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 THERE are so many tales of the vanity of kings and queens
that the half of them cannot be told.
There was Cassiopæia, queen of Æthiopia,
who boasted that
her beauty outshone the beauty of all the sea-nymphs, so
that in anger they sent a horrible sea-serpent to ravage the
coast. The king prayed of an Oracle to know how the monster
might be appeased, and learned that he must offer up his own
daughter, Andromeda. The maiden was therefore chained to a
rock by the sea-side, and left to her fate. But who
should come to rescue her but a certain young hero, Perseus,
who was hastening homeward after a perilous adventure with
the snaky-haired Gorgons. Filled with pity at the
story of Andromeda, he waited for the dragon, met and slew
him, and set the maiden free. As for the boastful queen,
the gods forgave her, and at her death she was set among the
stars. That story ended well.
But there was once a queen of Thebes, Niobe, fortunate above
all women, and yet arrogant in
the face of the gods. Very beautiful she was, and nobly
born, but above all things she boasted of her children, for
she had seven sons and seven daughters.
Now there came the day when the people were wont to
celebrate the feast of Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana;
and Niobe, as she stood looking upon the worshippers on
their way to the temple, was filled with overweening pride.
 "Why do you worship Latona before me?" she cried out. "What
does she possess that I have not in greater abundance? She
has but two children, while I have seven sons and as many
daughters. Nay, if she robbed me out of envy, I should
still be rich. Go back to your houses; you have not eyes to
know the rightful goddess."
Such impiety was enough to frighten anyone, and her subjects
returned to their daily work, awestruck and silent.
But Apollo and Diana were filled with wrath at this insult
to their divine mother. Not only was she a great goddess and
a power in the heavens, but during her life on earth she had
suffered many hardships for their sake. The serpent Python
had been sent to torment her; and, driven from land to land,
under an evil spell,
beset with dangers, she had found no resting-place but the
island of Delos, held sacred ever after to her and her
children. Once she had even been refused water by some
churlish peasants, who could not believe in a goddess if
she appeared in humble guise and travel-worn. But these men
were all changed into frogs.
It needed no word from Latona herself to rouse her children
to vengeance. Swift as a thought, the two immortal archers,
brother and sister, stood in Thebes, upon the towers of the
citadel. Near by, the youth were pursuing their sports,
while the feast of Latona went neglected. The sons of Queen
Niobe were there, and against them Apollo bent his golden
bow. An arrow crossed the air like a sunbeam, and without a
word the eldest prince fell from his horse. One by one
his brothers died by the same hand, so swiftly that they
knew not what had befallen them, till all
 the sons of the
royal house lay slain. Only the people of Thebes, stricken
with terror, bore the news to Queen Niobe, where she sat
with her seven daughters. She would not believe in such a
"Savage Latona," she cried, lifting her arms against the
heavens, "never think that you have conquered. I am still
At that moment one of her daughters sank
beside her. Diana had sped an arrow from her bow that is
like the crescent moon. Without a cry, nay, even as they
murmured words of comfort, the sisters died, one by one.
It was all as swift and soundless as snowfall.
Only the guilty mother was left, transfixed with grief.
Tears flowed from her eyes, but she spoke not a word, her
heart never softened; and at last she turned to stone, and
the tears flowed down her cold face forever.
ONLY THE GUILTY MOTHER WAS LEFT