his sister wrapped themselves in a magic cloud cloak that made them invisible, and flew swiftly through the air until they reached the town and castle of Cadmus.

Just outside the walls of the city was an open field that was used as a race-course and practice ground for horses. Here the seven sons of Amphion were amusing themselves, when suddenly the oldest dropped his reins with a cry and fell from his horse, pierced to the heart by an arrow. One after another the whole seven were struck down.

The news of the disaster soon spread through the city. Amphion, when he heard that all his sons had perished, fell on his own sword. Then the loud cries of his servants penetrated to the women's quarters.

For a long time Niobe could not believe that the gods had thus brought vengeance. When she did, how unlike was she to the Niobe who drove the people from the altars of the mighty goddess and strode through the city with haughty mien. Crazed with grief she rushed out to the field where her sons had been stricken, threw herself on their dead bodies, kissing now this one and now that. Then, raising her arms to heaven, she cried, "Look now upon my distress, thou cruel Latona; for the death of these seven bows me to the earth. Triumph thou, O my victorious enemy!"

[Pg 40] Now the seven daughters of Niobe, clad in garments of mourning, drew near, and with loosened hair stood around their brothers. And the sight of them brought a ray of joy to Niobe's white face. She forgot her grief for a moment, and casting a scornful look to heaven, said, "Victor! No, for even in my loss I have more than thou in thy happiness!"

Hardly had she spoken when there was the sound of a drawn bow. The bystanders grew cold with fear, but Niobe was not frightened, for misfortune had made her strong.

Suddenly one of the sisters put her hand to her breast and drew out an arrow that had pierced her; then, unconscious, she sank to the ground. Another daughter hastened to her mother to comfort her, but before she could reach her she was laid low by a hidden wound. One after another the rest fell, until only the last was left. She had fled to Niobe's lap and childlike was hiding her face in her mother's garments.

"Leave me only this one," cried Niobe, "just the youngest of so many."

But even while she prayed the child fell lifeless from her lap, and Niobe sat alone among the dead bodies of her husband, her sons and her daughters. She was speechless with grief; no breath of air stirred the hair on her head; the blood left her face; the eyes remained fixed on the grief-stricken countenance; in the whole body there was no longer any sign of life. The veins ceased to carry blood; the neck stiffened; arms and feet grew rigid; the whole body was transformed into cold and lifeless stone. Nothing living remained to her except her tears, which continued flowing from her stony eyes.


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