Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes by Hamilton Wright Mabie - HTML preview
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ADAPTED BY THOMAS CARTWRIGHT I
THE TWELVE LABORS OF HERCULES
It was to these fateful three, then, that Juno made her prayer concerning the infant Hercules. She could not, however, prevent him from having an honorable career, since it was written that he should triumph over all dangers and difficulties that might beset him.
All that was conceded to her was that Hercules should be put under the dominion of Eurystheus, King of Thebes, his eldest brother, a harsh and pitiless man. This only half satisfied the hatred of Juno, but it made the life of Hercules exceedingly bitter.
In fact, Hercules was but a child, when Juno sent two enormous serpents against him. These serpents, gliding into his cradle, were on the point of biting the child when he, with his own hands, seized them and strangled the life out of their slimy bodies.
Having grown up to man's estate, Hercules did many mighty deeds of valor that need not be recounted here. But the hatred of Juno always pursued him. At length, when he had been married several years, she made him mad and impelled him in his madness to kill his own beloved children!
When he came again to his sober senses, and learnt that he was the murderer of his own offspring he was filled with horror, and betook himself into exile so that he might hide his face from his fellow men. After a time he went to the oracle at Delphi to ask what he should do in atonement for his dreadful deed.
He was ordered to serve his brother Eurystheus—who, by the help of Juno, had robbed him of his kingdom—for twelve years. After this he was to become one of the Immortals. Eurystheus feared that Hercules might use his great strength and courage against him, in punishment for the evil that he had done. He therefore resolved to banish him and to impose such [pg 261] tasks upon him as must certainly bring about his destruction. Hence arose the famous twelve labors of Hercules.Eurystheus first set Hercules to keep his sheep at Nemea and to kill the lion that ofttimes carried off the sheep, and sometimes the shepherd also.
The man-eater lurked in a wood that was hard by the sheep-run. Hercules would not wait to be attacked by him. Arming himself with a heavy club and with a bow and arrows, he went in search of the lion's lair and soon found it.
Finding that arrows and club made no impression upon the thick skin of the lion, the hero was constrained to trust entirely to his own thews and sinews. Seizing the lion with both hands, he put forth all his mighty strength and strangled the beast just as he had strangled the serpents in his cradle. Then, having despoiled the dead man-eater of his skin, Hercules henceforth wore this trophy as a garment, and as a shield and buckler.
In those days, there was in Greece a monstrous serpent known as the Hydra of Lerna, because it haunted a marsh of that name whence it issued in search of prey. As his second labor, Hercules was sent to slay this creature.
This reptile had nine heads of which the midmost was immortal. When Hercules struck off one of these heads with his club, two others at once appeared in its place. By the help of his servant, Hercules burned off the nine heads, and buried the immortal one beneath a huge rock.
The blood of the Hydra was a poison so subtle that Hercules, by dipping the points of his arrows therein, made them so deadly that no mortal could hope to recover from a wound inflicted by them. We shall see later that Hercules himself died from the poison of one of these self-same arrows.
The third labor imposed upon Hercules by Eurystheus was the capture of the Arcadian Stag. This remarkable beast had brazen feet and antlers of solid gold. Hercules was to carry the stag alive to Eurystheus.
It proved no easy task to do this. The stag was so fleet of foot that no one had been able to approach it. For more than a year, over hill and dale, Hercules pursued the beast without ever finding a chance of capturing it without killing it.[pg 262]
At length he shot at it and wounded it with an arrow—not, you may be sure, with one of the poisoned ones—and, having caught it thus wounded, he carried it on his shoulder to his brother and thus completed the third of his labors.
In the neighborhood of Mount Erymanthus, in Arcadia, there lived, in those far-off days, a savage boar that was in the habit of sallying forth from his lair and laying waste the country round about, nor had any man been able to capture or restrain him. To free the country from the ravages of this monster was the fourth labor of Hercules.
Having tracked the animal to his lurking place after chasing him through the deep snow, Hercules caught him in a net and bore him away in triumph on his shoulders to the feet of the amazed Eurystheus.
Augeas, King of Elis, in Greece, not far from Mount Olympus, owned a herd of oxen 3,000 in number. They were stabled in stables that had not been cleaned out for thirty years. The stench was terrible and greatly troubled the health of the land. Eurystheus set Hercules the task of cleaning out these Augean stables in a single day!
But the wit of the hero was equal to the occasion. With his great strength he diverted the flow of two rivers that ran their courses near the stables and made them flow right through the stables themselves, and lo! the nuisance that had been growing for thirty years was no more! Such was the fifth labor of Hercules.
On an island in a lake near Stymphalus, in Arcadia, there nested in those days some remarkable and terrible birds—remarkable because their claws, wings and beaks were brazen, and terrible because they fed on human flesh and attacked with their terrible beaks and claws all who came near the lake. To kill these dreadful birds was the sixth labor.Minerva supplied Hercules with a brazen rattle with which he roused the birds from their nests, and then slew them with his poisoned arrows while they were on the wing. This victory made Hercules popular throughout the whole of Greece, and Eurystheus saw that nothing he could devise was too hard for the hero to accomplish. The seventh labor was to capture a mad bull that the Sea-god Neptune had let loose in the island of Crete, of which island Minos was at that time King. This ferocious creature breathed out from his nostrils a whirlwind of flaming fire. But Hercules was, as you no doubt have guessed, too much for the brazen bull.
He not only caught the monster, but tamed him, and bore him aloft on his shoulders, into the presence of the affrighted Eurystheus, who was at a loss to find a task impossible for Hercules to perform.
The taking of the mares of Diomedes was the eighth labor. These horses were not ordinary horses, living on corn. They were flesh eaters, and moreover, they devoured human beings, and so were hateful to mankind.
On this occasion Hercules was not alone. He organised a hunt and, by the help of a few friends, caught the horses and led them to Eurystheus. The scene of this labor was Thrace, an extensive region lying between the Ægean Sea, the Euxine or Black Sea, and the Danube.
Seizing the girdle of Hippolyte was the next feat set for the hero. This labor was due to the desire of the daughter of Eurystheus for the girdle of Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons—a tribe of female warriors. It is said that the girls had their right breasts cut off in order that they might use the bow with greater ease in battle! This, indeed, is the meaning of the term Amazon, which signifies "breastless."
After a troublesome journey Hercules arrived safely at the Court of Hippolyte, who received him kindly; and this labor might, perchance, have been a bloodless one had not his old enemy Juno stirred up the female warriors against him.In the fight that followed, Hercules killed Hippolyte—a feat scarcely to be proud of—and carried off her girdle, and thus the vanity of the daughter of Eurystheus was gratified.
To capture the oxen of Geryon was the tenth labor of Hercules. In the person of Geryon we meet another of those strange beings in which the makers of myths and fairy tales seem to revel. Geryon was a three-bodied monster whose cattle were kept by a giant and a two-headed dog![pg 264]
It is said that Hercules, on his way to the performance of this tenth labor, formed the Pillars of Hercules—those two rocky steeps that guard the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar, i.e., Calpa (Gibraltar) and Abyla (Ceuta)—by rending asunder the one mountain these two rocks are said to have formed, although now they are eighteen miles apart.Hercules slew the giant, the two-headed dog and Geryon himself, and in due course brought the oxen to Eurystheus.
Sometime afterwards, Eurystheus, having heard rumors of a wonderful tree which, in some unknown land, yielded golden apples, was moved with great greed to have some of this remarkable fruit. Hence he commanded Hercules to make the quest of this tree his eleventh labor. The hero had no notion where the tree grew, but he was bound by his bond to obey the King, so he set out and after a time reached the kingdom of Atlas, King of Africa. He had been told that Atlas could give him news of the tree.
I must tell you that King Atlas, having in the olden time helped the Titans in their wars against the gods, was undergoing punishment for this offence, his penance being to hold up the starry vault of heaven upon his shoulders. This means, perhaps, that in the kingdom of Atlas there were some mountains so high that their summits seemed to touch the sky.
Hercules offered to relieve Atlas of his load for a time, if he would but tell him where the famous tree was, upon which grew the golden fruit. Atlas consented, and for some days Hercules supported the earth and the starry vault of heaven upon his shoulders.
Then Atlas opened the gate of the Garden of the Hesperides to Hercules. These Hesperides were none other than the three daughters of Atlas, and it was their duty, in which they were helped by a dragon, to guard the golden apples.Hercules killed the dragon and carried off the apples, but they were afterwards restored to their place by Minerva.
Cerberus, as perhaps you know, was the triple-headed dog that guarded the entrance to the nether world. To bring up this three-headed monster from the land of the dead was the last of the twelve labors. It was also the hardest.[pg 265]
Pluto, the god of the nether world, told Hercules he might carry off the dog if he could take him without using club or spear—never dreaming that the hero could perform such a difficult feat.
Hercules penetrated to the entrance of Pluto's gloomy regions, and, putting forth his strength succeeded, not only in seizing Cerberus, but also in carrying him to Eurystheus, and so brought the twelve labors to an end, and was released from his servitude to his cruel brother.
These exploits of strength and endurance do not by any means complete the tale of the wonderful doings of the great Greek hero. He continued his deeds of daring to the end of his life.One of the last of his exploits was to kill the eagle that daily devoured the liver of Prometheus, whose story is both curious and interesting. He is said to have been the great friend of mankind, and was chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus because he stole fire from heaven and gave it as a gift to the sons of man.
While in chains an eagle was sent by Jupiter daily to feed on Prometheus's liver, which Jupiter made to grow again each night. From this continuous torture he was released by Hercules, who slew the eagle and burst asunder the bonds of this friend of man.II
HERCULES IN THE NETHER WORLD
Theseus and Pirithous were two Athenians, who, after having been at enmity for a long time at last became the very best of friends. They, like Hercules, had passed their youth in doing doughty deeds for the benefit of mankind, and their fame had spread abroad throughout the land of Greece. This did not prevent them from forming a very foolish project. They actually planned to go down to Hades and carry off Pluto's wife, Proserpina, whom Pirithous himself wished to marry.
This rashness brought about their ruin, for they were seized [pg 266] by Pluto and chained to a rock. All this Hercules, who was the friend of Theseus, learnt while on one of his journeys, and he resolved to rescue Theseus from his eternal punishment.As for Pirithous, the prime mover in the attempted outrage, him Hercules meant to leave to his fate.
Hercules had been warned to take a black dog to sacrifice to Hecate and a cake to mollify Cerberus, as was usual; but he would not listen to such tales and meant to force his way to Theseus. When he found himself face to face with Cerberus he seized him, threw him down and chained him with strong chains.The next difficulty in the way was black and muddy Acheron, the first of the seven rivers that ran round Hades, and formed a barrier between the living and the departed.
This river had not always run under the vaults of Hades. Formerly its course was upon the earth. But when the Titans attempted to scale the heaven, this river had the ill luck to quench their thirst, and Jupiter to punish even the waters of the river for abetting his enemies, turned its course aside into the under world where its waves, slow-moving and filthy, lost themselves in Styx, the largest of all the rivers of Hades, which ran round Pluto's gloomy kingdom no less than nine times.
On reaching the banks of Styx, Hercules was surprised to see flying around him a crowd of disconsolate spirits, whom Charon the Ferryman refused to row across Styx, because they could not pay him his fee of an obol, a Greek coin worth about three cents of our money, which the Greeks were accustomed to place in the mouths of their dead for the purpose, as they thought, of paying Charon his ferry fee.
Fierce Charon frowned when he beheld Hercules for he feared his light boat of bark would sink under his weight, it being only adapted for the light and airy spirits of the dead; but when the son of Jupiter told him his name he was mollified and allowed the hero to take his place at his side.
As soon as the boat had touched the shore, Hercules went towards the gloomy palace of Pluto where he with difficulty, on account of the darkness, saw Pluto seated upon an ebony throne by the side of his beloved Proserpina.
Pluto was not at all pleased to see the hero, as he hated the [pg 267] living and had interest only in the shades of the dead. When Hercules announced himself, however, he gave him a permit to go round his kingdom and, in addition, acceded to his prayer for the release of Theseus.
At the foot of Pluto's throne Hercules saw Death the Reaper. He was clothed in a black robe spotted with stars and his fleshless hand held the sharp sickle with which he is said to cut down mortals as the reaper cuts down corn.
Our hero was glad to escape from this dismal palace and as he did not know exactly where to find Theseus he began to make the circuit of Hades. During his progress he saw the shades of many people of whom, on earth, he had heard much talk.
He had been wandering about some time when, in a gloomy chamber, he saw three old sisters, wan and worn, spinning by the feeble light of a lamp. They were the Fates, deities whose duty it was to thread the days of all mortals who appeared on earth, were it but for an instant.
Clotho, the spinner of the thread of life, was the eldest of the three. She held in her hand a distaff, wound with black and white woollen yarn, with which were sparingly intermixed strands of silk and gold. The wool stood for the humdrum everyday life of man: the silk and gold marked the days of mirth and gladness, always, alas! too few in number.
Lachesis, the second of the Fates, was quickly turning with her left hand a spindle, while her right hand was leading a fine thread which the third sister, Atropos by name, used to cut with a pair of sharp shears at the death of each mortal.
You may imagine how hard these three sisters worked when you remember that the thread of life of every mortal had to pass through their fateful fingers. Hercules would have liked them to tell him how long they had yet to spin for him, but they had no time to answer questions and so the hero passed on.Some steps farther he stopped before three venerable looking old men, seated upon a judgment seat, judging, as it seemed, a man newly come to Pluto's kingdom.
They were Minos, Æacus and Rhadamanthus, the three judges of Hades, whose duty it was to punish the guilty by [pg 268] casting them into a dismal gulf, Tartarus, whence none might ever emerge, and to reward the innocent by transporting them to the Elysian Fields where delight followed delight in endless pleasure.
These judges could never be mistaken because Themis, the Goddess of Justice, held in front of them a pair of scales in which she weighed the actions of men. Their decrees were instantly carried out by a pitiless goddess, Nemesis, or Vengeance by name, armed with a whip red with the gore of her sinful victims.III
BLACK TARTARUS AND THE ELYSIAN FIELDS
Immediately on quitting the presence of the three judges, Hercules saw them open out before him an immense gulf whence arose thick clouds of black smoke. This smoke hid from view a river of fire that rolled its fiery waves onwards with a deafening din. Not far remote from this rolled Cocytus, another endless stream, fed by the tears of the wretches doomed to Black Tartarus, in which place of eternal torment Hercules now found himself.
The rulers of these mournful regions were the Furies who, with unkempt hair and armed with whips, tormented the condemned without mercy by showing them continually in mirrors the images of their former crimes.
Into Tartarus were thrown, never to come out again, the shades or manes of traitors, ingrates, perjurers, unnatural children, murderers and hypocrites who had during their lives pretended to be upright and honorable in order to deceive the just.
But these wretches were not the only denizens of Black Tartarus. There were to be seen great scoundrels who had startled the world with their frightful crimes. For these Pluto and the Furies had invented special tortures.
Among the criminals so justly overtaken by the divine [pg 269] vengeance Hercules noticed Salmoneus, whom he had formerly met upon earth. This madman, whose pride had overturned his reason, thought himself to be a god equal to the Thunderer himself.
In order to imitate remotely the rolling of thunder, he used to be driven at night, over a brazen bridge, in a chariot, whence he hurled lighted torches upon his unhappy slaves who were crowded on the bridge and whom his guards knocked down in imitation of Jove's thunder-bolts.
Indignant at the pride and cruelty of the tyrant, Jupiter struck him with lightning in deadly earnest and then cast him into the outer darkness of Tartarus, where he was for ever burning without being consumed.
Sisyphus, the brother of Salmoneus, was no better than he. When on earth, he had been the terror of Attica, where, as a brigand, he had robbed and murdered with relentless cruelty.
Theseus, whom Hercules was bent on freeing from his torment, had met and killed this robber-assassin, and Jupiter, for his sins, decreed that the malefactor should continually be rolling up a hill in Tartarus a heavy stone which, when with incredible pains he had brought nearly to the top, always rolled back again, and he had to begin over and over again the heart-breaking ascent.
Some distance from Sisyphus Hercules came upon Tantalus, who, in the flesh, had been King of Phrygia, but who now, weak from hunger and parched with thirst, was made to stand to his chin in water with branches of tempting luscious fruit hanging ripe over his head. When he essayed to drink the water it always went from him, and when he stretched out his hand to pluck the fruit, back the branches sprang out of reach.
In addition an immense rock, hung over his head, threatened every moment to crush him. It is said that Tantalus, when in the flesh, had betrayed the secrets of the gods and also committed other great crimes. For this he was "tantalized" with food and drink, which, seeming always to be within his reach, ever mocked his hopes by eluding his grasp.[pg 270]
The groans of a crowd of disheveled women next attracted the affrighted attention of Hercules. They were forty-nine of the fifty daughters of Danaus, King of Argos, who, at the instigation of their father, had killed their husbands because Danaus thought they were conspiring to depose him.
One only of the fifty, to wit Hypermnestra, had the courage to disobey this unlawful command and so saved the life of Lynceus, her husband, with whom she fled. Later on Lynceus returned and slew the cruel King in battle.
To punish the forty-nine Danaides, Jupiter cast them into the outer darkness of Black Tartarus, where they were ever engaged in the hopeless task of pouring water into a sieve. Hypermnestra, on the contrary, was honored while alive, and also after her death, for loving goodness even more than she loved her father.
Glutted with horror Hercules at length quitted gloomy Tartarus and beheld in front of him still another river. This was Lethe. Whoso drank the waters of this river, which separated the place of torment from the abode of the blest, lost memory of all that had been aforetime in his mind, and so was no longer troubled by even the remembrance of human misery.
Across Lethe stretched the Elysian Fields where the shades of the blest dwelt in bliss without alloy. An enchanting greenness made the sweet-smelling groves as pleasant to the eye as they were to the sense of smell. Sunlit, yet never parched with torrid heat, everywhere their verdure charmed the delighted eye, and all things conspired to make the shades of the good and wise, who were privileged to dwell in these Elysian Fields, delightfully happy.Hercules saw, in these shady regions of the blest, a crowd of kings, heroes and men and women of lower degree who, while on earth, had loved and served their fellow men.
Having at length found and released Theseus, Hercules set out with him for the upper world. The two left Hades by an ivory door, the key of which Pluto had confided to their care.[pg 271] What awesome tales they had to recount to their wondering friends of the marvels of Black Tartarus and of Radiant Elysium!IV
THE TUNIC OF NESSUS THE CENTAUR
There abode in Thessaly, in the days of Hercules, a strange race of men who had the head and arms of a man together with the body of a horse. They were called Centaurs, or BullSlayers.
One of them named Cheiron, famous for his knowledge of medicine, music and botany, had been the teacher of Hercules. But many of them, although learned, were not good. Hercules and Theseus had waged war on them and had killed many, so that their numbers were greatly lessened.
Having married Deianira, the daughter of a powerful King of Calydon, in Greece, Hercules was traveling home with her when he came to the banks of a river and was at a loss how to cross it. Seeing his perplexity, Nessus, one of the Centaurs, offered to take Deianira on his back and carry her over the stream. This offer Hercules gladly accepted.
No sooner, however, did the crafty Centaur obtain possession of Deianira than he made off with her, intending to have her as his own wife. You can easily imagine how angry this outrage made Hercules. He shot one of his poisoned arrows with so much force that it went right through the traitor Centaur, and wounded him even unto death.
But, before dying, Nessus had time to tell Deianira that if she wanted to keep Hercules always true to her she had but to take his shirt, and, when her husband's love was waning, prevail on him to wear it.Deianira took the shirt, and shortly afterwards, being afraid that her husband was ceasing to love her, she sent it to him as a present.
Now, you will remember that Hercules had shot through the shirt of Nessus one of his poisoned arrows, and you will not be [pg 272] surprised to hear that some of the poison had remained in the shirt. So when Hercules put it on, which he did immediately upon receiving it, he was seized with frenzy and, in his madness, he uttered terrible cries and did dreadful deeds.With his powerful hands he broke off huge pieces of rock, tore up pine-trees by their roots and hurled them with resounding din into the valley. He could not take off the fatal shirt, and as he tore off portions of it he tore, at the same time, his quivering flesh.
The servant of Deianira who had carried him the fatal shirt, and who wished to solace him in his pain, he seized as she approached him and flung headlong into the sea, where she was changed into a rock that long, so runs the legend, kept its human form.
But at length the majesty and the courage of the hero asserted themselves, and, although still in agony, his madness left him.
Calling to his side his friend Philoctetes, he wished to embrace him once more before dying; but fearful lest he should, in so doing, infect his friend with the deadly poison that was consuming him, he cried in his agony: "Alas, I am not even permitted to embrace thee!"
Then he gathered together the trees he had uprooted and made a huge funeral pyre, such as was used by the ancients in burning their dead. Climbing to the top of the heap, he spread out the skin of the Nemean lion, and, supporting himself upon his club, gave the signal for Philoctetes to kindle the fire that was to reduce him to ashes.In return for this service he gave Philoctetes a quiver full of those deadly arrows that had been dipped in the blood of the Hydra of Lerna.
He further enjoined his friend to let no man know of his departure from life, to the intent that the fear of his approach might prevent fresh monsters and new robbers from ravaging the earth.
Thus died Hercules, and after his death he was received as a god amongst the Immortals on Mount Olympus, where he married Hebe, Jove's cupbearer. In his honor mortals were commanded to build altars and to raise temples.
The Perilous Voyage Of ÆneasADAPTED BY ALICE ZIMMEKN
Once upon a time, nearly three thousand years ago, the city of Troy in Asia Minor was at the height of its prosperity. It was built on a fortified hill on the southern slopes of the Hellespont, and encircled by strong walls that the gods had helped to build. Through their favor Troy became so strong and powerful that she subdued many of the neighboring states and forced them to fight for her and do her bidding. Thus it happened that when the Greeks came to Asia with an army of 100,000 men, Troy was able to hold out against them for nine years, and in the tenth was only taken by a trick.
In the "Iliad" of Homer you may read all about the quarrel between the Trojans and Greeks, the fighting before Troy and the brave deeds done by Hector and Achilles, and many other heroes. You will see there how the gods took part in the quarrel, and how Juno, who was the wife of Jupiter and queen of heaven, hated Troy because Paris had given the golden apple to Venus as the fairest among goddesses. Juno never forgave this insult to her beauty, and vowed that she would not rest till the hated city was destroyed and its very name wiped from the face of the earth. You shall now hear how she carried out her threat, and overwhelmed Æneas with disasters.
After a siege that lasted ten years Troy was taken at last by means of the wooden horse, which the Trojans foolishly dragged into the city with their own hands. Inside it were hidden a number of Greeks, who were thus carried into the heart of the enemy's city. The Trojans celebrated the departure of the Greeks by feasting and drinking far into the night; but when at last they retired to rest, the Greeks stole out of their hiding-place, and opened the gates to their army, which had only pretended to withdraw. Before the Trojans had recovered their wits the town was full of enemies, who threw blazing torches on the houses and killed every citizen who fell into their hands.
Among the many noble princes who fought against the [pg 274] Greeks none was braver and handsomer than Æneas. His mother was the goddess Venus, and his father a brave and powerful Prince named Anchises, while Creusa, his wife, was one of King Priam's daughters. On that dreadful night, when the Greeks were burning and killing in the very streets of Troy, Æneas lay sleeping in his palace when there appeared to him a strange vision. He thought that Hector stood before him carrying the images of the Trojan gods and bade him arise and leave the doomed city. "To you Troy entrusts her gods and her fortunes. Take these images, and go forth beyond the seas, and with their auspices found a new Troy on foreign shores."
Roused from his slumbers Æneas sprang up in haste, put on his armor and rushed into the fray. He was joined by a few comrades, and together they made their way through the enemy, killing all who blocked their path. But when they reached the royal palace and found that the Greeks had already forced their way in and killed the aged man by his own hearth, Æneas remembered his father and his wife and his little son Ascanius. Since he could not hope to save the city he might at least take thought for his own kin. While he still hesitated whether to retire or continue the fight, his goddess mother appeared and bade him go and succor his household. "Your efforts to save the city are vain," she said. "The gods themselves make war on Troy. Juno stands by the gate urging on the Greeks, Jupiter supplies them with hope and courage, and Neptune is breaking down with his trident the walls he helped to raise. Fly, my son, fly. I will bring you safely to your own threshold."
Guided by her protecting hand, Æneas came in safety to his palace, and bade his family prepare in all haste for flight. But his father refused to stir a step. "Let me die here at the enemy's hands," he implored. "Better thus than to go into exile in my old age. Do you go, my son, whither the gods summon you, and leave me to my fate." In vain Æneas reasoned and pleaded, in vain he refused to go without his father; neither prayers nor entreaties would move Anchises till the gods sent him a sign. Suddenly the child's hair burst into flames. The father and mother were terrified, but Anchises recognised the good omen, [pg 275] and prayed the gods to show whether his interpretation was the true one. In answer there came a clap of thunder and a star flashed across the sky and disappeared among the woods on Mount Ida. Then Anchises was sure that the token was a true one. "Delay no more!" he cried. "I will accompany you, and go in hope wheresoever the gods of my country shall lead me. This is a sign from heaven, and the gods, if it be their will, may yet preserve our city."
"Come then, father!" cried Æneas joyfully. "Let me take you on my back, for your feeble limbs would move too slowly for the present danger. You shall hold the images of the gods, since it would be sacrilege for me to touch them with my blood-stained hands. Little Ascanius shall take my hand, and Creusa will follow us closely."
He now ordered the servants to collect all the most valuable possessions, and bring them to him at the temple of Ceres, just outside the city. Then he set out with father, wife and son, and they groped their way through the city by the light of burning homesteads. Thus they passed at last through the midst of the enemy, and reached the temple of Ceres. There, to his dismay, Æneas missed Creusa. He rushed back to the city and made his way to his own house. He found it in flames, and the enemy were sacking the ruins. Nowhere could he find a trace of his wife. Wild with grief and anxiety he wandered at random through the city till suddenly he fancied he saw Creusa. But it was her ghost, not her living self. She spoke to her distracted husband and bade him grieve no more. "Think not," she said, "that this has befallen without the will of the gods. The Fates have decided that Creusa shall not follow you to your new home. There are long and weary wanderings before you, and you must traverse many stormy seas before you come to the western land where the river Tiber pours its gentle stream through the fertile pastures of Italy. There shall you find a kingdom and a royal bride. Cease then to mourn for Creusa." Æneas tried to clasp her in his arms, but in vain, for he only grasped the empty air. Then he understood that the gods desired him to go forth into the world alone.
While Æneas was seeking Creusa a group of Trojans who [pg 276] had escaped the enemy and the flames had collected at the temple of Ceres, and he found them ready and willing to join him and follow his fortunes. The first rays of the sun were touching the peaks of Ida when Aeneas and his comrades turned their backs on the ill-fated city, and went towards the rising sun and the new hope.
For several months Æneas and his little band of followers lived as refugees among the hills of Ida, and their numbers grew as now one, now another, came to join them. All through the winter they were hard at work cutting down trees and building ships, which were to carry them across the seas. When spring came the fleet was ready, and the little band set sail. First they merely crossed the Hellespont to Thrace, for Aeneas hoped to found a city here and revive the name of Troy. But bad omens came to frighten the Trojans and drive them back to their ships.
They now took a southward course, and sailed on without stopping till they reached Delos, the sacred isle of Apollo. Here Aeneas entered the temple and offered prayer to the lord of prophecy. "Grant us a home, Apollo, grant us an abiding city. Preserve a second Troy for the scanty remnant that escaped the swords of the Greeks and the wrath of cruel Achilles. Tell us whom to follow, whither to turn, where to found our city."
His prayer was not offered in vain, for a voice spoke in answer. "Ye hardy sons of Dardanus, the land that erst sent forth your ancestral race shall welcome you back to its fertile fields. Go and seek your ancient mother. There shall the offspring of Æneas rule over all the lands, and their children's children unto the furthest generations."
When he had heard this oracle, Anchises said, "In the middle of the sea lies an island called Crete, which is sacred to Jupiter. There we shall find an older Mount Ida, and beside it the cradle of our race. Thence, if tradition speaks truth, our great ancestor Teucrus set sail for Asia and there he founded his kingdom, and named our mountain Ida. Let us steer our course therefore to Crete, and if Jupiter be propitious, the third dawn will bring us to its shores."[pg 277]
Accordingly they set out again full of hope, and passed in and out again among the gleaming islands of the Ægean, till at last they came to Crete. There they disembarked, and began to build a city. The houses were rising, the citadel was almost ready, the fields were planted and sown, and the young men were seeking wives, when suddenly the crops were stricken by a blight and the men by a pestilence. Surely, they thought, this could not be the home promised them by Apollo. In this distress Anchises bade his son return to Delos and implore the gods to vouchsafe further counsel.
At night Æneas lay down to rest, troubled by many anxieties, when suddenly he was roused by the moonlight streaming through the window and illuminating the images of the Trojan gods. It seemed as though they opened their lips and spoke to him. "All that Apollo would have told you at Delos, we may declare to you here, for he has given us a message to you. We followed your arms after the burning of Troy, and traversed the ocean under your guidance, and we shall raise your descendants to the stars and give dominion to their city. But do not seek it here. These are not the shores that Apollo assigns you, nor may Crete be your abiding place. Far to the west lies the land which the Greeks called Hesperia, but which now bears the name of Italy. There is our destined home; thence came Dardanus, our great ancestor and the father of our race."
Amazed at this vision, Æneas sprang up and lifted his hands to heaven in prayer. Then he hastened to tell Anchises of this strange event. They resolved to tarry no longer, but turning their backs on the rising walls they drew their ships down to the sea again, and once more set forth in search of a new country.
Now they sailed towards the west, and rounded the south of Greece into the Ionian Sea. But a storm drove them out of their course, and the darkness was so thick that they could not tell night from day, and the helmsman, Palinurus, knew not whither he was steering. Thus they were tossed about aimlessly for three days and nights, till at last they saw land ahead and, lowering their sails, rowed safely into a quiet harbor. Not a human being was in sight, but herds of cattle grazed on the [pg 278] pastures, and goats sported untended on the rocks. Here was even food in plenty for hungry men. They killed oxen and goats, and made ready a feast for themselves, and a sacrifice for the gods. The repast was prepared, and Æneas and his comrades were about to enjoy it, when a sound of rustling wings was heard all round them. Horrible creatures, half birds, half women, with long talons and cruel beaks, swooped down on the tables and carried off the food before the eyes of the terrified banqueters. These were the Harpies, who had once been sent to plague King Phineus, and when they were driven away by two of the Argonauts, Zetes and Calais, took refuge in these islands. In vain the Trojans attacked them with their swords, for the monsters would fly out of reach, and then dart back again on a sudden, and pounce once more on the food, while Celæno, chief of the Harpies, perched on a rock and chanted in hoarse tones a prophecy of ill omen. "You that kill our oxen and seek to drive us from our rightful home, hearken to my words, which Jupiter declared to Apollo, and Apollo told even to me. You are sailing to Italy, and you shall reach Italy and enter its harbors. But you are not destined to surround your city with a wall, till cruel hunger and vengeance for the wrong you have done us force you to gnaw your very tables with your teeth."
When the Trojans heard this terrible prophecy their hearts sank within them, and Anchises, lifting his hands to heaven, besought the gods to avert this grievous doom. Thus, full of sad forebodings, they returned to their ships.
Their way now lay along the western coast of Greece, and they were glad to slip unnoticed past the rocky island of Ithaca, the home of Ulysses the wily. For they did not know that he was still held captive by the nymph Calypso, and that many years were to pass before he should be restored to his kingdom. They next cast anchor off Leucadia, and passed the winter in these regions. In spring they sailed north again, and landed in Epirus, and here to their surprise they found Helenus, one of the sons of Priam, ruling over a Greek people. He welcomed his kinsman joyfully and, having the gift of prophecy from Apollo, foretold the course of his wanderings. "Italy, which you deem[pg 279] so near, is a far-distant land, and many adventures await you before you reach that shore where lies your destined home. Before you reach it, you will visit Sicily, and the realms of the dead and the island of Circe. But I will give you a sign whereby you may know the appointed place. When by the banks of a secluded stream you shall see a huge white sow with her thirty young ones, then shall you have reached the limit of your wanderings. Be sure to avoid the eastern coast of Italy opposite these shores. Wicked Greek tribes have their dwelling there, and it is safer to pass at once to the western coast. On your left, you will hear in the Strait the thundering roar of Charybdis, and on the right grim Scylla sits scowling in her cave ready to spring on the unwary traveler. Better take a long circuit round Sicily than come even within sight and sound of Scylla. As soon as you touch the western shores of Italy, go to the city of Cumæ and the Sibyl's cavern. Try to win her favor, and she will tell you of the nations of Italy and the wars yet to come, and how you may avoid each peril and accomplish every labor. One warning would I give you and enjoin it with all my power. If you desire to reach your journey's end in safety, forget not to do homage to Juno. Offer up prayers to her divinity, load her altars with gifts. Then, and then only, may you hope for a happy issue from all your troubles!"
So once more the Trojans set sail, and obedient to the warnings of Helenus they avoided the eastern coast of Italy, and struck southward towards Sicily. Far up the channel they heard the roar of Charybdis and hastened their speed in fear. Soon the snowy cone of Etna came into view with its column of smoke rising heavenward. As they lay at anchor hard by, a ragged, half-starved wretch ran out of the woods calling loudly on Æneas for succor. This was one of the comrades of Ulysses, who had been left behind by mistake, and lived in perpetual dread of the savage Cyclôpes. Æneas was moved to pity, and though the man was a Greek and an enemy, he took him on board and gave him food and succor. Before they left this place they had a glimpse of Polyphemus himself. The blind giant came down the cliff with his flock, feeling his way with a huge staff of pine-trunk. He even stepped into [pg 280] the sea, and walked far out without wetting his thighs. The Trojans hastily slipped their cables, and made away. Polyphemus heard the sound of their oars, and called his brother Cyclôpes to come and seize the strangers, but they were too late to overtake the fugitives.
After this they continued their southward course, passing the island where Syracuse now stands, and rounding the southern coast of Sicily. Then they sailed past the tall rock of Acragas and palm-loving Selinus, and so came to the western corner, where the harbor of Drepanun gave them shelter. Here a sorrow overtook Æneas, that neither the harpy nor the seer had foretold. Anchises, weary with wandering and sick of long-deferred hope, fell ill and died. Sadly Æneas sailed from hence without his trusted friend and counselor, and steered his course for Italy.
At last the goal seemed at hand and the dangers of the narrow strait had been escaped. But Æneas had a far more dangerous enemy than Scylla and Charybdis, for Juno's wrath was not yet appeased. He had offered prayer and sacrifice, as Helenus bade him, but her long-standing grudge was not so easily forgotten. She hated Troy and the Trojans with an undying hatred, and would not suffer even these few-storm-tossed wanderers to seek their new home in peace. She knew too that it was appointed by the Fates that a descendant of this fugitive Trojan should one day found a city destined to eclipse in wealth and glory her favorite city of Carthage. This she desired to avert at all costs, and if even the queen of heaven was not strong enough to overrule fate, at least she resolved that the Trojans should not enter into their inheritance without many and grievous tribulations.
Off the northerncoast of Sicily lies a group of small islands, still called the Æolian Isles, after Æolus, king of the winds, whose palace stood upon the largest. Here he lived in a rock-bound castle, and kept the boisterous winds fast bound in strong dungeons, that they might not go forth unbidden to work havoc and destruction. But for his restraining hand they would have burst forth and swept away land and sea in their fury. To this rocky fortress Juno came with a request to Æolus. "Men [pg 281] of a race hateful to me are now crossing the sea. I beseech you, therefore, send a storm to scatter the ships and drown the men in the waves. As a reward I will give you one of my fairest nymphs in marriage." Thus she urged, and at her bidding Æolus struck the rock and the prison gates were opened. The winds at once rushed forth in all directions. The clouds gathered and blotted out sky and daylight, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and the Trojans thought their last hour had come. Even Æneas lost heart, and envied the lot of those who fell before Troy by the sword of Diomede. Soon a violent gust struck his ship, the oars were broken, and the prow turned round and exposed the side to the waves. The water closed over it, then opened again, and drew down the vessel, leaving the men floating on the water. Three ships were dashed against sunken rocks, three were driven among the shallows and blocked with a mound of sand. Another was struck from stem to stern, then sucked down into a whirlpool. One after another the rest succumbed, and it seemed as if each moment must see their utter destruction.
Meantime Neptune in his palace at the bottom of the sea had noticed the sudden disturbance of the waters, and now put out his head above the waves to learn the cause of this commotion. When he saw the shattered Trojan ships he guessed that this was Juno's work. Instantly he summoned the winds and chid them for daring to disturb the waters without his leave. "Begone," he said, "and tell your master Æolus that the dominion of the sea is mine, not his. Let him be content to keep guard over you and see that you do not escape from your prison." While he spoke Neptune was busy calming the waters, and it was not long before he put the clouds to flight and brought back the sunshine. Nymphs came to push the ships off the rocks, and Neptune himself opened a way out of the shallows. Then he returned to his chariot, and his white horses carried him lightly across the calm waters.
Thankful to have saved a few of his ships, all shattered and leaking as they were, Æneas bade the helmsman steer for the nearest land. What was their joy to see within easy reach a quiet harbor closed in by a sheltering island. The entrance [pg 282] was guarded by twin cliffs, and a forest background closed in the scene. Once within this shelter the weary vessels needed no anchor to secure them. Here at last Æneas and his comrades could stretch their aching limbs on dry land. They kindled a fire of leaves with a flint, and dried their sodden corn for a scanty meal.
Æneas now climbed one of the hills to see whether he might catch a glimpse of any of the missing ships. Not a sail was in sight, but in the valley below he spied a herd of deer grazing. Here was better food for hungry men. Drawing an arrow from his quiver, he fitted it to his bow, let fly, and a mighty stag fell to his aim. Six others shared its fate, then Æneas returned with his booty and bade his friends make merry with venison and Sicilian wine from the ships. As they ate and drank, he tried to hearten the Trojans. "Endure a little longer," he urged. "Think of the perils through which we have passed, remember the dreadful Cyclôpes and cruel Scylla. Despair not now, for one day the memory of past sufferings shall delight your hours of ease. Through toils and hardships we are making our way to Latium, where the gods have promised us a peaceful home and a new and glorious Troy. Hold out a little while, and wait for the happy days in store."
How Horatius Held The BridgeADAPTED BY ALFRED J. CHURCH
King Tarquin  and his son Lucius (for he only remained to him of the three) fled to Lars Porsenna, King of Clusium, and besought him that he would help them. "Suffer not," they said, "that we, who are Tuscans by birth, should remain any more in poverty and exile. And take heed also to thyself and thine own kingdom if thou permit this new fashion of driving forth kings to go unpunished. For surely there is [pg 283] that in freedom which men greatly desire, and if they that be kings defend not their dignity as stoutly as others seek to overthrow it, then shall the highest be made even as the lowest, and there shall be an end of kingship, than which there is nothing more honorable under heaven." With these words they persuaded King Porsenna, who judging it well for the Etrurians that there should be a king at Rome, and that king an Etrurian by birth, gathered together a great army and came up against Rome. But when men heard of his coming, so mighty a city was Clusium in those days, and so great the fame of King Porsenna, there was such fear as had never been before. Nevertheless they were steadfastly purposed to hold out. And first all that were in the country fled into the city, and round about the city they set guards to keep it, part thereof being defended by walls, and part, for so it seemed, being made safe by the river. But here a great peril had well-nigh over-taken the city; for there was a wooden bridge on the river by which the enemy had crossed but for the courage of a certain Horatius Cocles. The matter fell out in this wise.
There was a certain hill which men called Janiculum on the side of the river, and this hill King Porsenna took by a sudden attack. Which when Horatius saw (for he chanced to have been set to guard the bridge, and saw also how the enemy were running at full speed to the place, and how the Romans were fleeing in confusion and threw away their arms as they ran), he cried with a loud voice, "Men of Rome, it is to no purpose that ye thus leave your post and flee, for if ye leave this bridge behind you for men to pass over, ye shall soon find that ye have more enemies in your city than in Janiculum. Do ye therefore break it down with axe and fire as best ye can. In the meanwhile I, so far as one man may do, will stay the enemy." And as he spake he ran forward to the farther end of the bridge and made ready to keep the way against the enemy. Nevertheless there stood two with him, Lartius and Herminius by name, men of noble birth both of them and of great renown in arms. So these three for a while stayed the first onset of the enemy; and the men of Rome meanwhile brake down the bridge. And when there was but a small part remaining, [pg 284] and they that brake it down called to the three that they should come back, Horatius bade Lartius and Herminius return, but he himself remained on the farther side, turning his eyes full of wrath in threatening fashion on the princes of the Etrurians, and crying, "Dare ye now to fight with me? or why are ye thus come at the bidding of your master, King Porsenna, to rob others of the freedom that ye care not to have for yourselves?" For a while they delayed, looking each man to his neighbor, who should first deal with this champion of the Romans. Then, for very shame, they all ran forward, and raising a great shout, threw their javelins at him. These all he took upon his shield, nor stood the less firmly in his place on the bridge, from which when they would have thrust him by force, of a sudden the men of Rome raised a great shout, for the bridge was now altogether broken down, and fell with a great crash into the river. And as the enemy stayed a while for fear, Horatius turned him to the river and said, "O Father Tiber, I beseech thee this day with all reverence that thou kindly receive this soldier and his arms." And as he spake he leapt with all his arms into the river and swam across to his own people, and though many javelins of the enemy fell about him, he was not one whit hurt. Nor did such valor fail to receive due honor from the city. For the citizens set up a statue of Horatius in the market-place; and they gave him of the public land so much as he could plow about in one day. Also there was this honor paid him, that each citizen took somewhat of his own store and gave it to him, for food was scarce in the city by reason of the siege.Footnote : King Tarquin had been driven from Rome because of his tyranny.
How Cincinnatus Saved RomeADAPTED BY ALFRED J. CHURCH
It came to pass that the Æquians brake the treaty of peace which they had made with Rome, and, taking one Gacchus Cloelius for their leader, marched into the land of Tusculum; and when they had plundered the country there-abouts, [pg 285] and had gathered together much booty, they pitched their camp on Mount Ægidus. To them the Romans sent three ambassadors, who should complain of the wrong done and seek redress. But when they would have fulfilled their errand, Gracchus the Æquin spake, saying, "If ye have any message from the Senate of Rome, tell it to this oak, for I have other business to do;" for it chanced that there was a great oak that stood hard by, and made a shadow over the general's tent. Then one of the ambassadors, as he turned to depart, made reply, "Yes, let this sacred oak and all the gods that are in heaven hear how ye have wrongfully broken the treaty of peace; and let them that hear help us also in the day of battle, when we shall avenge on you the laws both of gods and of men that ye set at nought."
When the ambassadors had returned to Rome the Senate commanded that there should be levied two armies; and that Minucius the Consul should march with the one against the Æquians on Mount Ægidus, and that the other should hinder the enemy from their plundering. This levying the tribunes of the Commons sought to hinder; and perchance had done so, but there also came well-nigh to the walls of the city a great host of the Sabines plundering all the country. Thereupon the people willingly offered themselves and there were levied forthwith two great armies. Nevertheless when the Consul Minucius had marched to Mount Ægidus, and had pitched his camp not far from the Æquians, he did nought for fear of the enemy, but kept himself within his entrenchments. And when the enemy perceived that he was afraid, growing the bolder for his lack of courage, they drew lines about him, keeping him in on every side. Yet before that he was altogether shut up there escaped from his camp five horsemen, that bare tidings to Rome how that the Consul, together with his army, was besieged. The people were sorely dismayed to hear such tidings; nor, when they cast about for help, saw they any man that might be sufficient for such peril, save only Cincinnatus. By common consent, therefore, he was made Dictator for six months, a thing that may well be noted by those who hold that nothing is to be accounted of in comparison of riches, and that [pg 286] no man may win great honor or show forth singular virtue unless he be well furnished with wealth. For here in this great peril of the Roman people there was no hope of safety but in one who was cultivating with his own hand a little plot of scarcely three acres of ground. For when the messengers of the people came to him they found him plowing, or, as some say, digging a ditch. When they had greeted each other, the messengers said, "May the Gods prosper this thing to the Roman people and to thee. Put on thy robe and hear the words of the people." Then said Cincinnatus, being not a little astonished, "Is all well?" and at the same time he called to his wife Racilia that she should bring forth his robe from the cottage. So she brought it forth, and the man wiped from him the dust and the sweat, and clad himself in his robe, and stood before the messengers. These said to him, "The people of Rome make thee Dictator, and bid thee come forthwith to the city." And at the same time they told how the Consul and his army were besieged by the Æquians. So Cincinnatus departed to Rome; and when he came to the other side of the Tiber there met him first his three sons, and next many of his kinsfolk and friends, and after them a numerous company of the nobles. These all conducted him to his house, the lictors, four and twenty in number, marching before him. There was also assembled a very great concourse of the people, fearing much how the Dictator might deal with them, for they knew what manner of man he was, and that there was no limit to his power, nor any appeal from him.
The next day, before dawn, the Dictator came into the market-place, and appointed one Lucius Tarquinius to be Master of the Horse. This Tarquinius was held by common consent to excel all other men in exercises of war; only, though, being a noble by birth, he should have been among the horsemen, he had served for lack of means, as a foot soldier. This done he called an assembly of the people and commanded that all the shops in the city should be shut; that no man should concern himself with any private business, but all that were of an age to go to the war should be present before sunset in the Field of Mars, each man having with him provisions of cooked food for five days, and twelve stakes. As for them that were past the age, they should [pg 287] prepare the food while the young men made ready their arms and sought for the stakes. These last they took as they found them, no man hindering them; and when the time appointed by the Dictator was come, all were assembled, ready, as occasion might serve, either to march or to give battle. Forthwith they set out, the Dictator leading the foot soldiers by their legions, and Tarquinius the horsemen, and each bidding them that followed make all haste. "We must needs come," they said, "to our journey's end while it is yet night. Remember that the Consul and his army have been besieged now for three days, and that no man knows what a day or a night may bring forth." The soldiers themselves also were zealous to obey, crying out to the standard-*bearers that they should quicken their steps, and to their fellows that they should not lag behind. Thus they came at midnight to Mount Ædigus, and when they perceived that the enemy was at hand they halted the standards. Then the Dictator rode forward to see, so far as the darkness would suffer him, how great was the camp of the Æquians and after what fashion it was pitched. This done he commanded that the baggage should be gathered together into a heap, and that the soldiers should stand every man in his own place. After this he compassed about the whole army of the enemy with his own army, and commanded that at a set signal every man should shout, and when they had shouted should dig a trench and set up therein the stakes. This the soldiers did, and the noise of the shouting passed over the camp of the enemy and came into the city, causing therein great joy, even as it caused great fear in the camp. For the Romans cried, "These be our countrymen and they bring us help." Then said the Consul, "We must make no delay. By that shout is signified, not that they are come only, but that they are already dealing with the enemy. Doubtless the camp of the Æquians is even now assailed from without. Take ye your arms and follow me." So the legion went forth, it being yet night, to the battle, and as they went they shouted, that the Dictator might be aware. Now the Æquians had set themselves to hinder the making of a ditch and rampart which should shut them in; but when the Romans from the camp fell upon them, fearing lest these should make their way [pg 288] through the midst of their camp, they left them that were with Cincinnatus to finish their entrenching, and fought with the Consul. And when it was now light, lo! they were already shut in, and the Romans, having finished their entrenching, began to trouble them. And when the Æquians perceived that the battle was now on either side of them, they could withstand no longer, but sent ambassadors praying for peace, and saying, "Ye have prevailed; slay us not, but rather permit us to depart, leaving our arms behind us." Then said the Dictator, "I care not to have the blood of the Æquians. Ye may depart, but ye shall depart passing under the yoke, that ye may thus acknowledge to all men that ye are indeed vanquished." Now the yoke is thus made. There are set up in the ground two spears, and over them is bound by ropes a third spear. So the Æquians passed under the yoke.
In the camp of the enemy there was found abundance of spoil. This the Dictator gave wholly to his own soldiers. "Ye were well-nigh a spoil to the enemy," said he to the army of the Consul, "therefore ye shall have no share in the spoiling of them. As for thee, Minucius, be thou a lieutenant only till thou hast learnt how to bear thyself as a consul." Meanwhile at Rome there was held a meeting of the Senate, at which it was commanded that Cincinnatus should enter the city in triumph, his soldiers following him in order of march. Before his chariot there were led the generals of the enemy; also the standards were carried in the front; and after these came the army, every man laden with spoil. That day there was great rejoicing in the city, every man setting forth a banquet before his doors in the street.
After this, Virginius, that had borne false witness against Cæso, was found guilty of perjury, and went into exile. And when Cincinnatus saw that justice had been done to this evildoer, he resigned his dictatorship, having held it for sixteen days only.
ADAPTED BY H.E. MARSHALL
HOW BEOWULF OVERCAME THE OGRE AND THE WATER-WITCH
Long ago, there lived in Daneland a King, beloved of all, called Hrothgar. He was valiant and mighty in war, overcoming all his foes and taking from them much spoil. Looking upon his great treasure, King Hrothgar said, "I will build me a great hall. It shall be vast and wide, adorned within and without with gold and ivory, with gems and carved work. It shall be a hall of joy and feasting."
Then King Hrothgar called his workmen and gave them commandment to build the hall. They set to work, and becoming each day more fair, the hall was at length finished. It stood upon a height, vast and stately, and as it was adorned with the horns of deer, King Hrothgar named it Hart Hall. The King made a great feast. To it his warriors young and old were called, and he divided his treasure, giving to each rings of gold. And so in the hall there was laughter and song and great merriment. Every evening when the shadows fell, and the land grew dark without, the knights and warriors gathered in the hall to feast. And when the feast was over, and the great fire roared upon the hearth, the minstrel took his harp and sang. Far over dreary fen and moorland the light glowed cheerfully, and the sound of song and harp awoke the deep silence of the night. Within the hall was light and gladness, but without there was wrath and hate. For far on the moor there lived a wicked giant named Grendel, prowling at night to see what evil he might do.[pg 290]
Very terrible was this ogre Grendel to look upon. Thick black hair hung about his face, and his teeth were long and sharp, like the tusks of an animal. His huge body and great hairy arms had the strength of ten men. He wore no armor, for his skin was tougher than any coat of mail that man or giant might weld. His nails were like steel and sharper than daggers, and by his side there hung a great pouch in which he carried off those whom he was ready to devour. Day by day the music of harp and song was a torture to him and made him more and more mad with jealous hate.
At length he crept through the darkness to Hart Hall where the warriors slept after feast and song. Arms and armor had been thrown aside, so with ease the ogre slew thirty of the bravest. Howling with wicked joy he carried them off and devoured them. The next night, again the wicked one crept stealthily through the darkening moorland until he reached Hart Hall, stretched forth his hand, and seized the bravest of the warriors. In the morning each man swore that he would not again sleep beneath the roof of the hall. For twelve years it stood thus, no man daring, except in the light of day, to enter it.
And now it came to pass that across the sea in far Gothland the tale of Grendel and his wrath was carried to Beowulf the Goth, who said he would go to King Hrothgar to help him. Taking with him fifteen good comrades, he set sail for Daneland.
When Hrothgar was told that Beowulf had come to help him, he said, "I knew him when he was yet a lad. His father and his mother have I known. Truly he hath sought a friend. I have heard that he is much renowned in war, and hath the strength of thirty men in the grip of his hand. I pray Heaven he hath been sent to free us from the horror of Grendel. Bid Beowulf and his warriors to enter."
Guided by the Danish knight, Beowulf and his men went into Hart Hall and stood before the aged Hrothgar. After friendly words of greeting Beowulf said, "And now will I fight against Grendel, bearing neither sword nor shield. With my hands alone will I grapple with the fiend, and foe to foe we will fight for victory."[pg 291]
That night Beowulf's comrades slept in Hart Hall. Beowulf alone remained awake. Out of the mists of the moorland the Evil Thing strode. Loud he laughed as he gazed upon the sleeping warriors. Beowulf, watchful and angry, curbed his wrath. Grendel seized one of the men, drank his blood, crushed his bones, and swallowed his horrid feast. Then Beowulf caught the monster and fought till the noise of the contest was as of thunder. The knights awoke and tried to plunge their swords into the hide of Grendel, but in vain. By enchantments he had made himself safe. At length the fight came to an end. The sinews in Grendel's shoulder burst, the bones cracked. The ogre tore himself free, leaving his arm in Beowulf's mighty grip.
Sobbing forth his death-song, Grendel fled till he reached his dwelling in the lake of the water-dragons, and there plunged in. The dark waves closed over him and he sank to his home. Loud were the songs of triumph in Hart Hall, great the rejoicing, for Beowulf had made good his boast. He had cleansed the hall of the ogre. A splendid feast was made and much treasure given to Beowulf by the King and Queen.
Again did the Dane lords sleep in the great hall, but far away in the water-dragons' lake the mother of Grendel wept over the dead body of her son, desiring revenge. Very terrible to look upon was this water-witch. As the darkness fell she crept across the moorland to Hart Hall. In she rushed eager for slaughter. A wild cry rang through the hall. The waterwitch fled, but in doing so carried off the best beloved of all the King's warriors.
Quickly was Beowulf called and he rode forth to the dark lake. Down and down he dived till he came to the cave of the water-witch whom he killed after a desperate struggle. Hard by on a couch lay the body of Grendel. Drawing his sword he smote off the ogre's head. Swimming up with it he reached the surface and sprang to land, and was greeted by his faithful thanes. Four of them were needed to carry the huge head back to Hart Hall.
His task being done Beowulf made haste to return to his own land that he might seek his own King, Hygelac, and lay [pg 292] before him the treasures that Hrothgar had given him. With gracious words the old King thanked the young warrior, and bade him to come again right speedily. Hygelac listened with wonder and delight to all that had happened in Daneland and graciously received the splendid gifts.
For many years Beowulf lived beloved of all, and when it befell that Hygelac died in battle, the broad realm of Gothland was given unto Beowulf to rule. And there for fifty years he reigned a well-loved King.
HOW THE FIRE DRAGON WARRED WITH THE GOTH FOLK And now when many years had come and gone and the realm had long time been at peace, sorrow came upon the people of the Goths. And thus it was that the evil came.
It fell upon a time that a slave by his misdeeds roused his master's wrath, and when his lord would have punished him he fled in terror. And as he fled trembling to hide himself, he came by chance into a great cave.
There the slave hid, thankful for refuge. But soon he had cause to tremble in worse fear than before, for in the darkness of the cave he saw that a fearful dragon lay asleep. Then as the slave gazed in terror at the awful beast, he saw that it lay guarding a mighty treasure.
Never had he seen such a mass of wealth. Swords and armor inlaid with gold, cups and vessels of gold and silver set with precious stones, rings and bracelets lay piled around in glittering heaps.
For hundreds of years this treasure had lain there in secret. A great prince had buried it in sorrow for his dead warriors. In his land there had been much fighting until he alone of all his people was left. Then in bitter grief he gathered all his treasure and hid it in this cave.
"Take, O earth," he cried, "what the heroes might not keep. Lo! good men and true once before earned it from thee. Now a warlike death hath taken away every man of my people. [pg 293] There is none now to bear the sword or receive the cup. There is no more joy in the battle-field or in the hall of peace. So here shall the gold-adorned helmet molder, here the coat of mail rust and the wine-cup lie empty."Thus the sad prince mourned. Beside his treasure he sat weeping both day and night until death took him also, and of all his people there was none left. So the treasure lay hidden and secret for many a day. Then upon a time it happened that a great dragon, fiery-eyed and fearful, as it flew by night and prowled seeking mischief, came upon the buried hoard.
As men well know, a dragon ever loveth gold. So to guard his new-found wealth lest any should come to rob him of it, he laid him down there and the cave became his dwelling. Thus for three hundred years he lay gloating over his treasure, no man disturbing him. But now at length it chanced that the fleeing slave lighted upon the hoard. His eyes were dazzled by the shining heap. Upon it lay a cup of gold, wondrously chased and adorned."If I can but gain that cup," said the slave to himself, "I will return with it to my master, and for the sake of the gold he will surely forgive me."
So while the dragon slept, trembling and fearful the slave crept nearer and nearer to the glittering mass. When he came quite near he reached forth his hand and seized the cup. Then with it he fled back to his master.It befell then as the slave had foreseen. For the sake of the wondrous cup his misdeeds were forgiven him. But when the dragon awoke his fury was great. Well knew he that mortal man had trod his cave and stolen of his hoard.
Round and round about he sniffed and searched until he discovered the footprints of his foe. Eagerly then all over the ground he sought to find the man who, while he slept, had done him this ill. Hot and fierce of mood he went backwards and forwards round about his treasure-heaps. All within the cave he searched in vain. Then coming forth he searched without. All round the hill in which his cave was he prowled, but no [pg 294] man could he find, nor in all the wilds around was there any man.Again the old dragon returned, again he searched among his treasure-heap for the precious cup. Nowhere was it to be found. It was too surely gone.
But the dragon, as well as loving gold, loved war. So now in angry mood he lay couched in his lair. Scarce could he wait until darkness fell, such was his wrath. With fire he was resolved to repay the loss of his dear drinking-cup.At last, to the joy of the great winged beast, the sun sank. Then forth from his cave he came, flaming fire.
Spreading his mighty wings, he flew through the air until he came to the houses of men. Then spitting forth flame, he set fire to many a happy homestead. Wherever the lightning of his tongue struck, there fire flamed forth, until where the fair homes of men had been there was naught but blackened ruins. Here and there, this way and that, through all the land he sped, and wherever he passed fire flamed aloft.
The warfare of the dragon was seen from far. The malice of the worm was known from north to south, from east to west. All men knew how the fearful foe hated and ruined the Goth folk.
Then having worked mischief and desolation all night through, the fire-dragon turned back; to his secret cave he slunk again ere break of day. Behind him he left the land wasted and desolate.
The dragon had no fear of the revenge of man. In his fiery warfare he trusted to find shelter in his hill, and in his secret cave. But in that trust he was misled.
Speedily to King Beowulf were the tidings of the dragon and his spoiling carried. For alas! even his own fair palace was wrapped in flame. Before his eyes he saw the fiery tongues lick up his treasures. Even the Gift-seat of the Goths melted in fire.
Then was the good King sorrowful. His heart boiled within him with angry thoughts. The fire-dragon had utterly destroyed the pleasant homes of his people. For this the warprince greatly desired to punish him.[pg 295]
Therefore did Beowulf command that a great shield should be made for him, all of iron. He knew well that a shield of wood could not help him in this need. Wood against fire! Nay, that were useless. His shield must be all of iron.
Too proud, too, was Beowulf, the hero of old time, to seek the winged beast with a troop of soldiers. Not thus would he overcome him. He feared not for himself, nor did he dread the dragon's war-craft. For with his valor and his skill Beowulf had succeeded many a time. He had been victorious in many a tumult of battle since that day when a young man and a warrior prosperous in victory, he had cleansed Hart Hall by grappling with Grendel and his kin.
And now when the great iron shield was ready, he chose eleven of his best thanes and set out to seek the dragon. Very wrathful was the old King, very desirous that death should take his fiery foe. He hoped, too, to win the great treasure of gold which the fell beast guarded. For already Beowulf had learned whence the feud arose, whence came the anger which had been so hurtful to his people. And the precious cup, the cause of all the quarrel, had been brought to him.
With the band of warriors went the slave who had stolen the cup. He it was who must be their guide to the cave, for he alone of all men living knew the way thither. Loth he was to be their guide. But captive and bound he was forced to lead the way over the plain to the dragon's hill.
Unwillingly he went with lagging footsteps until at length he came to the cave hard by the seashore. There by the sounding waves lay the savage guardian of the treasure. Ready for war and fierce was he. It was no easy battle that was there prepared for any man, brave though he might be.
And now on the rocky point above the sea King Beowulf sat himself down. Here he would bid farewell to all his thanes ere he began the combat. For what man might tell which from that fight should come forth victorious?
Beowulf's mind was sad. He was now old. His hair was white, his face was wrinkled and gray. But still his arm was strong as that of a young man. Yet something within him warned him that death was not far off.
"In my youth," said the aged King, "many battles have I dared, and yet must I, the guardian of my people, though I be full of years, seek still another feud. And again will I win glory if the wicked spoiler of my land will but come forth from his lair."Much he spoke. With loving words he bade farewell to each one of his men, greeting his dear comrades for the last time.
"I would not bear a sword or weapon against the winged beast," he said at length, "if I knew how else I might grapple with the wretch, as of old I did with Grendel. But I ween this war-fire is hot, fierce, and poisonous. Therefore I have clad me in a coat of mail, and bear this shield all of iron. I will not flee a single step from the guardian of the treasure. But to us upon this rampart it shall be as fate will.
"Now let me make no more vaunting speech. Ready to fight am I. Let me forth against the winged beast. Await ye here on the mount, clad in your coats of mail, your arms ready. Abide ye here until ye see which of us twain in safety cometh forth from the clash of battle.
"It is no enterprise for you, or for any common man. It is mine alone. Alone I needs must go against the wretch and prove myself a warrior. I must with courage win the gold, or else deadly, baleful war shall fiercely snatch me, your lord, from life."
Then Beowulf arose. He was all clad in shining armor, his gold-decked helmet was upon his head, and taking his shield in hand he strode under the stony cliffs towards the cavern's mouth. In the strength of his single arm he trusted against the fiery dragon.No enterprise this for a coward. III
HOW BEOWULF OVERCAME THE DRAGON
Beowulf left his comrades upon the rocky point jutting out into the sea, and alone he strode onward until he spied a great [pg 297] stone arch. From beneath the arch, from out the hillside, flowed a stream seething with fierce, hot fire. In this way the dragon guarded his lair, for it was impossible to pass such a barrier unhurt.
So upon the edge of this burning river Beowulf stood and called aloud in anger. Stout of heart and wroth against the winged beast was he.
The King's voice echoed like a war-cry through the cavern. The dragon heard it and was aroused to fresh hate of man. For the guardian of the treasure-hoard knew well the sound of mortal voice. Now was there no long pause ere battle raged.
Then suddenly like a flaming arch the dragon bent and towered, and dashed upon the Lord of the Goths. Up swung the arm of the hero, and dealt a mighty blow to the grisly, many-colored beast. But the famous sword was all too weak against such a foe. The edge turned and bit less strongly than its great king had need, for he was sore pressed. His shield, too, proved no strong shelter from the wrathful dragon.The warlike blow made greater still the anger of the fiery foe. Now he belched forth flaming fire. All around fierce lightnings darted.
Beowulf no longer hoped for glorious victory. His sword [pg 298] had failed him. The edge was turned and blunted upon the scaly foe. He had never thought the famous steel would so ill serve him. Yet he fought on ready to lose his life in such good contest.Again the battle paused, again the King and dragon closed in fight.
The dragon-guardian of the treasure had renewed his courage. His heart heaved and boiled with fire, and fresh strength breathed from him. Beowulf was wrapped in flame. Dire was his need.Yet of all his comrades none came near to help. Nay, as they watched the conflict they were filled with base fear, and fled to the wood hard by for refuge. Only one among them sorrowed for his master, and as he watched his heart was wrung with grief.
Wiglaf was this knight called, and he was Beowulf's kinsman. Now when he saw his liege lord hard pressed in battle he remembered all the favors Beowulf had heaped upon him. He remembered all the honors and the wealth which he owed to his King. Then could he no longer be still. Shield and spear he seized, but ere he sped to aid his King he turned to his comrades.
"When our lord and King gave us swords and armor," he cried, "did we not promise to follow him in battle whenever he had need? When he of his own will chose us for this expedition he reminded us of our fame. He said he knew us to be good warriors, bold helmet-wearers. And although indeed our liege lord thought to do this work of valor alone, without us, because more than any man he hath done glorious and rash deeds, lo! now is the day come that hath need of strength and of good warriors. Come, let us go to him. Let us help our chieftain although the grim terror of fire be hot.
"Heaven knoweth I would rather the flame would blast my body than his who gave me gold. It seemeth not fitting to me that we should bear back our shields to our homes unless we may first fell the foe and defend the life of our King. Nay, it is not of the old custom of the Goths that the King alone should suffer, that he alone should sink in battle. Our lord should [pg 299] be repaid for his gifts to us, and so he shall be by me even if death take us twain."But none would hearken to Wiglaf. So alone he sped through the deadly smoke and flame, till to his master's side he came offering aid.
"My lord Beowulf," he cried, "fight on as thou didst in thy youth-time. Erstwhile didst thou say that thou wouldst not let thy greatness sink so long as life lasteth. Defend thou thy life with all might. I will support thee to the utmost."
When the dragon heard these words his fury was doubled. The fell wicked beast came on again belching forth fire, such was his hatred of men. The flame-waves caught Wiglaf's shield, for it was but of wood. It was burned utterly, so that only the stud of steel remained. His coat of mail alone was not enough to guard the young warrior from the fiery enemy. But right valiantly he went on fighting beneath the shelter of Beowulf's shield now that his own was consumed to ashes by the flames.Then again the warlike King called to mind his ancient glories, again he struck with main strength with his good sword upon the monstrous head. Hate sped the blow.
But alas! as it descended the famous sword Nægling snapped asunder. Beowulf's sword had failed him in the conflict, although it was an old and well-wrought blade. To him it was not granted that weapons should help him in battle. The hand that swung the sword was too strong. His might overtaxed every blade however wondrously the smith had welded it.
And now a third time the fell fire-dragon was roused to wrath. He rushed upon the King. Hot, and fiercely grim the great beast seized Beowulf's neck in his horrid teeth. The hero's life-blood gushed forth, the crimson stream darkly dyed his bright armor. Then in the great King's need his warrior showed skill and courage. Heeding not the flames from the awful mouth, Wiglaf struck the dragon below the neck. His hand was burned with the fire, but his sword dived deep into the monster's body and from that moment the flames began to abate.[pg 300]
The horrid teeth relaxed their hold, and Beowulf, quickly recovering himself, drew his deadly knife. Battle-sharp and keen it was, and with it the hero gashed the dragon right in the middle.The foe was conquered. Glowing in death he fell. They twain had destroyed the winged beast. Such should a warrior be, such a thane in need. To the King it was a victorious moment. It was the crown of all his deeds.
Then began the wound which the fire-dragon had wrought him to burn and to swell. Beowulf soon found that baleful poison boiled in his heart. Well knew he that the end was nigh. Lost in deep thought he sat upon the mound and gazed wondering at the cave. Pillared and arched with stone-work it was within, wrought by giants and dwarfs of old time.And to him came Wiglaf his dear warrior and tenderly bathed his wound with water. Then spake Beowulf, in spite of his deadly wound he spake, and all his words were of the ending of his life, for he knew that his days of joy upon this earth were past.
"Had a son been granted to me, to him I should have left my war-garments. Fifty years have I ruled this people, and there has been no king of all the nations round who durst meet me in battle. I have known joys and sorrows, but no man have I betrayed, nor many false oaths have I sworn. For all this may I rejoice, though I be now sick with mortal wounds. The Ruler of Men may not upbraid me with treachery or murder of kinsmen when my soul shall depart from its body.
"But now, dear Wiglaf, go thou quickly to the hoard of gold which lieth under the hoary rock. The dragon lieth dead; now sleepeth he for ever, sorely wounded and bereft of his treasure. Then haste thee, Wiglaf, for I would see the ancient wealth, the gold treasure, the jewels, the curious gems. Haste thee to bring it hither; then after that I have seen it, I shall the more contentedly give up my life and the kingship that I so long have held."
Quickly Wiglaf obeyed his wounded lord. Into the dark [pg 301] cave he descended, and there outspread before him was a wondrous sight. Treasure of jewels, many glittering and golden, lay upon the ground. Wondrous vessels of old time with broken ornaments were scattered round. Here, too, lay old and rusty helmets, mingled with bracelets and collars cunningly wrought.
Upon the walls hung golden flags. From one a light shone forth by which the whole cavern was made clear. And all within was silent. No sign was there of any guardian, for without lay the dragon, sleeping death's sleep.
Quickly Wiglaf gathered of the treasures all that he could carry. Dishes and cups he took, a golden ensign and a sword curiously wrought. In haste he returned, for he knew not if he should find his lord in life where he had left him.
And when Wiglaf came again to where Beowulf sat he poured the treasure at his feet. But he found his lord in a deep swoon. Again the brave warrior bathed Beowulf's wound and laved the stricken countenance of his lord, until once more he came to himself.
Then spake the King: "For this treasure I give thanks to the Lord of All. Not in vain have I given my life, for it shall be of great good to my people in need. And now leave me, for on this earth longer I may not stay. Say to my warriors that they shall raise a mound upon the rocky point which jutteth seaward. High shall it stand as a memorial to my people. Let it soar upward so that they who steer their slender barks over the tossing waves shall call it Beowulf's mound."
The King then took from his neck the golden collar. To Wiglaf, his young thane and kinsman, he gave it. He gave also his helmet adorned with gold, his ring and coat of mail, and bade the warrior use them well."Thou art the last of our race," he said. "Fate hath swept away all my kinsmen, all the mighty earls. Now I too must follow them." That was the last word of the aged King. From his bosom the soul fled to seek the dwellings of the just. At Wiglaf's feet he lay quiet and still.
How King Arthur Conquered RomeADAPTED BY E. EDWARDSON
King Arthur had just brought a great war to an end, and in honor of his victory he was holding a royal feast with the kings and princes that were his vassals and all the knights of the Round Table, when twelve grave and ancient men entered the banquet-hall where he sat at table. They bore each an olive-branch in his hand, to signify that they were ambassadors from Lucius the Emperor of Rome, and after they had reverently made obeisance to King Arthur, they delivered their message as follows:
"The high and mighty Emperor Lucius sends you greeting, O King of Britain, and he commands you to acknowledge him as your lord, and to pay the tribute which is due from this realm, and which, it is recorded, was paid by your father and others who came before him. Yet you rebelliously withhold it and keep it back, in defiance of the statutes and decrees made by the first Emperor of Rome, the noble Julius Caesar, who conquered this country. And be assured that if you disobey this command, the Emperor Lucius will come in his might and make war against you and your kingdom, and will inflict upon you a chastisement that shall serve for ever as a warning to all kings and princes not to withhold the tribute due to that noble empire to which belongs dominion over the whole world."
Thus they spoke, and King Arthur having heard their request, bade them withdraw, saying that he would take the advice of his counselors before giving them his answer; but some of the younger knights that were in the hall declared that it was a disgrace to all who were at the feast that such language should be used to the King in their hearing, and they would fain have fallen upon the ambassadors and slain them. But King Arthur, hearing their murmurs, declared that any insult [pg 303] or wrong suffered by the ambassadors should be punished with death. Then he sent them to their quarters, escorted by one of his knights, who was ordered to provide them with whatever they wanted.
"Let nothing be grudged these men of Rome," said the King "though the demand they make is an affront alike to me and to you who are of my court. I should be dishonored were the ambassadors not treated with the respect due to them, seeing that they are great lords in their own land."
As soon as the ambassadors had left the hall, King Arthur asked his knights and lords what was their advice and counsel in the matter. The first to give his opinion was Sir Cador of Cornwall.
"Sir," said Sir Cador, "the message brought by these lords is most welcome to me. We have spent full many days at rest and in idleness, and now my hope is that you will wage war against the Romans. In that war we shall, I have little doubt, win great honor."
"I am sure," answered King Arthur, "that this affair is welcome to you, but I seek, above all, your aid in devising a grave and suitable answer to the demand they have made. And let no man doubt that I hold that demand to be a grievous insult. The tribute they claim, in my opinion, not only is not due, but cannot be due; for more than one British knight having been Emperor of Rome, it is, I hold, the duty of Rome to acknowledge the lordship of Britain, rather than of Britain to acknowledge that of Rome. What think ye?"
"Sir," replied King Anguish of Scotland, "you ought of right to be lord over all other kings, for throughout Christendom there is neither knight nor man of high estate worthy to be compared with you. My advice is, never yield to the Romans. When they reigned over us, they oppressed our principal men, and laid heavy and extortionate burdens upon the land. For that cause I, standing here, solemnly vow vengeance upon them for the evil they then did, and, to support you in your quarrel, I will at my own cost furnish twenty thousand good fighting men. This force I will command in person, and I will bring it to your aid whenever you choose to summon me."[pg 304]
In like manner, the King of Little Britain, as Brittany was called in those days, undertook to furnish thirty thousand men; and all the others who were present agreed to fight on King Arthur's side, and to assist him to the utmost of their power. So he, having thanked them heartily for the courage and good will towards him that they displayed, had the ambassadors summoned back into the banquet-hall and addressed them thus:
"I would have you go back to him who sent you, and I would have you say to him that I will pay no heed to any orders or demands that may be brought from him; and as for tribute so far am I from allowing that there is any tribute due from me or to any other man or prince upon earth, be he heathen or Christian, that I claim lordship over the empire he now has. And say further to him, that I have determined and resolved to go to Rome with my army, to take possession of the empire and to subdue all that behave themselves rebelliously. Therefore, let your master and all the other men of Rome get themselves ready to do homage to me, and to acknowledge me as their emperor and governor, and let them know that if they refuse, they will be punished befittingly."
Then King Arthur bade his treasurer give handsome gifts to the ambassadors, and repay in full the cost of their journey, and he assigned Sir Cador as their escort to see them safely out of the country. So they took their leave, and going to Sandwich, sailed thence, and passed through Flanders and Germany over the Alps into Italy to the court of the Emperor.
When the Emperor heard what message King Arthur had entrusted to them, and understood that this was indeed the reply to his demand for tribute, he was grievously angry."Of truth," he said, "I never doubted that King Arthur would obey my commands and submit, as it befits him and all other kings to submit themselves to me."
"Sir," answered one of the ambassadors, "I beseech you not to speak thus boastfully. In very truth my companions and myself were dismayed when we saw King Arthur face to face, and my fear is that you have made a rod for your own back, for his intention is to become lord over this empire. His [pg 305] threats, I warn you, are no idle talk. He is a very different man from what you hoped he was, and his court is the most noble upon earth. Never had any one of us beheld such magnificence as we beheld there on New Year's Day, when nine kings, besides other princes, lords, and knights, sat at table with King Arthur. Nor do I believe that there could be found anywhere another band of knights worthy to be matched with the knights who sit at his Round Table, nor a more manly man than the King himself. And since I verily believe his ambition is such that he would not be satisfied though he had conquered the whole world, my advice is that you have careful watch kept upon the borders of your lands and upon the ways over the mountains, for I am certain that you would do wisely to guard yourself well against him."
"Well," answered Lucius, "my intention is before Easter to cross the Alps and to descend into France and seize the lands that belong to him there. With me I shall take my mighty warriors from Tuscany and Lombardy, and all the subjects and allies I have shall be summoned to my aid."
Then the Emperor picked out wise old knights and sent them east and west throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, to summon his allies from Turkey, Syria, Portugal, and the other distant lands that were subject to him; and in the meantime he assembled his forces from Rome, and from the countries between Rome and Flanders, and he collected together as his bodyguard fifty giants who were sons of evil spirits. Putting himself at the head of this mighty host, Lucius departed from Rome, and marching through Savoy, crossed the mountains, meaning to lay waste the lands King Arthur had conquered. He besieged and took a castle near Cologne, which he garrisoned with Saracens and unbelievers. Then he passed on, plundering and pillaging the country, till he entered Burgundy, where he halted to collect the whole of his army before invading and laying utterly waste the land of Little Britain.
In the meantime preparations were being made on the side of the British. A parliament was held at York, and there it was resolved that all the navy of the kingdom should be got ready and assembled within fifteen days at Sandwich. Sir [pg 306] Baudewaine of Britain, and Sir Constantine, the son of Sir Cador of Cornwall, were chosen by the King to be his viceroys during his absence; and to them, in the presence of all his lords, he confided the care of his kingdom, and he also entrusted to them Queen Guinevere. She, when the time drew near for the departure of her lord, wept and lamented so piteously that at last she swooned, and was carried away to her chamber by the ladies that attended upon her. Then King Arthur mounted his horse, and, putting himself at the head of his troops, made proclamation in a loud voice that should death befall him during this expedition, his wish was that Sir Constantine, who was his heir by blood, should succeed to his possessions and to his throne.
So King Arthur and his army came to Sandwich, where they found awaiting them a great multitude of galleys and vessels of all sorts, on which they embarked and set out to sea. That night, as the King lay asleep in his cabin, he dreamed a marvelous dream. A dreadful dragon appeared, flying out of the west. Its head was all enameled with azure enamel. Its wings and its claws glistened like gold. Its feet were black as jet. Its body was sheathed in scales that shone as armor shines after it has been polished, and it had a very great and remarkable tail. Then there came a cloud out of the east. The grimmest beast man ever saw rode upon this cloud; it was a wild boar, roaring and growling so hideously that it was terrifying to hear it. The dragon flew down the wind like a falcon and struck at this boar; but it defended itself with its grisly tusks, and wounded the dragon in the breast so severely that its blood, pouring into the sea in torrents, made all the waves red. Then the dragon turned and flew away, and having mounted up to a great height, again swooped down upon the boar and fastened its claws in the beast's back. The boar struggled, and raged, and writhed, but all in vain. It was at the mercy of its foe, and so merciless was the dragon that it never loosened its grip till it had torn the boar limb from limb and bone from bone, and scattered it piecemeal upon the surface of the sea.Then King Arthur awoke, and, starting up in great dismay, [pg 307] sent for a wise man that was on board the ship and bade him interpret the dream.
"Sir," the wise man said, "the dragon which you saw in your dream surely betokens your own self, its golden wings signifying the countries you have won with your sword, and its marvelous tail the knights of the Round Table. As for the boar that was slain, that may betoken either a tyrant that torments his people, or some hideous and abominable giant with whom you are about to fight. And the dream foreshadows victory for you. Therefore, though it was very dreadful, you should take comfort from it and be of a good heart."
Before long the sailors sighted land, and the army disembarked at a port in Flanders, where many great lords were awaiting the arrival of King Arthur, as had been ordained. And to him, soon after he had arrived, there came a husbandman bringing grievous news. A monstrous giant had for years infested the country on the borders of Little Britain, and had slain many people and devoured such numbers of children that there were none left for him to prey upon. And being in search of victims, and coming upon the Duchess of Little Britain as she rode with her knights, he had laid hands upon her and carried her off to his den in a mountain. Five hundred men that followed the duchess could not rescue her, but they heard such heartrending cries and shrieks that they had little doubt she had been put to death.
"Now," said the husbandman, "as you are a great and noble King and a valiant conqueror, and as this lady was wife to Sir Howel, who is your own cousin, take pity on her and on all of us, and avenge us upon this vile giant.""Alas," King Arthur replied, "this is a grievous and an evil matter. I would give all my kingdom to have been at hand, so that I might have saved that fair lady."
Then he asked the husbandman whether he could show him the place where the giant would be found, and the man said that was easy to do, for there were always two fires burning outside the den he haunted. In that den, the husbandman believed, was stored more treasure than the whole realm of France contained.
Then the King took Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere apart privately into his tent, and bade them secretly get ready their horses and armor, and his own, for it was his intention that night, after evensong, to set out on a pilgrimage to St. Michael's Mount with them, and nobody besides them was to accompany him. So when evening came, the King, and Sir Kay, and Sir Bedivere armed themselves, and taking their horses, rode as fast as they could to the foot of St. Michael's Mount. There the King alighted and bade his knights stay where they were, while he himself ascended the mount.
He went up the hillside till he came to a huge fire. Close to it was a newly made grave, by which was sitting a sorrowful widow wringing her hands and making great lamentation. King Arthur saluted her courteously, and asked for whom she was weeping. She prayed him to speak softly, for "Yonder," said she, "is a monstrous giant that will come and destroy you should your voice reach his ears. Luckless wretch, what brings you to this mountain?" asked the widow. "Fifty such knights as you could not hold their ground against the monster.""Lady," he replied, "the mighty conqueror King Arthur has sent me as his ambassador to this giant, to inquire why he ventures thus to misuse and maltreat the people of the land."
"A useless embassy in very truth!" she said. "Little does he care for King Arthur, or for any other man. Not many days have passed since he murdered the fairest lady in the world, the wife of Sir Howel of Little Britain; and had you brought with you King Arthur's own wife, Queen Guinevere, he would not be afraid to murder her. Yet, if you must needs speak with him, you will find him yonder over the crest of the hill.""This is a fearful warning you give me," said the King. "Yet none the less, believe me, will I accomplish the task that has been allotted me." Having climbed up to the crest of the hill, King Arthur looked down, and close below him he saw the giant basking at his ease by the side of a great fire.
"Thou villain!" cried the King—"thou villain! short shall [pg 309] be thy life and shameful shall be thy death. Rise and defend yourself. My sword shall avenge that fair duchess whom you murdered."
Starting from the ground, the giant snatched up his great iron club, and aiming a swinging blow at King Arthur's head, swept the crest off his helmet. Then the King flew at him, and they wrestled and wrestled till they fell, and as they struggled on the ground King Arthur again and again smote the giant with his dagger, and they rolled and tumbled down the hill till they reached the sea-beach at its foot, where Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere were waiting their lord's return. Rushing to his aid, the two knights at once set their master free, for they found that the giant, in whose arms he was locked, was already dead.
Then King Arthur sent Sir Kay and Sir Bedivere up the hill to fetch the sword and shield that he had let fall and left there, and also the giant's iron club and cloak, and he told them they might keep whatever treasure they found in his den, for he desired nothing besides the club and the cloak. So they went and did as they were bidden, and brought away as much treasure as they desired.
When the news of the oppressor's death was spread abroad, the people came in throngs to thank the King, who had delivered them; but he bade them rather give thanks to Heaven. Then, having distributed among them the treasure his knights had not needed, and having commanded Sir Howel to build upon the hill which the giant had haunted a chapel in honor of St. Michael, he returned to his army, and led it into the country of Champagne, where he pitched his camp in a valley.
That evening two men, of whom one was the Marshal of France, came into the pavilion where King Arthur sat at table. They brought news that the Emperor was in Burgundy, burning and sacking towns and villages, so that, unless King Arthur came quickly to their succor, the men of those parts would be forced to surrender themselves and their goods to Rome.
Hearing this, King Arthur summoned four of his knights—Sir Gawaine, Sir Bors, Sir Lionel, and Sir Badouine—and [pg 310] ordered them to go with all speed to the Emperor's camp, and all upon him either to leave the land at once or make ready for battle, since King Arthur would not suffer the people to be harried any longer. These four knights, accordingly, rode off with their followers, and before very long they came to a meadow, where, pitched by the side of a stream, they saw many stately tents, and in the middle of them one which, it was plain, must be the Emperor's, for above it floated a banner on which was an eagle.
Then they halted and took counsel what it would be best to do, and it was agreed that the rest of the party should remain in ambush in the wood while Sir Gawaine and Sir Bors delivered the message they brought. Having heard it, the Emperor Lucius said they had better return and advise King Arthur to make preparations for being subdued by Rome and losing all his possessions. To this taunt Sir Gawaine and Sir Bors made angry replies, whereupon Sir Gainus, a knight who was near of kin to the Emperor, laughed, and said that British knights behaved as if the whole world rested on their shoulders. Sir Gawaine was infuriated beyond all measure by these words, and he and Sir Bors fled as fast as their horses could put legs to the ground, dashing headlong through woods and across streams, till they came to the spot where they had left their comrades in ambush.
The Romans followed in hot pursuit, and pressed them hard all the way. One knight, indeed, had almost overtaken them, when Sir Bors turned and ran him through with his spear. Then Sir Lionel and Sir Badouine came to their assistance, and there was a great and fierce encounter, and such was the bravery of the British that they routed the Romans and chased them right up to their tents. There the enemy made a stand, and Sir Bors was taken prisoner; but Sir Gawaine, drawing his good sword, vowed that he would either rescue his comrade or never look King Arthur in the face again, and falling upon the men that had captured Sir Bors, he delivered him out of their hands.
Then the fight waxed hotter and hotter, and the British knights were in such jeopardy that Sir Gawaine dispatched [pg 311] a messenger to bring him help as quickly as it could be sent, for he was wounded and sorely hurt. King Arthur, having received the message, instantly mustered his army; but before he could set out, into the camp rode Sir Gawaine and his companions, bringing with them many prisoners. And the only one of the band who had suffered any hurt was Sir Gawaine, whom the king consoled as best he could, bidding his surgeon at once attend to his wounds.
Thus ended the first battle between the Britons and the Romans. That night there was great rejoicing in the camp of King Arthur; and on the next day all the prisoners were sent to Paris, with Sir Launcelot du Lake and Sir Cador, and many other knights to guard them. On the way, passing through a wood, they were beset by a force the Emperor Lucius had placed there in ambush. Then Sir Launcelot, though the enemy had six men for every one he had with him, fought with such fury that no one could stand up against him; and at last, in dread of his prowess and might, the Romans and their allies the Saracens turned and fled as though they had been sheep and Sir Launcelot a wolf or a lion. But the skirmish had lasted so long that tidings of it had reached King Arthur, who arrayed himself and hurried to the aid of his knights. Finding them already victorious, he embraced them one by one, saying that they were indeed worthy of whatever honors had been granted them in the past, and that no other king had ever had such noble knights as he had.
To this Sir Cador answered that they might one and all claim at least the merit of not having deserted their posts, but that the honor of the day belonged to Sir Launcelot, for it passed man's wit to describe all the feats of arms he had performed. Then Sir Cador told the King that certain of his knights were slain, and who they were, whereupon King Arthur wept bitterly.
"Truly," he said, "your valor nearly was the destruction of you all. Yet you would not have been disgraced in my eyes had you retreated. To me it seems a rash and foolhardy thing for knights to stand their ground when they find themselves overmatched."[pg 312] "Nay," replied Sir Launcelot, "I think otherwise; for a knight who has once been put to shame may never recover the honor he has forfeited."
There was among the Romans who escaped from that battle a senator. He went to the Emperor Lucius and said, "Sir, my advice is that you withdraw your army, for this day has proved that grievous blows are all we shall win here. There is not one of King Arthur's knights that has not proved himself worth a hundred of ours.""Alas," cried Lucius, "that is coward's talk and to hear it grieves me more than all the losses I have sustained this day."
Then he ordered one of his most trusty allies to take a great force and advance as fast as he possibly could, the Emperor himself intending to follow in all haste. Warning of this having been brought secretly to the British camp, King Arthur sent part of his forces to Sessoigne to occupy the towns and castles before the Romans could reach him. The rest he posted up and down the country, so as to cut off every way by which the enemy might escape.
Before long the Emperor entered the valley of Sessoigne, and found himself face to face with King Arthur's men, drawn up in battle array. Seeing that retreat was impossible—for he was hemmed in by his enemies, and had either to fight his way through them or surrender—he made an oration to his followers, praying them to quit themselves like men that day, and to remember that to allow the Britons to hold their ground would bring disgrace upon Rome, the mistress of the world.
Then, at the Emperor's command, his trumpeters sounded their trumpets so defiantly that the very earth trembled and shook; and the two hosts joined battle, rushing at one another with mighty shouts. Many knights fought nobly that day, but none more nobly than King Arthur. Riding up and down the battle-field, he exhorted his knights to bear themselves bravely; and wherever the fray was thickest, and his people most sorely pressed, he dashed to the rescue and hewed down the Romans with his good sword Excalibur. Among those [pg 313] he slew was a marvelous great giant called Galapus. First of all, King Arthur smote off this giant's legs by the knees, saying that made him a more convenient size to deal with, and then he smote off his head. Such was the hugeness of the body of Galapus, that, as it fell, it crushed six Saracens to death.
But though King Arthur fought thus fiercely, and Sir Gawaine and all the other knights of the Round Table did nobly, the host of their enemies was so great that it seemed as if the battle would never come to an end, the Britons having the advantage at one moment and the Romans at another.
Now, among the Romans, no man fought more bravely than the Emperor Lucius. King Arthur, spying the marvelous feats of arms he performed, rode up and challenged him to a single combat. They exchanged many a mighty blow, and at last Lucius struck King Arthur across the face, and inflicted a grievous wound. Feeling the smart of it, King Arthur dealt back such a stroke that his sword Excalibur clove the Emperor's helmet in half, and splitting his skull, passed right down to his breast-bone.
Thus Lucius, the Emperor of the Romans, lost his life; and when it was known that he was slain, his whole army turned and fled, and King Arthur and his knights chased them, slaying all they could overtake. Of the host that followed Lucius, more than a hundred thousand men fell that day.
King Arthur, after he had won the great battle in which the Emperor Lucius was slain, marched into Lorraine, and so on through Brabant and Flanders into Germany, and across the mountains into Lombardy, and thence into Tuscany, and at last came to Rome, and on Christmas Day he was crowned emperor by the Pope with great state and solemnity. And he stayed in Rome a little while, setting in order the affairs of his possession, and distributing among his knights posts of honor and dignity, and also great estates, as rewards for their services.After these affairs had been duly arranged, all the British lords and knights assembled in the presence of the King, and said to him:
"Noble Emperor, now that, Heaven be thanked for it, [pg 314] this great war is over, and your enemies so utterly vanquished that henceforward, as we believe, no man, however great or mighty he may be, will dare to stand up against you, we beseech you to grant us leave to return to our wives and our homes, that there we may rest ourselves."
This request King Arthur granted, saying that it would be wise, seeing they had met with such good fortune so far, to be content with it and to return home. Also he gave orders that there should be no plundering or pillaging of the country through which they had to pass on their way back, but that they should, on pain of death, pay the full price for victuals or whatever else they took.
So King Arthur and his host set off from Rome and came over the sea and landed at Sandwich, where Queen Guinevere came to meet her lord. And at Sandwich and throughout the land there were great festivities, and noble gifts were presented to the King; for his people rejoiced mightily both because he had returned safely home, and because of the great victories he had achieved
Sir Galahad And The Sacred CupADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR "My strength is as the strength of ten, Because my heart is pure,"
sang Galahad gladly. He was only a boy, but he had just been made a knight by Sir Lancelot, and the old abbey, where he had lived all his life, rang with the echo of his song.Sir Lancelot heard the boy's clear voice singing in triumph. As he stopped to listen, he caught the words, "My strength is as the strength of ten, Because my heart is pure," and the great knight wished he were a boy again, and could sing that song too.
Twelve nuns lived in the quiet abbey, and they had taught Galahad lovingly and carefully, ever since he had come to them as a beautiful little child. And the boy had dwelt happily with them there in the still old abbey, and he would be sorry to leave them, but he was a knight now. He would fight for the King he reverenced so greatly, and for the country he loved so well.
Yet when Sir Lancelot left the abbey the next day, Galahad did not go with him. He would stay in his old home a little longer, he thought. He would not grieve the nuns by a hurried farewell.Sir Lancelot left the abbey alone, but as he rode along he met two knights, and together they reached Camelot, where the King was holding a great festival.
King Arthur welcomed Sir Lancelot and the two knights. "Now all the seats at our table will be filled," he said gladly. For it pleased the King when the circle of his knights was unbroken.Then all the King's household went to service at the minster, and when they came back to the palace they saw a strange sight.
In the dining-hall the Round Table at which the King and his knights always sat seemed strangely bright.
The King looked more closely, and saw that at one place on this Round Table were large letters. And he read, "This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the Pure-hearted." But only Sir Lancelot knew that Sir Galahad was the boy-knight he had left behind him in the quiet old abbey.
"You do not sit down to eat at this festival," Sir Kay reminded the King, "till you have seen or heard some great adventure." And the King told his steward that the writing in gold had made him forget his usual custom.
As they waited a squire came hastily into the hall. "I[pg 316] have a strange tale to tell," he said. "As I walked along the bank of the river I saw a great stone, and it floated on the top of the water, and into the stone there has been thrust a sword."
Then the King and all his knights went down to the river, and they saw the stone, and it was like red marble. And the sword that had been thrust into the stone was strong and fair. The handle of it was studded with precious stones, and among the stones there were letters of gold.
The King stepped forward, and bending over the sword read these words: "No one shall take me away save him to whom I belong. I will hang only by the side of the best knight in the world."The King turned to Sir Lancelot. "The sword is yours, for surely there lives no truer knight." But Sir Lancelot answered gravely, "The sword is not mine. It will never hang by my side, for I dare not try to take it." The King was sorry that his great knight's courage failed, but he turned to Sir Gawaine and asked him to try to take the sword.
And at first Sir Gawaine hesitated. But when he looked again at the precious stones that sparkled on the handle, he hesitated no longer. But he no sooner touched the sword than it wounded him, so that he could not use his arm for many days.
Then the King turned to Sir Percivale. And because Arthur wished it, Sir Percivale tried to take the sword; but he could not move it. And after that no other knight dared to touch the fair sword; so they turned and went back to the palace.
In the dining-hall the King and his knights sat down once more at the Round Table, and each knight knew his own chair. And all the seats were filled except the chair opposite the writing in gold.
It had been a day full of surprise, but now the most wonderful thing of all happened. For as they sat down, suddenly all the doors of the palace shut with a loud noise, but no one had touched the doors. And all the windows were softly closed, but no one saw the hands that closed them.[pg 317] Then one of the doors opened, and there came in a very old man dressed all in white, and no one knew whence he came. By his side was a young man in red armor. He had neither sword nor shield, but hanging by his side was an empty sheath.
There was a great silence in the hall as the old man said, slowly and solemnly, "I bring you the young knight Sir Galahad, who is descended from a king. He shall do many great deeds, and he shall see the Holy Grail.""He shall see the Holy Grail," the knights repeated, with awe on their faces. For far back, in the days of their boyhood, they had heard the story of the Holy Grail. It was the Sacred Cup out of which their Lord had drunk before He died.
And they had been told how sometimes it was seen carried by angels, and how at other times in a gleam of light. But in whatever way it appeared, it was seen only by those who were pure in heart.
And as the old man's words, "He shall see the Holy Grail," fell on their ears, the knights thought of the story they had heard so long ago, and they were sorry, for they had never seen the Sacred Cup, and they knew that it was unseen only by those who had done wrong.
But the old man was telling the boy-knight to follow him. He led him to the empty chair, and lifted the silk that covered the golden letters. "This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the Pure*-hearted," he read aloud. And the young knight sat in the empty seat that belonged to him.Then the old man left the palace, and twenty noble squires met him, and took him back to his own country.
When dinner was ended, the King went over to the chair where his boy-knight sat, and welcomed him to the circle of the Round Table. Afterwards he took Sir Galahad's hand, and led him out of the palace to show him the strange red stone that floated on the river. When Sir Galahad heard how the knights could not draw the sword out of the stone, he knew that this adventure was his.
"I will try to take the sword," said the boy-knight, "and place it in my sheath, for it is empty," and he pointed to his [pg 318] side. Then he laid his hand on the wonderful sword, and easily drew it out of the stone, and placed it in his sheath."God has sent you the sword, now He will send you a shield as well," said King Arthur.
Then the King proclaimed that the next day there would be a tournament in the meadows of Camelot. For before his knights went out to new adventures, he would see Sir Galahad proved.
And in the morning the meadows lay bright in the sunshine. And the boy-knight rode bravely to his first combat, and over-threw many men; but Sir Lancelot and Sir Percivale he could not overthrow.When the tournament was over the King and his knights went home to supper, and each sat in his own seat at the Round Table. All at once there was a loud crashing noise, a noise that was louder than any peal of thunder. Was the King's wonderful palace falling to pieces? But while the noise still sounded a marvelous light stole into the room, a light brighter than any sunbeam. As the knights looked at one another, each seemed to the other to have a new glory and a new beauty in his face. And down the sunbeam glided the Holy Grail. It was the Sacred Cup they had all longed to see. But no one saw it, for it was invisible to all but the pure-hearted Sir Galahad. As the strange light faded away, King Arthur heard his knights vowing that they would go in search of the Holy Grail, and never give up the quest till they had found it. And the boy-knight knew that he too would go over land and sea, till he saw again the wonderful vision.
That night the King could not sleep, for his sorrow was great. His knights would wander into far-off countries, and many of them would forget that they were in search of the Holy Grail. Would they not have found the Sacred Cup one day if they had stayed with their King and helped to clear the country of its enemies?
In the morning the streets of Camelot were crowded with rich and poor. And the people wept as they watched the knights [pg 319] ride away on their strange quest. And the King wept too, for he knew that now there would be many empty chairs at the Round Table.
The warrior rode quickly towards the king, and struck him so hard that he broke his armor. Then he thrust his spear through the king's right shoulder, as though he held no shield.
"The shield can be borne only by a peerless knight. It [pg 320] does not belong to you," said the warrior, as he gave it to the squire, telling him to carry it back to the abbey and to give it to Sir Galahad with his greeting.
"Then tell me your name," said the squire. "I will tell neither you nor any one on earth," said the warrior. And he disappeared, and the squire saw him no more."I will take the wounded King to an abbey, that his wounds may be dressed," thought the squire. And with great difficulty the King and his squire reached an abbey. And the monks thought his life could not be saved, but after many days he was cured. Then the squire rode back to the abbey where Galahad waited. "The warrior who wounded the King bids you bear this shield," he said. Galahad hung the shield round his neck joyfully, and rode into the valley to seek the warrior dressed in white.
And when they met they saluted each other courteously. And the warrior told Sir Galahad strange tales of the white shield, till the knight thanked God that now it was his. And all his life long the white shield with the red cross was one of his great treasures.
Now Galahad rode back to the abbey, and the monks were glad to see him again. "We have need of a pure knight," they said, as they took Sir Galahad to a tomb in the churchyard.A pitiful noise was heard, and a voice from the tomb cried, "Galahad, servant of God, do not come near me." But the young knight went towards the tomb and raised the stone.
Then a thick smoke was seen, and through the smoke a figure uglier than any man leaped from the tomb, shouting, "Angels are round thee, Galahad, servant of God. I can do you no harm."The knight stooped down and saw a body all dressed in armor lying there, and a sword lay by its side. "This was a false knight," said Sir Galahad. "Let us carry his body away from this place."
"You will stay in the abbey and live with us," entreated the monks. But the boy-knight could not rest. Would he [pg 321] see the light that was brighter than any sunbeam again? Would his adventures bring him at last to the Holy Grail?
Sir Galahad rode on many days, till at last he reached a mountain. On the mountain he found an old chapel. It was empty and very desolate. Galahad knelt alone before the altar, and asked God to tell him what to do next.And as he prayed a voice said, "Thou brave knight, go to the Castle of Maidens and rescue them." Galahad rose, and gladly journeyed on to the Castle of Maidens. There he found seven knights, who long ago had seized the castle from a maiden to whom it belonged. And these knights had imprisoned her and many other maidens.
When the seven knights saw Sir Galahad they came out of the castle. "We will take this young knight captive, and keep him in prison," they said to each other, as they fell upon him.
But Sir Galahad smote the first knight to the ground, so that he almost broke his neck. And as his wonderful sword flashed in the light, sudden fear fell on the six knights that were left and they turned and fled.
Then an old man took the keys of the castle to Galahad. And the knight opened the gates of the castle, and set free many prisoners. He gave the castle back to the maiden to whom it belonged, and sent for all the knights in the country round about to do her homage.Then once again Sir Galahad rode on in search of the Holy Grail. And the way seemed long, yet on and on he rode, till at last he reached the sea. There, on the shore, stood a maiden, and when she saw Sir Galahad, she led him to a ship and told him to enter.
The wind rose and drove the ship, with Sir Galahad on board, between two rocks. But when the ship could not pass that way, the knight left it, and entered a smaller one that awaited him.In this ship was a table, and on the table, covered with a red cloth, was the Holy Grail. Reverently Sir Galahad sank on his knees. But still the Sacred Cup was covered. [pg 322] At last the ship reached a strange city, and on the shore sat a crippled man. Sir Galahad asked his help to lift the table from the ship. "For ten years I have not walked without crutches," said the man. "Show that you are willing, and come to me," urged the knight. And the cripple got up, and when he found that he was cured, he ran to Sir Galahad, and together they carried the wonderful table to the shore. Then all the city was astonished, and the people talked only of the great marvel. "The man that was a cripple for ten years can walk," each said to the other.
The king of the city heard the wonderful tale, but he was a cruel king and a tyrant. "The knight is not a good man," he said to his people, and he commanded that Galahad should be put in prison. And the prison was underneath the palace, and it was dark and cold there.But down into the darkness streamed the light that had made Galahad so glad long ago at Camelot. And in the light Galahad saw the Holy Grail.
A year passed and the cruel king was very ill, and he thought he would die. Then he remembered the knight he had treated so unkindly, and who was still in the dark, cold prison. "I will send for him, and ask him to forgive me," murmured the king.And when Galahad was brought to the palace, he willingly forgave the tyrant who had put him in prison. Then the king died, and there was great dismay in the city, for where would they find a good ruler to sit on the throne? As they wondered, they heard a voice that told them to make Sir Galahad their king, and in great joy the knight was crowned.
Then the new king ordered a box of gold and precious stones to be made, and in this box he placed the wonderful table he had carried away from the ship. "And every morning I and my people will come here to pray," he said.For a year Sir Galahad ruled the country well and wisely. [pg 323] "A year ago they crowned me king," thought Galahad gravely, as he woke one morning. He would get up early, and go to pray at the precious table.
But before the king reached the table he paused. It was early. Surely all the city was asleep. Yet some one was already there, kneeling before the table on which, uncovered, stood the Sacred Cup.The man kneeling there looked holy as the saints look. Surrounding him was a circle of angels. Was it a saint who kneeled, or was it the Lord Himself? When the man saw Sir Galahad, he said, "Come near, thou servant of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt see what thou hast so much longed to see." And with joy Sir Galahad saw again the Holy Grail. Then as he kneeled before it in prayer, his soul left his body and was carried into heaven.