Young Folks' Treasury: Myths and Legendary Heroes by Hamilton Wright Mabie - HTML preview
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ADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR I
CHARACTERS OF THE VIKINGS
It has been said that the name "vikings" was first given to those Northmen who dwelt in a part of Denmark called Viken. However that may be, it was the name given to all the Northmen who took to a wild, sea-roving life, because they would often seek shelter with their boats in one or another of the numerous bays which abounded along their coasts.
Thus the vikings were not by any means all kings, as you might think from their name; yet among them were many chiefs of royal descent. These, although they had neither subjects nor kingdoms over which to rule, no sooner stepped on board a viking's boat to take command of the crew, than they were given title of king.
The Northmen did not, however, spend all their lives in harrying and burning other countries. When the seas were quiet in the long, summer days, they would go off, as I have told you, on their wild expeditions. But when summer was over, and the seas began to grow rough and stormy, the viking bands would go home with their booty and stay there, to build their houses, reap their fields, and, when spring had come again, to sow their grain in the hope of a plenteous harvest.
There was thus much that the viking lad had to learn beyond the art of wielding the battle-axe, poising the spear, and shooting an arrow straight to its mark. Even a free-born [pg 395] yeoman's son had to work, work as hard as had the slaves or thralls who were under him.The old history books, or Sagas, as the Norseman called them, have, among other songs, this one about the duties of a well-born lad:
"He now learnt
To tame oxen
And till the ground, To timber houses And build barns, To make carts
And form plows."
Indeed, it would have surprised you to see the fierce warriors and mighty chiefs themselves laying aside their weapons and working in the fields side by side with their thralls, sowing, reaping, threshing. Yet this they did.
Even kings were often to be seen in the fields during the busy harvest season. They would help their men to cut the golden grain, and with their own royal hands help to fill the barn when the field was reaped. To king and yeomen alike, work, well done, was an honorable deed.
Long before the Sagas were written down, the stories of the heroes were sung in halls and on battle-fields by the poets of the nation. These poets were named skalds, and their rank among the Northmen was high.
Sometimes the Sagas were sung in prose, at other times in verse. Sometimes they were tales which had been handed down from father to son for so many years that it was hard to tell how much of them was history, how much fable. At other times the Sagas were true accounts of the deeds of the Norse kings. For the skalds were ofttimes to be seen on the battle-fields or battleships of the vikings, and then their songs were of the brave deeds which they had themselves seen done, of the victories and defeats at which they themselves had been present.The battles which the vikings fought were fought on the sea more frequently than on the land.
Their warships were called long-ships and were half-decked The rowers sat in the center of the boat, which was low, so that their oars could reach the water. Sails were used, either red or painted in different stripes, red, blue, yellow, green. These [pg 396] square, brightly colored sails gave the boats a gay appearance which was increased by the round shields which were hung outside the gunwale and which were also painted red, black, or white. At the prow there was usually a beautifully carved and gorgeously painted figurehead. The stem and stern of the ships were high. In the stern there was an upper deck, but in the forepart of the vessel there was nothing but loose planks on which the sailors could step. When a storm was raging or a battle was being fought, the loose planks did not, as you may imagine, offer a very firm foothold.
The boats were usually built long and pointed for the sake of speed, and had seats for thirty rowers. Besides the rowers, the long-boats could hold from sixty to one hundred and fifty sailors.II
Harald Fairhair was one of the foremost of the kings of Norway. He was so brave a Northman that he became king over the whole of Norway. In eight hundred and sixtyone, when he began to reign, Norway was divided into thirty-one little kingdoms, over each of which ruled a little king. Harald Fairhair began his reign by being one of these little kings.
Harald was only a boy, ten years of age, when he succeeded his father; but as he grew up he became a very strong and handsome man, as well as a very wise and prudent one. Indeed he grew so strong that he fought with and vanquished five great kings in one battle.
After this victory, Harald sent, so the old chronicles of the kings of Norway say, some of his men to a princess named Gyda, bidding them tell her that he wished to make her his queen.But Gyda wished to marry a king who ruled over a whole country, rather than one who owned but a small part of Norway, and this was the message she sent back to Harald:
"Tell Harald," said the maiden, "that I will agree to be his wife if he will first, for my sake, subdue all Norway to [pg 397] himself, for only thus methinks can he be called the king of a people."
The messengers thought Gyda's words too bold, but when King Harald heard them, he said, "It is wonderful that I did not think of this before. And now I make a solemn vow and take God to witness, who made me and rules over all things, that never shall I clip or comb my hair until I have subdued the whole of Norway with scat [land taxes], and duties, and domains."Then, without delay, Harald assembled a great force and prepared to conquer all the other little kings who were ruling over the different parts of Norway. In many districts the kings had no warning of Harald's approach, and before they could collect an army they were vanquished.
When their ruler was defeated, many of his subjects fled from the country, manned their ships and sailed away on viking expeditions. Others made peace with King Harald and became his men.
Over each district, as he conquered it, Harald placed a jarl or earl, that he might judge and do justice, and also that he might collect the scat and fines which Harald had imposed upon the conquered people. As the earls were given a third part of the money they thus collected, they were well pleased to take service with King Harald. And indeed they grew richer, and more powerful too, than they had ever been before.
It took King Harald ten long years to do as he had vowed, and make all Norway his own. During these years a great many new bands of vikings were formed, and led by their chief or king they left the country, not choosing to become King Harald's men.These viking bands went west, over the sea, to Shetland and Orkney, to the Hebrides, and also to England, Scotland, and Ireland.
During the winter they made their home in these lands, but in summer they sailed to the coast of Norway and did much damage to the towns that lay along the coast. Then, growing bolder, they ventured inland, and because of their hatred [pg 398] against King Harald, they plundered and burned both towns and villages.
Meanwhile Harald, having fulfilled his vow, had his hair combed and cut. It had grown so rough and tangled during these ten years that his people had named him Harald Sufa, which meant "Shock-headed Harald." Now, however, after his long, yellow hair was combed and clipped, he was named Harald Fairhair, and by this name he was ever after known. Nor did the King forget Gyda, for whose sake he had made his vow. He sent for her, and she, as she had promised, came to marry the King of all Norway.
Now the raids of the vikings along the coasts of Norway angered the King, and he determined that they should end. He therefore set out with a large fleet in search of his rebellious subjects.
These, when they heard of his approach, fled to their long-ships and sailed out to sea. But Harald reached Shetland and slew those vikings who had not fled, then, landing on the Orkney Isles, he burned and plundered, sparing no Northman who crossed his path. On the Hebrides King Harald met with worthy foes, for here were many who had once themselves been kings in Norway. In all the battles that he fought Harald was victorious and gained much booty.
When he went back to Norway the King left one of his jarls to carry on war against the inhabitants of Scotland. Caithness and Sutherland were conquered by this jarl for Harald, and thereafter many chiefs, both Norsemen and Danes, settled there. While Harald Fairhair was ruling in Norway, a grandson of Alfred the Great became king in England. His name was Athelstan the Victorious. Now Athelstan liked to think that he was a greater king than Harald Fairhair. It pleased him, too, to play what seemed to him a clever trick on his rival across the sea.
He sent a beautiful sword to Harald. Its hilt was covered with gold and silver, and set with precious gems. When Athelstan's messenger stood before the King of Norway he held out the hilt of the sword toward him, saying "Here is a sword that King Athelstan doth send to thee." Harald at once seized it by the hilt. Then the messenger smiled and said, "Now shalt [pg 399] thou be subject to the King of England, for thou hast taken the sword by the hilt as he desired thee." To take a sword thus was in those olden days a sign of submission.
Then Harald was very angry, for he knew that Athelstan had sent this gift only that he might mock him. He wished to punish the messenger whom Athelstan had sent with the sword. Nevertheless he remembered his habit whenever he got angry, to first keep quiet and let his anger subside, and then look at the matter calmly. By the time the prudent King had done this, his anger had cooled, and Athelstan's messenger departed unharmed.
But with Athelstan Harald still hoped to be equal. The following summer he sent a ship to England. It was commanded by Hauk, and into his hands Harald intrusted his young son Hakon, whom he was sending to King Athelstan. For what purpose you shall hear.
Hauk reached England safely, and found the King in London at a feast. The captain boldly entered the hall where the feasters sat, followed by thirty of his men, each one of whom had his shield hidden under his cloak.
Carrying Prince Hakon, who was a child, in his arms, Hauk stepped before the King and saluted him. Then before Athelstan knew what he meant to do, Hauk, had placed the little prince on the King's knee."Why hast thou done this?" said Athelstan to the bold Northman.
"Harald of Norway asks thee to foster his child," answered Hauk. But well he knew that his words would make the King of England wroth. For one who became foster-father to a child was usually of lower rank than the real father. This, you see, was Harald's way of thanking Athelstan for his gift of the sword.Well, as Hauk expected, the King was very angry when he heard why the little prince had been placed on his knee. He drew his sword as though he would slay the child.
Hauk, however, was quite undisturbed, and said, "Thou hast borne the child on thy knee, and thou canst murder him if thou wilt, but thou canst not make an end of all King Harald's sons by so doing."[pg 400] Then the viking, with his men, left the hall and strode down to the river, where they embarked, and at once set sail for Norway.
When Hauk reached Norway and told the King all that he had done, Harald was well content, for the King of England had been forced to become the foster-father of his little son.Athelstan's anger against his royal foster-child was soon forgotten, and ere long he loved him better than any of his own kin. He ordered the priest to baptize the little prince, and to teach him the true faith. III
THE SEA-FIGHT OF THE JOMSVIKINGS
While King Harald was reigning in Denmark, he built on the shores of the Baltic a fortress which he called Jomsburg. In this fortress dwelt a famous band of vikings named the Jomsvikings. It is one of their most famous sea-fights that I am going to tell you now. The leader of the band was Earl Sigvald, and a bold and fearless leader he had proved himself.
It was at a great feast that Sigvald made the rash vow which led to this mighty battle. After the horn of mead had been handed round not once or twice only, Sigvald arose and vowed that, before three winters had passed, he and his band would go to Norway and either kill or chase Earl Hakon out of the country.
In the morning Sigvald and his Jomsvikings perhaps felt that they had vowed more than they were able to perform, yet it was not possible to withdraw from the enterprise unless they were willing to be called cowards. They therefore thought it would be well to start without delay, that they might, if possible, take Earl Hakon unawares.
In a short time therefore the Jomsviking fleet was ready, and sixty warships sailed away toward Norway. No sooner did they reach Earl Hakon's realms than they began to plunder and burn along the coast. But while they gained booty, they lost [pg 401] time. For Hakon, hearing of their doings, at once split a war-arrow and sent it all over the realm.
It was in this way that Hakon heard that the Jomsvikings were in his land. In one village the vikings had, as they thought, killed all the inhabitants. But unknown to them a man had escaped with the loss of his hand, and hastening to the shore he sailed away in a light boat in search of the earl.Hakon was at dinner when the fugitive stood before him. "Art thou sure that thou didst see the Jomsvikings?" asked Hakon, when he had listened to the man's tidings. For answer, the peasant stretched out the arm from which the hand had been sundered, saying, "Here is the token that the Jomsvikings are in the land."
It was then that Hakon sent the war-arrow throughout the land and speedily gathered together a great force. Eric one of his sons, also collected troops, but though the preparations for war went on apace, the Jomsvikings heard nothing of them, and still thought that they would take Earl Hakon by surprise.
At length the vikings sailed into a harbor about twenty miles north of a town called Stad. As they were in want of food some of the band landed, and marched to the nearest village. Here they slaughtered the men who could bear arms, burned the houses, and drove all the cattle they could find before them toward the shore.
On the way to their ships, however, they met a peasant who said to them, "Ye are not doing like true warriors, to be driving cows and calves down to the strand, while ye should be giving chase to the bear, since ye are come near to the bear's den." By the bear the peasant meant Earl Hakon, as the vikings well knew.
"What says the man?" they all cried, together; "can he tell us about Earl Hakon?"
When the peasant saw that his trick was discovered he jumped overboard, hoping to swim to shore. But one of the vikings flung a spear after him, and the peasant sank and was seen no more.Now though the vikings had fewer ships than Earl Hakon, they were larger and higher, and Sigvald hoped that this would help them to gain the victory.
Slowly the fleets drew together and a fierce battle began. At first Hakon's men fell in great numbers, for the Jomsvikings fought with all their wonted strength. So many spears also were aimed at Hakon himself that his armor was split asunder and he threw it aside.
When the earl saw that the battle was going against him, he called his sons together and said, "I dislike to fight against these men, for I believe that none are their equals, and I see that it will fare ill with us unless we hit upon some plan. Stay here with the host and I will go ashore and see what can be done."
Then the jarl went into the depths of a forest, and, sinking on his knees, he prayed to the goddess Thorgerd. But when no answer came to his cry, Hakon thought she was angry, and to appease her wrath he sacrificed many precious things to her. Yet still the goddess hid her face.In his despair Hakon then promised to offer human sacrifices, but no sign was given to him that his offering would be accepted.
"Thou shalt have my son, my youngest son Erling!" cried the King, and then at length, so it seemed to Hakon, Thorgerd was satisfied. He therefore gave his son, who was but seven years old, to his thrall, and bade him offer the child as a sacrifice to the goddess.[pg 403]
Then Hakon went back to his ships, and lo! as the battle raged, the sky began to grow dark though it was but noon, and a storm arose and a heavy shower of hail fell. The hail was driven by the wind in the faces of the vikings, and flashes of lightning blinded them and loud peals of thunder made them afraid. But a short time before the warriors had flung aside their garments because of the heat; now the cold was so intense that they could scarce hold their weapons.
While the storm raged, Hakon praised the gods and encouraged his men to fight more fiercely. Then, as the battle went against them, the Jomsvikings saw in the clouds a troll, or fiend. In each finger the troll held an arrow, which, as it seemed to them, always hit and killed a man.
Sigvald saw that his men were growing fearful, and he, too; felt that the gods were against them. "It seems to me," he said, "that it is not men whom we have to fight to-day but fiends, and it requires some manliness to go boldly against them."
But now the storm abated, and once more the vikings began to conquer. Then the earl cried again to Thorgerd, saying that now he deserved victory, for he had sacrificed to her his youngest son.
Then once more the storm-cloud crept over the sky and a terrific storm of hail beat upon the vikings, and now they saw, not in the clouds, but in Hakon's ship, two trolls, and they were speeding arrows among the enemies of Hakon.
Even Sigvald, the renowned leader of the Jomsvikings, could not stand before these unknown powers. He called to his men to flee, for, said he, "we did not vow to fight against fiends, but against men."But though Sigvald sailed away with thirty-five ships, there were some of his men who scorned to flee even from fiends. Twenty-five ships stayed behind to continue the fight.
The viking Bui was commander of one of these. His ship was boarded by Hakon's men, whereupon he took one of his treasures-chests in either hand and jumped into the sea. As he jumped he cried, "Overboard, all Bui's men," and neither he nor those who followed him were ever seen again.
Before the day was ended, Sigvald's brother had also sailed [pg 404] away with twenty-four boats, so that there was left but one boat out of all the Jomsvikings' fleet. It was commanded by the viking Vagn.
Earl Hakon sent his son Eric to board this boat, and after a brave fight it was captured, for Vagn's men were stiff and weary with their wounds, and could scarce wield their battleaxes or spears.
With thirty-six of his men Vagn was taken prisoner and brought to land, and thus Earl Hakon had defeated the famous vikings of Jomsburg. The victory was due, as Hakon at least believed, to the aid of the goddess Thorgerd.
When the weapons and other booty which they had taken had been divided among the men, Earl Hakon and his chiefs sat down in their warbooths and appointed a man named Thorkel to behead the prisoners.
Eighteen were beheaded ere the headsman came to Vagn. Now, as he had a dislike to this brave viking, Thorkel rushed at him, holding his sword in both hands. But Vagn threw himself suddenly at Thorkel's feet, whereupon the headsman tripped over him. In a moment Vagn was on his feet, Thorkel's sword in his hand, and before any one could stop him he had slain his enemy.Then Earl Eric, Hakon's son, who loved brave men, said, "Vagn, wilt thou accept life?" "That I will," said the bold viking, "if thou give it to all of us who are still alive." "Loose the prisoners!" cried the young earl, and it was done. Thus of the famous band of Jomsvikings twelve yet lived to do many a valiant deed in days to come.
Hero Of Germany: Siegfried
ADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR I
MIMER THE BLACKSMITH
Siegfried was born a prince and grew to be a hero, a hero with a heart of gold. Though he could fight, and was as strong as any lion, yet he could love too and be as gentle as a child.
The father and mother of the hero-boy lived in a strong castle near the banks of the great Rhine river. Siegmund, his father, was a rich king, Sieglinde, his mother, a beautiful queen, and dearly did they love their little son Siegfried.The courtiers and the high-born maidens who dwelt in the castle honored the little Prince, and thought him the fairest child in all the land, as indeed he was.
Sieglinde, his queen-mother, would oftimes dress her little son in costly garments and lead him by the hand before the proud, strong men-at-arms who stood before the castle walls. Naught had they but smiles and gentle words for their little Prince.When he grew older, Siegfried would ride into the country, yet always would he be attended by King Siegmund's most trusted warriors.
Then one day armed men entered the Netherlands, the country over which the King Siegmund ruled, and the little Prince was sent away from the castle, lest by any evil chance he should fall into the hands of the foe.Siegfried was hidden away safe in the thickets of a great [pg 406] forest, and dwelt there under the care of a blacksmith, named Mimer.
Mimer was a dwarf, belonging to a strange race of little folk called Nibelungs. The Nibelungs lived for the most part in a dark little town beneath the ground. Nibelheim was the name of this little town and many of the tiny men who dwelt there were smiths. All the livelong day they would hammer on their little anvils, but all through the long night they would dance and play with tiny little Nibelung women.It was not in the little dark town of Nibelung that Mimer had his forge, but under the trees of the great forest to which Siegfried had been sent.
As Mimer or his pupils wielded their tools the wild beasts would start from their lair, and the swift birds would wing their flight through the mazes of the wood, lest danger lay in those heavy, resounding strokes.
But Siegfried, the hero-boy, would laugh for glee, and seizing the heaviest hammer he could see he would swing it with such force upon the anvil that it would be splintered into a thousand pieces.
Then Mimer the blacksmith would scold the lad, who was now the strongest of all the lads under his care; but little heeding his rebukes, Siegfried would fling himself merrily out of the smithy and hasten with great strides into the gladsome wood. For now the Prince was growing a big lad, and his strength was even as the strength of ten.
To-day Siegfried was in a merry mood. He would repay Mimer's rebukes in right good fashion. He would frighten the little blacksmith dwarf until he was forced to cry for mercy.Clad in his forest dress of deerskins, with his hair as burnished gold blowing around his shoulders, Siegfried wandered away into the depths of the woodland.
There he seized the silver horn which hung from his girdle and raised it to his lips. A long, clear note he blew, and ere the sound had died away the boy saw a sight which pleased him well. Here was good prey indeed! A bear, a great big shaggy bear was peering at him out of a bush, and as he gazed the beast opened its jaws and growled, a fierce and angry growl. [pg 407] Not a whit afraid was Siegfried. Quick as lightning he had caught the great creature in his arms, and ere it could turn upon him, it was muzzled, and was being led quietly along toward the smithy.Mimer was busy at his forge sharpening a sword when Siegfried reached the doorway.
At the sound of laughter the little dwarf raised his head. It was the Prince who laughed. Then Mimer saw the bear, and letting the sword he held drop to the ground with a clang, he ran to hide himself in the darkest corner of the smithy.
Then Siegfried laughed again. He was no hero-boy to-day, for next he made the big bear hunt the little Nibelung dwarf from corner to corner, nor could the frightened little man escape or hide himself in darkness. Again and again as he crouched in a shadowed corner, Siegfried would stir up the embers of the forge until all the smithy was lighted with a ruddy glow.At length the Prince tired of his game, and unmuzzling the bear he chased the bewildered beast back into the shelter of the woodland.
Mimer, poor little dwarf, all a-tremble with his fear, cried angrily, "Thou mayest go shoot if so it please thee, and bring home thy dead prey. Dead bears thou mayest bring hither if thou wilt, but live bears shalt thou leave to crouch in their lair or to roam through the forest." But Siegfried, the naughty Prince, only laughed at the little Nibelung's frightened face and harsh, croaking voice.
Now as the days passed, Mimer the blacksmith began to wish that Siegfried had never come to dwell with him in his smithy. The Prince was growing too strong, too brave to please the little dwarf; moreover, many were the mischievous tricks his pupil played on him.
Prince though he was, Mimer would see if he could not get rid of his tormentor. For indeed though, as I have told you, Siegfried had a heart of gold, at this time the gold seemed to have grown dim and tarnished. Perhaps that was because the Prince had learned to distrust and to dislike, nay, more, to hate the little, cunning dwarf.
However that may be, it is certain that Siegfried played many [pg 408] pranks upon the little Nibelung, and he, Mimer, determined to get rid of the quick-tempered, strong-handed Prince.
One day, therefore, it happened that the little dwarf told Siegfried to go deep into the forest to bring home charcoal for the forge. And this Mimer did, though he knew that in the very part of the forest to which he was sending the lad there dwelt a terrible dragon, named Regin. Indeed Regin was a brother of the little blacksmith, and would be lying in wait for the Prince. It would be but the work of a moment for the monster to seize the lad and greedily to devour him.
To Siegfried it was always joy to wander afar through the woodland. Ofttimes had he thrown himself down on the soft, moss-covered ground and lain there hour after hour, listening to the wood-bird's song. Sometimes he would even find a reed and try to pipe a tune as sweet as did the birds, but that was all in vain, as the lad soon found. No tiny songster would linger to hearken to the shrill piping of his grassy reed, and the Prince himself was soon ready to fling it far away.
It was no hardship then to Siegfried to leave the forge and the hated little Nibelung, therefore it was that with right good will he set out in search of charcoal for Mimer the blacksmith.
As he loitered there where the trees grew thickest, Siegfried took his horn and blew it lustily. If he could not pipe on a grassy reed, at least he could blow a rousing note on his silver horn.Suddenly, as Siegfried blew, the trees seemed to sway, the earth to give out fire. Regin, the dragon, had roused himself at the blast, and was even now drawing near to the Prince. It was at the mighty strides of the monster that the trees had seemed to tremble, it was as he opened his terrible jaws that the earth had seemed to belch out fire.
For a little while Siegfried watched the dragon in silence. Then he laughed aloud, and a brave, gay laugh it was. Alone in the forest, with a sword, buckled to his side, the hero was afraid of naught, not even of Regin. The ugly monster was sitting now on a little hillock, looking down upon the lad, his victim as he thought.
Then Siegfried called boldly to the dragon, "I will kill thee, for in truth thou art an ugly monster."
Swiftly then the Prince drew his sword, well tempered as he knew, for had not he himself wrought it in the forge of Mimer the blacksmith? Swiftly he drew his sword, and with one bound he sprang upon the dragon's back, and as he reared himself, down came the hero's shining sword and pierced into the very heart of the monster. Thus as Siegfried leaped nimbly to the ground, the dragon fell back dead. Regin was no longer to be feared.
Then Siegfried did a curious thing. He had heard the little Nibelung men who came to the smithy to talk with Mimer, he had heard them say that whoever should bathe in the blood of Regin the dragon would henceforth be safe from every foe. For his skin would grow so tough and horny that it would be to him as an armor through which no sword could ever pierce.
Thinking of the little Nibelungs' harsh voices and wrinkled little faces as they had sat talking thus around Mimer's glowing forge, Siegfried now flung aside his deerskin dress and bathed himself from top to toe in the dragon's blood.
But as he bathed, a leaf from off a linden tree was blown upon his shoulders, and on the spot where it rested Siegfried's skin was still soft and tender as when he was a little child. It was only a tiny spot which was covered by the linden leaf, but should a spear thrust, or an arrow pierce that tiny spot, Siegfried would be wounded as easily as any other man.
The dragon was dead, the bath was over, and clad once more in his deerskin, Siegfried set out for the smithy. He brought no charcoal for the forge; all that he carried with him was a heart afire with anger, a sword quivering to take the life of the Nibelung, Mimer.For now Siegfried knew that the dwarf had wished to send him forth to death, when he bade him go seek charcoal in the depths of the forest. [pg 410]
Into the dusky glow of the smithy plunged the hero, and swiftly he slew the traitor Mimer. Then gaily, for he had but slain evil ones of whom the world was well rid, then gaily Siegfried fared through the forest in quest of adventure.II
SIEGFRIED WINS THE TREASURE Now this is what befell the Prince.
In his wanderings he reached the country called Isenland, where the warlike but beautiful Queen Brunhild reigned. He gazed with wonder at her castle, so strong it stood on the edge of the sea, guarded by seven great gates. Her marble palaces also made him marvel, so white they glittered in the sun.But most of all he marveled at this haughty Queen, who refused to marry any knight unless he could vanquish her in every contest to which she summoned him.
Brunhild from the castle window saw the fair face and the strong limbs of the hero, and demanded that he should be brought into her presence, and as a sign of her favor she showed the young Prince her magic horse Gana.
Yet Siegfried had no wish to conquer the warrior-queen and gain her hand and her broad dominions for his own. Siegfried thought only of a wonder-maiden, unknown, unseen as yet, though in his heart he hid an image of her as he dreamed that she would be.
It is true that Siegfried had no love for the haughty Brunhild. It is also true that he wished to prove to her that he alone was a match for all her boldest warriors, and had even power to bewitch her magic steed, Gana, if so he willed, and steal it from her side.And so one day a spirit of mischief urged the Prince on to a gay prank, as also a wayward spirit urged him no longer to brook Queen Brunhild's mien.
Before he left Isenland, therefore, Siegfried in a merry mood threw to the ground the seven great gates that guarded the Queen's strong castle. Then he called to Gana, the magic[pg 411] steed, to follow him into the world, and this the charger did with a right good will.Whether Siegfried sent Gana back to Isenland or not I do not know, but I know that in the days to come Queen Brunhild never forgave the hero for his daring feat.
When the Prince had left Isenland he rode on and on until he came to a great mountain. Here near a cave he found two little dwarfish Nibelungs, surrounded by twelve foolish giants. The two little Nibelungs were princes, the giants were their counselors.Now the King of the Nibelungs had but just died in the dark little underground town of Nibelheim, and the two tiny princes were the sons of the dead King.
But they had not come to the mountain-side to mourn for their royal father. Not so indeed had they come, but to divide the great hoard of treasure which the King had bequeathed to them at his death.
Already they had begun to quarrel over the treasure, and the twelve foolish giants looked on, but did not know what to say or do, so they did nothing, and never spoke at all. The dwarfs had themselves carried the hoard out of the cave where usually it was hidden, and they had spread it on the mountain-side.There it lay, gold as far as the eye could see, and farther. Jewels, too, were there, more than twelve wagons could carry away in four days and nights, each going three journeys. Indeed, however much you took from this marvelous treasure, never did it seem to grow less.
But more precious even than the gold or the jewels of the hoard was a wonderful sword which it possessed. It was named Balmung, and had been tempered by the Nibelungs in their glowing forges underneath the glad green earth.Before the magic strength of Balmung's stroke, the strongest warrior must fall, nor could his armor save him, however close its links had been welded by some doughty smith. As Siegfried rode towards the two little dwarfs, they turned and saw him, with his bright, fair face, and flowing locks. Nimble as little hares they darted to his side, and begged [pg 412] that he would come and divide their treasure. He should have the good sword Balmung as reward, they cried. Siegfried dismounted, well pleased to do these ugly little men a kindness.
But alas! ere long the dwarfs began to mock at the hero with their harsh voices, and to wag their horrid little heads at him, while they screamed in a fury that he was not dividing the treasure as they wished.
Then Siegfried grew angry with the tiny princes, and seizing the magic sword, he cut off their heads. The twelve foolish giants also he slew, and thus became himself master of the marvelous hoard as well as of the good sword Balmung.
Seven hundred valiant champions, hearing the blast of the hero's horn, now gather together to defend the country from this strange young warrior. But he vanquished them all, and forced them to promise that they would henceforth serve no other lord save him alone. And this they did, being proud of his great might.
Now tidings of the slaughter of the two tiny princes had reached Nibelheim, and great was the wrath of the little men and little women who dwelt in the dark town beneath the earth.
Alberich, the mightiest of all the dwarfs, gathered together his army of little gnomes to avenge the death of the two dwarf princes and also, for Alberich was a greedy man, to gain for himself the great hoard.
When Siegfried saw Alberich at the head of his army of little men he laughed aloud, and with a light heart he chased them all into the great cave on the mountain-side.
From off the mighty dwarf, Alberich, he stripped his famous Cloak of Darkness, which made him who wore it not only invisible, but strong as twelve strong men. He snatched also from the dwarf's fingers his wishing-rod, which was a Magic Wand. And last of all he made Alberich and his thousands of tiny warriors take an oath, binding them evermore to serve him alone. Then hiding the treasure in the cave with the seven hundred champions whom he had conquered, he left Alberich and his army of little men to guard it, until he came again. And Alberich and his dwarfs were faithful to the hero who [pg 413] had shorn them of their treasure, and served him for evermore.
Siegfried, the magic sword Balmung by his side, the Cloak of Darkness thrown over his arm, the Magic Wand in his strong right hand, went over the mountain, across the plains, nor did he tarry until he came again to the castle built on the banks of the river Rhine in his own low-lying country of the Netherlands.III
SIEGFRIED COMES HOME
The walls of the old castle rang. King Siegmund, his knights and liegemen, all were welcoming Prince Siegfried home. They had not seen their hero-prince since he had been sent long years before to be under the charge of Mimer the blacksmith.He had grown but more fair, more noble, they thought, as they gazed upon his stalwart limbs, his fearless eyes. And what tales of prowess clustered around his name! Already their Prince had done great deeds as he had ridden from land to land.
The King and his liegemen had heard of the slaughter of the terrible dragon, of the capture of the great treasure, of the defiance of the warlike and beautiful Brunhild. They could wish for no more renowned prince than their own Prince Siegfried.Thus Siegmund and his subjects rejoiced that the heir to the throne was once again in his own country.
In the Queen's bower, too, there was great joy. Sieglinde wept, but her tears were not those of sadness. Sieglinde wept for very gladness that her son had come home safe from his wonderful adventures.
Now Siegmund wished to give a great feast in honor of his son. It should be on his birthday which was very near, the birthday on which the young Prince would be twentyone years of age.
Far and wide throughout the Netherlands and into distant [pg 414] realms tidings of the feast were borne. Kinsmen and strangers, lords and ladies, all were asked to the banquet in the great castle hall where Siegmund reigned supreme.
Siegfried was to be knighted on this June day along with four hundred young squires of his father's realm. The Prince was clad in gorgeous armor, and on the cloak flung around his shoulders jewels were seen to sparkle in the sunlight, jewels made fast with gold embroidery worked by the white hands of the Queen and her fair damsels.
In games and merry pastimes the hours of the day sped fast away, until the great bell of the Minster pealed, calling the gay company to the house of God for evensong. Siegfried and the four hundred squires knelt before the altar, ere they were knighted by the royal hand of Siegmund the King.
The solemn service ended, the new-made knights hastened back to the castle, and there in the great hall a mighty tournament was held. Knights who had grown gray in service tilted with those who but that day had been given the grace of knighthood. Lances splintered, shields fell before the mighty onslaughts of the gallant warriors, until King Siegmund bade the tilting cease.Then in the great hall feasting and song held sway until daylight faded and the stars shone bright. Yet no weariness knew the merrymakers. The next morning, and for six long summer days, they tilted, they sang, they feasted. When at length the great festival drew to a close, Siegmund in the presence of his guests gave to his dear son Siegfried many lands and strong castles over which he might be lord.
To all his son's comrades, too, the King gave steeds and costly raiment, while Queen Sieglinde bestowed upon them freely coins of gold. Such abundant gifts had never before been dreamed of as were thus lavished by Siegmund and Sieglinde on their guests.As the rich nobles looked upon the brave young Prince [pg 415] Siegfried, there were some who whispered among themselves that they would fain have him to rule in the land. Siegfried heard their whispers, but in no wise did he give heed to the wish of the nobles.
Never, he thought while his beautiful mother and his bounteous father lived, would he wear the crown.
Indeed Siegfried had no wish to sit upon a throne, he wished but to subdue the evil-doers in the land. Or better still, he wished to go forth in search of new adventure. And this right soon he did.
SIEGFRIED AT THE COURT OF WORMS
At the Court of Worms in Burgundy dwelt the Princess Kriemhild, whose fame for beauty and kindness had spread to many a far-off land. She lived with her mother Queen Uté and her three brothers King Gunther, King Gernot, and King Giselher. Her father had long been dead. Gunther sat upon the throne and had for chief counselor his cruel uncle Hagen.
One night Kriemhild dreamed that a beautiful wild hawk with feathers of gold came and perched upon her wrist. It grew so tame that she took it with her to the hunt. Upward it soared when loosed toward the bright blue sky. Then the dream-maiden saw two mighty eagles swoop down upon her petted hawk and tear it to pieces.
The Princess told her dream to her mother, who said, "The hawk, my daughter, is a noble knight who shall be thy husband, but, alas, unless God defend him from his foes, thou shalt lose him ere he has long been thine." Kriemhild replied, "O lady mother, I wish no knight to woo me from thy side." "Nay," said the Queen, "Speak not thus, for God will send to thee a noble knight and strong."
Hearing of the Princess, Siegfried, who lived in the Netherlands, began to think that she was strangely like the unknown maiden whose image he carried in his heart. So he set out to go into Burgundy to see the beautiful Kriemhild who had sent many knights away.[pg 416] Siegfried's father wished to send an army with him but Siegfried said, "Nay, give me only, I pray thee, eleven stalwart warriors."
Tidings had reached King Gunther of the band of strangers who had so boldly entered the royal city. He sent for Hagen, chief counselor, who said they must needs be princes or ambassadors. "One knight, the fairest and the boldest, is, methinks, the wondrous hero Siegfried, who has won great treasure from the Nibelungs, and has killed two little princely dwarfs, their twelve giants, and seven hundred great champions of the neighboring country with his good sword Balmung." Graciously then did the King welcome Siegfried."I beseech thee, noble knight," said the King, "tell me why thou hast journeyed to this our royal city?"
Now Siegfried was not ready to speak of the fair Princess, so he told the King that he had come to see the splendor of the court and to do great deeds, even to wrest from him the broad realm of Burgundy and likewise all his castles. "Unless thou dost conquer me I shall rule in my great might in this realm."
"We do well to be angry at the words of this bold stripling," said Hagen. A quarrel arose, but King Gernot, Gunther's brother, made peace and Siegfried began to think of the wonderlady of his dreams and grew ashamed of his boasting.Then all Burgundy began to hear of Siegfried. At the end of the year Burgundy was threatened with invasion. King Ludegast and King Ludeger threatened mighty wars.
When Siegfried heard of this he said, "If trouble hath come to thee, my arm is strong to bring thee aid. If thy foes were as many as thirty thousand, yet with one thousand warriors would I destroy them. Therefore, leave the battle in my hands."
When the rude kings heard that Siegfried would fight for Burgundy their hearts failed for fear and in great haste they gathered their armies. King Gunther meanwhile had assembled his men and the chief command was given to Hagen, but Siegfried rode forward to seek the foe.
In advance of their warriors stood Ludegast and Ludeger ready for the fray. Grasping his good sword Balmung, Siegfried first met Ludegast piercing him through his steel harness with [pg 417] an ugly thrust till he lay helpless at his feet. Thirty of the King's warriors rode up and beset the hero, but Siegfried slaughtered all save one. He was spared to carry the dire tidings of the capture of Ludegast to his army.
Ludeger had seen the capture of his brother and met the onslaught that Siegfried soon made upon him. But with a great blow Siegfried struck the shield from Ludeger's hold, and in a moment more he had him at his mercy. For the second time that day the Prince was victor over a king.
When Uté, the mother of Kriemhild, heard that a grand festival celebrating the prowess of Prince Siegfried was to be held at court, she made up her mind that she and her daughter would lend their gracious presence. Many noble guests were there gathered and when the knights entered the lists the King sent a hundred of his liegemen to bring the Queen and the Princess to the great hall. When Siegfried saw the Princess he knew that she was indeed more beautiful than he had ever dreamed. A messenger was sent by the King bidding him greet the Princess. "Be welcome here, Sir Siegfried, for thou art a good and noble knight," said the maiden softly, "for right well hast thou served my royal brother.""Thee will I serve for ever," cried the happy hero, "thee will I serve for ever, and thy wishes shall ever be my will!" Then for twelve glad days were Siegfried and Kriemhild ofttimes side by side. V.
SIEGFRIED GOES TO ISENLAND Whitsuntide had come and gone when tidings from beyond the Rhine reached the court at Worms.
No dread tidings were these, but glad and good to hear, of a matchless Queen named Brunhild who dwelt in Isenland. King Gunther listened with right good will to the tales of this warlike maiden, for if she were beautiful she was also strong as any warrior. Wayward, too, she was, yet Gunther would fain have her as his queen to sit beside him on his throne.[pg 418] One day the King sent for Siegfried to tell him that he would fain journey to Isenland to wed Queen Brunhild.
Now Siegfried, as you know, had been in Isenland and knew some of the customs of this wayward Queen. So he answered the King right gravely that it would be a dangerous journey across the sea to Isenland, nor would he win the Queen unless he were able to vanquish her great strength.
He told the King how Brunhild would challenge him to three contests, or games, as she would call them. And if she were the victor, as indeed she had been over many a royal suitor, then his life would be forfeited.
At her own desire kings and princes had hurled the spear at the stalwart Queen, and it had but glanced harmless off her shield, while she would pierce the armor of these valiant knights with her first thrust. This was one of the Queen's games.
Then the knights would hasten to the ring and throw the stone from them as far as might be, yet ever Queen Brunhild threw it farther. For this was another game of the warriorqueen.The third game was to leap beyond the stone which they had thrown, but ever to their dismay the knights saw this marvelous maiden far outleap them all. These valorous knights, thus beaten in the three contests, had been beheaded, and therefore it was that Siegfried spoke so gravely to King Gunther.
But Gunther, so he said, was willing to risk his life to win so brave a bride. Now Hagen had drawn near to the King, and as he listened to Siegfried's words, the grim warrior said, "Sire, since the Prince knows the customs of Isenland, let him go with thee on thy journey, to share thy dangers, and to aid thee in the presence of this warlike Queen."And Hagen, for he hated the hero, hoped that he might never return alive from Isenland. But the King was pleased with his counselor's words. "Sir Siegfried," he said, "wilt thou help me to win the matchless maiden Brunhild for my queen?"
"That right gladly will I do," answered the Prince, "if thou [pg 419] wilt promise to give me thy sister Kriemhild as my bride, should I bring thee back safe from Isenland, the bold Queen at thy side."Then the King promised that on the same day that he wedded Brunhild, his sister should wed Prince Siegfried, and with this promise the hero was well content. "Thirty thousand warriors will I summon to go with us to Isenland," cried King Gunther gaily.
"Nay," said the Prince, "thy warriors would but be the victims of this haughty Queen. As plain knight-errants will we go, taking with us none, save Hagen the keen-eyed and his brother Dankwart."
Then King Gunther, his face aglow with pleasure, went with Sir Siegfried to his sister's bower, and begged her to provide rich garments in which he and his knights might appear before the beauteous Queen Brunhild.
"Thou shalt not beg this service from me," cried the gentle Princess, "rather shalt thou command that which thou dost wish. See, here have I silk in plenty. Send thou the gems from off thy bucklers, and I and my maidens will work them with gold embroideries into the silk."
Thus the sweet maiden dismissed her brother, and sending for her thirty maidens who were skilled in needlework she bade them sew their daintiest stitches, for here were robes to be made for the King and Sir Siegfried ere they went to bring Queen Brunhild into Rhineland.
For seven weeks Kriemhild and her maidens were busy in their bower. Silk white as newfallen snow, silk green as the leaves in spring did they shape into garments worthy to be worn by the King and Sir Siegfried, and amid the gold embroideries glittered many a radiant gem.
Meanwhile down by the banks of the Rhine a vessel was being built to carry the King across the sea to Isenland.
When all was ready the King and Sir Siegfried went to the bower of the Princess. They would put on the silken robes and the beautiful cloaks Kriemhild and her maidens had sewed to see that they were neither too long nor too short. But indeed the skilful hands of the Princess had not erred. No [pg 420] more graceful or more beautiful garments had ever before been seen by the King or the Prince.
The hero bowed his head and promised to shield the King from danger, then they said farewell to the maiden, and embarked in the little ship that awaited them on the banks of the Rhine. Nor did Siegfried forget to take with him his Cloak of Darkness and his good sword Balmung.
Now none was there on the ship save King Gunther, Siegfried, Hagen, and Dankwart, but Siegfried with his Cloak of Darkness had the strength of twelve men as well as his own strong right hand.
Merrily sailed the little ship, steered by Sir Siegfried himself. Soon the Rhine river was left behind and they were out on the sea, a strong wind filling their sails. Ere evening, full twenty miles had the good ship made.For twelve days they sailed onward, until before them rose the grim fortress that guarded Isenland. "What towers are these?" cried King Gunther, as he gazed upon the turreted castle which looked as a grim sentinel guarding the land. "These," answered the hero, "are Queen Brunhild's towers and this is the country over which she rules."
Then turning to Hagen and Dankwart Siegfried begged them to let him be spokesman to the Queen, for he knew her wayward moods. "And King Gunther shall be my king," said the Prince, "and I but his vassal until we leave Isenland."And Hagen and Dankwart, proud men though they were, obeyed in all things the words of the young Prince of the Netherlands. VI
SIEGFRIED SUBDUES BRUNHILD
The little ship had sailed on now close beneath the castle, so close indeed that as the King looked up to the window he [pg 421] could catch glimpses of beautiful maidens passing to and fro.
Sir Siegfried also looked and laughed aloud for glee. It would be but a little while until Brunhild was won and he was free to return to his winsome lady Kriemhild.
The King and his warriors now moored their vessel and leaped ashore, Siegfried leading with him the King's charger. For each knight had brought his steed with him from the fair land of Burgundy.
More bright than ever beamed the bright eyes of the ladies at the castle window. So fair, so gallant a knight never had they seen, thought the damsels as they gazed upon Sir Siegfried. And all the while King Gunther dreamed their glances were bent on no other than himself.
Siegfried held the noble steed until King Gunther had mounted, and this he did that Queen Brunhild might not know that he was the Prince of the Netherlands, owing service to no man. Then going back to the ship the hero brought his own horse to land, mounted, and rode with the King toward the castle gate.
King and Prince were clad alike. Their steeds as well as their garments were white as snow, their saddles were bedecked with jewels, and on the harness hung bells, all of bright red gold. Their shields shone as the sun, their spears they wore before them, their swords hung by their sides.Behind them followed Hagen and Dankwart, their armor black as the plumage of the wild raven, their shields strong and mighty. [pg 422]
As they approached the castle gates were flung wide open, and the liegemen of the great Queen came out to greet the strangers with words of welcome. They bid their hirelings also take the shields and chargers from their guests.
But when a squire demanded that the strangers should also yield their swords, grim Hagen smiled his grimmest, and cried, "Nay, our swords will we e'en keep lest we have need of them." Nor was he too well pleased when Siegfried told him that the custom in Isenland was that no guest should enter the castle carrying a weapon. It was but sullenly that he let his sword be taken away along with his mighty shield.After the strangers had been refreshed with wine, her liegemen sent to the Queen to tell her that strange guests had arrived. "Who are the strangers who come thus unheralded to my land?" haughtily demanded Brunhild. But no one could tell her who the warriors were, though some murmured that the tallest and fairest might be the great hero Siegfried.
It may be that the Queen thought that if the knight were indeed Siegfried she would revenge herself on him now for the mischievous pranks he had played the last time he was in her kingdom. In any case she said, "If the hero is here he shall enter into contest with me, and he shall pay for his boldness with his life, for I shall be the victor."Then with five hundred warriors, each with his sword in hand, Brunhild came down to the knights from Burgundy. "Be welcome, Siegfried," she cried, "yet wherefore hast thou come again to Isenland?"
"I thank thee for thy greeting, lady," said the Prince, "but thou hast welcomed me before my lord. He, King Gunther, ruler over the fair realms of Burgundy, hath come hither to wed with thee."
Brunhild was displeased that the mighty hero should not himself seek to win her as a bride, yet since for all his prowess he seemed but a vassal of the King, she answered, "If thy master can vanquish me in the contests to which I bid him, then I will be his wife, but if I conquer thy master, his life, and the lives of his followers will be forfeited."[pg 423] "What dost thou demand of my master?" asked Hagen. "He must hurl the spear with me, throw the stone from the ring, and leap to where it has fallen," said the Queen.
Now while Brunhild was speaking, Siegfried whispered to the King to fear nothing, but to accept the Queen's challenge. "I will be near though no one will see me, to aid thee in the struggle," he whispered.
Gunther had such trust in the Prince that he at once cried boldly, "Queen Brunhild, I do not fear even to risk my life that I may win thee for my bride."
Then the bold maiden called for her armor, but when Gunther saw her shield, "three spans thick with gold and iron, which four chamberlains could hardly bear," his courage began to fail.
While the Queen donned her silken fighting doublet, which could turn aside the sharpest spear, Siegfried slipped away unnoticed to the ship, and swiftly flung around him his Cloak of Darkness. Then unseen by all, he hastened back to King Gunther's side.A great javelin was then given to the Queen, and she began to fight with her suitor, and so hard were her thrusts that but for Siegfried the King would have lost his life.
"Give me thy shield," whispered the invisible hero in the King's ear, "and tell no one that I am here." Then as the maiden hurled her spear with all her force against the shield which she thought was held by the King, the shock well-nigh drove both Gunther and his unseen friend to their knees.
But in a moment Siegfried's hand had dealt the Queen such a blow with the handle of his spear (he would not use the sharp point against a woman) that the maiden cried aloud, "King Gunther, thou hast won this fray." For as she could not see Siegfried because of his Cloak of Darkness, she could not but believe that it was the King who had vanquished her.In her wrath the Queen now sped to the ring, where lay a stone so heavy that it could scarce be lifted by twelve strong men.
But Brunhild lifted it with ease, and threw it twelve arms' length beyond the spot on which she stood. Then, leaping after [pg 424] it, she alighted even farther than she had thrown the stone.
Gunther now stood in the ring, and lifted the stone which had again been placed within it. He lifted it with an effort, but at once Siegfried's unseen hand grasped it and threw it with such strength that it dropped even beyond the spot to which it had been flung by the Queen. Lifting King Gunther with him Siegfried next jumped far beyond the spot on which the Queen had alighted. And all the warriors marveled to see their Queen thus vanquished by the strange King. For you must remember that not one of them could see that it was Siegfried who had done these deeds of prowess.Now in the contest, still unseen, Siegfried had taken from the Queen her ring and her favorite girdle.
With angry gestures Brunhild called to her liegemen to come and lay their weapons down at King Gunther's feet to do him homage. Henceforth they must be his thralls and own him as their lord.
As soon as the contests were over, Siegfried had slipped back to the ship and hidden his Cloak of Darkness. Then boldly he came back to the great hall, and pretending to know nothing of the games begged to be told who had been the victor, if indeed they had already taken place.
When he had heard that Queen Brunhild had been vanquished, the hero laughed, and cried gaily, "Then, noble maiden, thou must go with us to Rhineland to wed King Gunther."
"A strange way for a vassal to speak," thought the angry Queen, and she answered with a proud glance at the knight, "Nay, that will I not do until I have summoned my kinsmen and my good lieges. For I will myself say farewell to them ere ever I will go to Rhineland."
Thus heralds were sent throughout Brunhild's realms, and soon from morn to eve her kinsmen and her liegemen rode into the castle, until it seemed as though a mighty army were assembling."Does the maiden mean to wage war against us," said Hagen grimly. "I like not the number of her warriors." Then said Siegfried, "I will leave thee for a little while [pg 425] and go across the sea, and soon will I return with a thousand brave warriors, so that no evil may befall us." So the Prince went down alone to the little ship and set sail across the sea.VII
SIEGFRIED AND THE PRINCESS
The ship in which Siegfried set sail drifted on before the wind, while those in Queen Brunhild's castle marveled, for no one was to be seen on board. This was because the hero had again donned his Cloak of Darkness.
On and on sailed the little ship until at length it drew near to the land of the Nibelungs. Then Siegfried left his vessel and again climbed the mountain-side, where long before he had cut off the heads of the little Nibelung princes.
He reached the cave into which he had thrust the treasure, and knocked loudly at the door. The cave was the entrance to Nibelheim the dark, little town beneath the glad, green grass.Siegfried might have entered the cave, but he knocked that he might see if the treasure were well guarded.
Then the porter, who was a great giant, when he heard the knock buckled on his armor and opened the door. Seeing, as he thought in his haste, a strange knight standing before him he fell upon him with a bar of iron. So strong was the giant that it was with difficulty that the Prince overcame him and bound him hand and foot.
Alberich meanwhile had heard the mighty blows, which indeed had shaken Nibelheim to its foundations.
Now the dwarf had sworn fealty to Siegfried, and when he, as the giant had done, mistook the Prince for a stranger, he seized a heavy whip with a gold handle and rushed upon him, smiting his shield with the knotted whip until it fell to pieces.
Too pleased that his treasures were so well defended to be angry, Siegfried now seized the little dwarf by his beard, and pulled it so long and so hard that Alberich was forced to cry for mercy. Then Siegfried bound him hand and foot as he had done the giant.[pg 426] Alberich, poor little dwarf, gnashed his teeth with rage. Who would guard the treasure now, and who would warn his master that a strong man had found his way to Nibelheim? But in the midst of his fears he heard the stranger's merry laugh. Nay, it was no stranger, none but the hero-prince could laugh thus merrily.
"I am Siegfried your master," then said the Prince. "I did but test thy faithfulness, Alberich," and laughing still, the hero undid the cords with which he had bound the giant and the dwarf."Call me here quickly the Nibelung warriors," cried Siegfried, "for I have need of them." And soon thirty thousand warriors stood before him in shining armor. Choosing one thousand of the strongest and biggest, the Prince marched with them down to the seashore. There they embarked in ships and sailed away to Isenland. Now it chanced that Queen Brunhild was walking on the terrace of her sea-guarded castle with King Gunther when she saw a number of sails approaching. "Whose can these ships be?" she cried in quick alarm. "These are my warriors who have followed me from Burgundy," answered the King, for thus had Siegfried bidden him speak. "We will go to welcome the fleet," said Brunhild, and together they met the brave Nibelung army and lodged them in Isenland.
"Now will I give of my silver and my gold to my liegemen and to Gunther's warriors," said Queen Brunhild, and she held out the keys of her treasury to Dankwart that he might do her will. But so lavishly did the knight bestow her gold and her costly gems and her rich raiment upon the warriors that the Queen grew angry.
"Naught shall I have left to take with me to Rhineland," she cried aloud in her vexation. "In Burgundy," answered Hagen, "there is gold enough and to spare. Thou wilt not need the treasures of Isenland."[pg 427] But these words did not content the Queen. She would certainly take at least twenty coffers of gold as well as jewels and silks with her to King Gunther's land.
At length, leaving Isenland to the care of her brother, Queen Brunhild, with twenty hundred of her own warriors as a bodyguard, with eighty-six dames and one hundred maidens, set out for the royal city of Worms.For nine days the great company journeyed homeward, and then King Gunther entreated Siegfried to be his herald to Worms. "Beg Queen Uté and the Princess Kriemhild," said the King, "beg them to ride forth to meet my bride and to prepare to hold high festival in honor of the wedding-feast." Thus Siegfried with four-and-twenty knights sailed on more swiftly than the other ships, and landing at the mouth of the river Rhine, rode hastily toward the royal city. The Queen and her daughter, clad in their robes of state, received the hero, and his heart was glad, for once again he stood in the presence of his dear lady, Kriemhild.
"Be welcome, my Lord Siegfried," she cried, "thou worthy knight, be welcome. But where is my brother? Has he been vanquished by the warrior-queen? Oh, wo is me if he is lost, wo is me that ever I was born," and the tears rolled down the maiden's cheeks.
"Nay, now," said the Prince, "thy brother is well and of good cheer. I have come, a herald of glad tidings. For even now the King is on his way to Worms, bringing with him his hard-won bride."Then the Princess dried her tears, and graciously did she bid the hero to sit by her side. "I would I might give thee a reward for thy services," said the gentle maiden, "but too rich art thou to receive my gold." "A gift from thy hands would gladden my heart," said the gallant Prince. Blithely then did Kriemhild send for four-and-twenty buckles, all inlaid with precious stones, and these did she give to Siegfried.
Siegfried bent low before the lady Kriemhild, for well did he love the gracious giver, yet would he not keep for himself [pg 428] her gifts, but gave them, in his courtesy, to her four-andtwenty maidens.
Then the Prince told Queen Uté that the King begged her and the Princess to ride forth from Worms to greet his bride, and to prepare to hold high festival in the royal city.
Already the King had disembarked, and was leading his bride toward his gracious mother. Courteously did Queen Uté welcome the stranger, while Kriemhild kissed her and clasped her in her arms.
Some, as they gazed upon the lovely maidens, said that the warlike Queen Brunhild was more beautiful than the gentle Princess Kriemhild, but others, and these were the wiser, said that none could excel the peerless sister of the King.
In the great plain of Worms silk tents and gay pavilions had been placed. And there the ladies took shelter from the heat, while before them knights and warriors held a gay tournament. Then, in the cool of the evening, a gallant train of lords and ladies, they rode toward the castle at Worms.Queen Uté and her daughter went to their own apartments, while the King with Brunhild went into the banquet-hall where the wedding-feast was spread. But ere the feast had begun, Siegfried came and stood before the King. "Sire," he said, "hast thou forgotten thy promise, that when Brunhild entered the royal city thy lady sister should be my bride?" "Nay," cried the King, "my royal word do I ever keep," and going out into the hall he sent for the Princess.
"Dear sister," said Gunther, as she bowed before him, "I [pg 429] have pledged my word to a warrior that thou wilt become his bride, wilt thou help me to keep my promise?" Now Siegfried was standing by the King's side as he spoke.
Then the gentle maiden answered meekly, "Thy will, dear brother, is ever mine. I will take as lord him to whom thou hast promised my hand." And she glanced shyly at Siegfried, for surely this was the warrior to whom her royal brother had pledged his word.
Right glad then was the King, and Siegfried grew rosy with delight as he received the lady's troth. Then together they went to the banquet-hall, and on a throne next to King Gunther sat the hero-prince, the lady Kriemhild by his side.
When the banquet was ended, the King was wedded to Queen Brunhild, and Siegfried to the maiden whom he loved so well, and though he had no crown to place upon her brow, the Princess was well content.
Hero Of France: Roland
ADAPTED BY H.E. MARSHALL I
For seven long years the great Emperor Charlemagne had been fighting in Spain against the Saracens; Saragossa alone remained unconquered, but word had gone forth that it, too, was doomed.
King Marsil, not knowing how to save his city from the conqueror, called a council of his wise men. Blancandrin, a knight of great valor, was chosen with ten others to set out with olive-branches in their hands, followed by a great train of slaves bearing presents, to seek the court of the great Christian King and sue for peace.
Bending low before Charlemagne, Blancandrin promised for King Marsil vassalage to the Emperor and baptism in the name of the Holy Christ. To assure the truth of his words, he said "We will give thee hostages, I will even send my own son if we keep not faith with thee."In the morning Charlemagne called his wise men and told them the message of Blancandrin.
Then Roland, one of the twelve chosen knights and the nephew of Charlemagne, rose flushed with anger and cried, "Believe not this Marsil, he was ever a traitor. Carry the war to Saragossa. War! I say war!"Ganelon a knight, who hated Roland, strode to the foot of the throne, saying, "Listen not to the counsel of fools but accept King Marsil's gifts and promises." [pg 430] Following the counsel of Duke Naimes the wisest of the court, Charlemagne declared that some one should be sent to King Marsil and asked the lords whom he should send. "Send me," cried Roland. "Nay," said Oliver, "let me go rather." But the Emperor said, "Not a step shall ye go, either one or other of you." "Ah!" said Roland, "if I may not go, then send Ganelon my stepfather." "Good!" replied the great Emperor, "Ganelon it shall be."
Ganelon trembled with passion and said, "this is Roland's work," for he knew he would never return alive to his wife and child. The quarrel between Roland and Ganelon was bitter indeed. "I hate thee," Ganelon hissed at last. "I hate thee!" Then, struggling to be calm, he turned to the Emperor and said, "I am ready to do thy will."
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said Charlemagne, "this is my message to the heathen King Marsil. Say to him that he shall bend the knee to gentle Christ and be baptized in His name. Then will I give him full half of Spain to hold in fief. Over the other half Count Roland, my nephew, well beloved, shall reign."
Without a word of farewell Ganelon went to his own house. There he clad himself in his finest armor. Commending his wife and child to the care of the knights who pressed round to bid him Godspeed, Ganelon, with bent head, turned slowly from their sight and rode to join the heathen Blancandrin.II
As Ganelon and Blancandrin rode along together beneath the olive-trees and through the fruitful vineyards of sunny Spain, the heathen began to talk cunningly. "What a wonderful knight is thy Emperor," he said. "He hath conquered the world from sea to sea. But why cometh he within our borders? Why left he us not in peace?""It was his will," replied Ganelon. "There is no man in all the world so great as he. None may stand against him." [pg 431] "You Franks are gallant men indeed," said Blancandrin, "but your dukes and counts deserve blame when they counsel the Emperor to fight with us now."
"There is none deserveth that blame save Roland," said Ganelon. "Such pride as his ought to be punished. Oh, that some one would slay him!" he cried fiercely. "Then should we have peace.""This Roland is very cruel," said Blancandrin, "to wish to conquer all the world as he does. But in whom does he trust for help?"
"In the Franks," said Ganelon. "They love him with such a great love that they think he can do no wrong. He giveth them gold and silver, jewels and armor, so they serve him. Even to the Emperor himself he maketh rich presents. He will not rest until he hath conquered all the world, from east to west."The Saracen looked at Ganelon out of the corner of his eye. He was a noble knight, but now that his face was dark with wrath and jealousy, he looked like a felon.
"Listen thou to me," said Blancandrin softly. "Dost wish to be avenged upon Roland? Then, by Mahomet! deliver him into our hands. King Marsil is very generous; for such a kindness he will willingly give unto thee of his countless treasure."
Ganelon heard the tempter's voice, but he rode onward as if unheeding, his chin sunken upon his breast, his eyes dark with hatred.
But long ere the ride was ended and Saragossa reached, the heathen lord and Christian knight had plotted together for the ruin of Roland.
At length the journey was over, and Ganelon lighted down before King Marsil, who awaited him beneath the shadow of his orchard-trees, seated upon a marble throne covered with rich silken rugs. Around him crowded his nobles, silent and eager to learn how Blancandrin had fared upon his errand.
Bowing low, Blancandrin approached the throne, leading Ganelon by the hand. "Greeting," he said, "in the name of [pg 432] Mahomet. Well, O Marsil, have I done thy behest to the mighty Christian King. But save that he raised his hands to heaven and gave thanks to his God, no answer did he render to me. But unto thee he sendeth one of his nobles, a very powerful man in France. From him shalt thou learn if thou shalt have peace or war.""Let him speak," said King Marsil. "We will listen."
"Greeting," said Ganelon, "in the name of God—the God of glory whom we ought all to adore. Listen ye to the command of Charlemagne: Thou, O King, shalt receive the Christian faith, then half of Spain will he leave to thee to hold in fief. The other half shall be given to Count Roland—a haughty companion thou wilt have there. If thou wilt not agree to this, Charlemagne will besiege Saragossa, and thou shalt be led captive to Aix, there to die a vile and shameful death."
King Marsil shook with anger and turned pale. In his hand he held an arrow fledged with gold. Now, springing from his throne, he raised his arm as if he would strike Ganelon. But the knight laid his hand upon his sword and drew it half out of the scabbard. "Sword," he cried, "thou art bright and beautiful; oft have I carried thee at the court of my King. It shall never be said of me that I died alone in a foreign land, among fierce foes, ere thou wert dipped in the blood of their bravest and best."For a few moments the heathen King and the Christian knight eyed each other in deep silence. Then the air was filled with shouts. "Part them, part them!" cried the Saracens.
The noblest of the Saracens rushed between their King and Ganelon. "It was a foolish trick to raise thy hand against the Christian knight," said Marsil's calif, seating him once more upon his throne. "'Twere well to listen to what he hath to say."
"Sir," said Ganelon proudly, "thinkest thou for all the threats in the wide world I will be silent and not speak the message which the mighty Charlemagne sendeth to his mortal enemy? Nay, I would speak, if ye were all against me." And keeping his right hand still upon the golden pommel of his [pg 434] sword, with his left he unclasped his cloak of fur and silk and cast it upon the steps of the throne. There, in his strength and splendor, he stood defying them all.
"'Tis a noble knight!" cried the heathen in admiration. Then once more turning to King Marsil, Ganelon gave him the Emperor's letter. As he broke the seal and read, Marsil's brow grew black with anger. "Listen, my lords," he cried; "because I slew yonder insolent Christian knights, the Emperor Charlemagne bids me beware his wrath. He commands that I shall send unto him as hostage mine uncle the calif."
"This is some madness of Ganelon!" cried a heathen knight. "He is only worthy of death. Give him unto me, and I will see that justice is done upon him." So saying, he laid his hand upon his sword.
Like a flash of lightning Ganelon's good blade Murglies sprang from its sheath, and with his back against a tree, the Christian knight prepared to defend himself to the last. But once again the fight was stopped, and this time Blancandrin led Ganelon away.
Then, walking alone with the King, Blancandrin told of all that he had done, and of how even upon the way hither, Ganelon had promised to betray Roland, who was Charlemagne's greatest warrior. "And if he die," said Blancandrin, "then is our peace sure.""Bring hither the Christian knight to me," cried King Marsil. So Blancandrin went, and once more leading Ganelon by the hand, brought him before the King.
"Fair Sir Ganelon," said the wily heathen, "I did a rash and foolish thing when in anger I raised my hand to strike at thee. As a token that thou wilt forget it, accept this cloak of sable. It is worth five hundred pieces of gold." And lifting a rich cloak, he clasped it about the neck of Ganelon."I may not refuse it," said the knight, looking down. "May Heaven reward thee!"
"Trust me, Sir Ganelon," said King Marsil, "I love thee well. But keep thou our counsels secret. I would hear thee talk of Charlemagne. He is very old, is he not?—more than [pg 435] two hundred years old. He must be worn out and weary, for he hath fought so many battles and humbled so many kings in the dust. He ought to rest now from his labors in his city of Aix."
Ganelon shook his head. "Nay," he said, "such is not Charlemagne. All those who have seen him know that our Emperor is a true warrior. I know not how to praise him enough before you, for there is nowhere a man so full of valor and of goodness. I would rather die than leave his service."
"In truth," said Marsil, "I marvel greatly. I had thought that Charlemagne had been old and worn. Then if it is not so, when will he cease his wars?"
"Ah," said Ganelon, "that he will never do so long as his nephew Roland lives. Under the arch of heaven there bides no baron so splendid or so proud. Oliver, his friend, also is full of prowess and of valor. With them and his peers beside him, Charlemagne feareth no man."
"That I can tell thee," said Ganelon. "Promise thou the Emperor all that he asketh of thee. Send hostages and presents to him. He will then return to France. His army will pass through the valley of Roncesvalles. I will see to it that Roland and his friend Oliver lead the rear-guard. They will lag behind the rest of the army, then there shalt thou fall upon them with all thy mighty men. I say not but that thou shalt lose many a knight, for Roland and his peers will fight right manfully. But in the end, being so many more than they, thou shalt conquer. Roland shall lie dead, and slaying him thou wilt cut off the right arm of Charlemagne. Then farewell to the wondrous army of France. Never again shall Charlemagne gather such a company, and within the borders of Spain there shall be peace for evermore."
When Ganelon had finished speaking, the King threw his arms about his neck and kissed him. Then turning to his slaves, he commanded them to bring great treasure of gold, and silver and precious stones, and lay it at the feet of the knight.[pg 436] "But swear to me," said Marsil, "that Roland shall be in the rear-guard, and swear to me his death." And Ganelon, laying his hand upon his sword Murglies, swore by the holy relics therein, that he would bring Roland to death.
Then came a heathen knight who gave to Ganelon a sword, the hilt of which glittered with gems so that the eyes were dazzled in looking upon it. "Let but Roland be in the rear-guard," he said, "and it is thine." Then he kissed Ganelon on both cheeks.
Soon another heathen knight followed him, laughing joyfully. "Here is my helmet," he cried. "It is the richest and best ever beaten out of steel. It is thine so that thou truly bring Roland to death and shame." And he, too, kissed Ganelon.
Next came Bramimonde, Marsil's queen. She was very beautiful. Her dark hair was strung with pearls, and her robes of silk and gold swept the ground. Her hands were full of glittering gems. Bracelets and necklaces of gold, rubies and sapphires fell from her white fingers. "Take these," she said, "to thy fair lady. Tell her that Queen Bramimonde sends them to her because of the great service thou hast done." And bowing low, she poured the sparkling jewels into Ganelon's hands. Thus did the heathen reward Ganelon for his treachery.
"Ho there!" called King Marsil to his treasurer, "are my gifts for the Emperor ready?"
Then King Marsil leant his hand on Ganelon's shoulder. "Wise art thou and brave," he said, "but in the name of all thou holdest sacred, forget not thy promise unto me. See, I give thee ten mules laden with richest treasure, and every year I will send to thee as much again. Now take the keys of my city gates, take the treasure and the hostages made ready for thine Emperor. Give them all to him, tell him that I yield to him all that he asks, but forget not thy promise that Roland shall ride in the rear-guard."[pg 437] Impatient to be gone, Ganelon shook the King's hand from his shoulder. "Let me tarry no longer," he cried. Then springing to horse he rode swiftly away.
Meanwhile Charlemagne lay encamped, awaiting Marsil's answer. And as one morning he sat beside his tent, with his lords and mighty men around him, a great cavalcade appeared in the distance. And presently Ganelon, the traitor, drew rein before him. Softly and smoothly he began his treacherous tale. "God keep you," he cried; "here I bring the keys of Saragossa, with treasure rich and rare, seven hundred camels' load of silver and gold and twenty hostages of the noblest of the heathen host. And King Marsil bids me say, thou shalt not blame him that his uncle the calif comes not too, for he is dead. I myself saw him as he set forth with three hundred thousand armed men upon the sea. Their vessels sank ere they had gone far from the land, and he and they were swallowed in the waves." Thus Ganelon told his lying tale."Now praised be Heaven!" cried Charlemagne. "And thanks, my trusty Ganelon, for well hast thou sped. At length my wars are done, and home to gentle France we ride."
So the trumpets were sounded, and soon the great army, with pennons waving and armor glittering in the sunshine, was rolling onward through the land, like a gleaming mighty river.
But following the Christian army, through valleys deep and dark, by pathways secret and unknown, crept the heathen host. They were clad in shining steel from head to foot, swords were by their sides, lances were in their hands, and bitter hatred in their hearts. Four hundred thousand strong they marched in stealthy silence. And, alas! the Franks knew it not.When night came the Franks encamped upon the plain. And high upon the mountainsides, in a dark forest the heathen kept watch upon them.
In the midst of his army King Charlemagne lay, and as he slept he dreamed he stood alone in the valley of Roncesvalles, spear in hand. There to him came Ganelon, who seized his spear and broke it in pieces before his eyes, and the noise of the breaking was as the noise of thunder. In his sleep Charlemagne [pg 438] stirred uneasily, but he did not wake. The vision passed, and again he dreamed. It seemed to him that he was now in his own city of Aix. Suddenly from out a forest a leopard sprang upon him. But even as its fangs closed upon his arm, a faithful hound came bounding from his hall and fell upon the savage beast with fury. Fiercely the hound grappled with the leopard. Snarling and growling they rolled over and over. Now the hound was uppermost, now the leopard. "Tis a splendid fight!" cried the Franks who watched. But who should win, the Emperor knew not, for the vision faded, and still he slept.The night passed and dawn came. A thousand trumpets sounded, the camp was all astir, and the Franks made ready once more to march.
But Charlemagne was grave and thoughtful, musing on the dream that he had dreamed. "My knights and barons," he said, "mark well the country through which we pass. These valleys are steep and straight. It would go ill with us did the false Saracen forget his oath, and fall upon us as we pass. To whom therefore shall I trust the rear-guard that we may march in surety?""Give the command to my stepson, Roland, there is none so brave as he," said Ganelon.
As Charlemagne listened he looked at Ganelon darkly. "Thou art a very demon," he said. "What rage possesseth thee? And if I give command of the rear to Roland, who, then, shall lead the van?""There is Ogier the Dane," said Ganelon quickly, "who better?" Still Charlemagne looked darkly at him. He would not that Roland should hear, for well he knew his adventurous spirit.
But already Roland had heard. "I ought to love thee well, Sir Stepsire," he cried, "for this day hast thou named me for honor. I will take good heed that our Emperor lose not the least of his men, nor charger, palfrey, nor mule that is not paid for by stroke of sword.""That know I right well," replied Ganelon, "therefore have I named thee." [pg 439] Then to Charlemagne Roland turned, "Give me the bow of office, Sire, and let me take command," he said.
But the Emperor sat with bowed head. In and out of his long white beard he twisted his fingers. Tears stood in his eyes, and he kept silence. Such was his love for Roland and fear lest evil should befall him.Then spoke Duke Naimes, "Give the command unto Roland, Sire; there is none better." So, silently, Charlemagne held out the bow of office, and kneeling, Roland took it. Then was Ganelon's wicked heart glad. "Nephew," said Charlemagne, "half my host I leave with thee." "Nay, Sire," answered Roland proudly, "twenty thousand only shall remain with me. The rest of ye may pass onward in all surety, for while I live ye have naught to fear." Then in his heart Ganelon laughed.
So the mighty army passed onward through the vale of Roncesvalles without doubt or dread, for did not Roland the brave guard the rear? With him remained Oliver his friend, Turpin, the bold Archbishop of Rheims, all the peers, and twenty thousand more of the bravest knights of France.
As the great army wound along, the hearts of the men were glad. For seven long years they had been far from home, and now soon they would see their dear ones again. But the Emperor rode among them sadly with bowed head. His fingers again twined themselves in his long white beard, tears once more stood in his eyes. Beside him rode Duke Naimes. "Tell me, Sire," he said, "what grief oppresseth thee?"
"Alas," said Charlemagne, "by Ganelon France is betrayed. This night I dreamed I saw him break my lance in twain. And this same Ganelon it is that puts my nephew in the rear-guard. And I, I have left him in a strange land. If he die, where shall I find such another?"
It was in vain that Duke Naimes tried to comfort the Emperor. He would not be comforted, and all the hearts of that great company were filled with fearful, boding dread for Roland.[pg 440]III
Meanwhile King Marsil was gathering all his host. From far and near came the heathen knights, all impatient to fight, each one eager to have the honor of slaying Roland with his own hand, each swearing that none of the twelve peers should ever again see France.
Among them was a great champion called Chernuble. He was huge and ugly and his strength was such that he could lift with ease a burden which four mules could scarcely carry. His face was inky black, his lips thick and hideous, and his coarse long hair reached the ground. It was said that in the land from whence he came, the sun never shone, the rain never fell, and the very stones were black as coal. He too, swearing that the Franks should die and that France should perish, joined the heathen host.
Very splendid were the Saracens as they moved along in the gleaming sunshine. Gold and silver shone upon their armor, pennons of white and purple floated over them, and from a thousand trumpets sounded their battle-song.
To the ears of the Frankish knights the sound was borne as they rode through the valley of Roncesvalles.
"Please Heaven it may be so," said Roland. "Our duty is to hold this post for our Emperor. Let us strike mighty blows, that nothing be said or sung of us in scorn. Let us fight these heathen for our country and our faith."
As Oliver heard the sounds of battle come nearer, he climbed to the top of the hill, so that he could see far over the country. There before him he saw the Saracens marching in pride. Their helmets, inlaid with gold, gleamed in the sun. Gaily painted shields, hauberks of shining steel, spears and pennons waved and shone, rank upon rank in countless numbers.
Quickly Oliver came down from the hill, and went back to the Frankish army. "I have seen the heathen," he said to [pg 441] Roland. "Never on earth hath such a host been gathered. They march upon us many hundred thousand strong, with shield and spear and sword. Such battle as awaiteth us have we never fought before.""Let him be accursed who fleeth!" cried the Franks. "There be few among us who fear death." "It is Ganelon the felon, who hath betrayed us," said Oliver, "let him be accursed." "Hush thee, Oliver," said Roland; "he is my stepsire. Let us hear no evil of him."
"The heathen are in fearful force," said Oliver, "and our Franks are but few. Friend Roland, sound upon thy horn. Then will Charlemagne hear and return with all his host to help us."
For round Roland's neck there hung a magic horn of carved ivory. If he blew upon this in case of need, the sound of it would be carried over hill and dale, far, far onward. If he sounded it now, Charlemagne would very surely hear, and return from his homeward march.
But Roland would not listen to Oliver. "Nay," he said, "I should indeed be mad to sound upon my horn. If I call for help, I, Roland, I should lose my fame in all fair France. Nay, I will not sound, but I shall strike such blows with my good sword Durindal that the blade shall be red to the gold of the hilt. Our Franks, too, shall strike such blows that the heathen shall rue the day. I tell thee, they be all dead men."
"Oh Roland, friend, wind thy horn," pleaded Oliver. "To the ear of Charlemagne shall the sound be borne, and he and all his knights will return to help us."
"Now Heaven forbid that my kin should ever be pointed at in scorn because of me," said Roland, "or that fair France should fall to such dishonor. No! I will not sound upon my horn, but I shall strike such blows with my sword Durindal that the blade shall be dyed red in the blood of the heathen."
In vain Oliver implored. "I see no dishonor shouldst thou wind thy horn," he said, "for I have beheld the Saracen host. The valleys and the hills and all the plains are covered [pg 442] with them. They are many and great, and we are but a little company."
"So much the better," cried Roland, "my desire to fight them grows the greater. All the angels of heaven forbid that France, through me, should lose one jot of fame. Death is better than dishonor. Let us strike such blows as our Emperor loveth to see."
Roland was rash as Oliver was wise, but both were knights of wondrous courage, and now Oliver pleaded no more. "Look," he cried, "look where the heathen come! Thou hast scorned, Roland, to sound thy horn, and our noble men will this day do their last deeds of bravery.""Hush!" cried Roland, "shame to him who weareth a coward's heart."
And now Archbishop Turpin spurred his horse to a little hill in front of the army. "My lords and barons," he cried, turning to them, "Charlemagne hath left us here to guard the homeward march of his army. He is our King, and we are bound to die for him, if so need be. But now, before ye fight, confess your sins, and pray God to forgive them. If ye die, ye die as martyrs. In God's great paradise your places await you."
Then the Franks leapt from their horses and kneeled upon the ground while the archbishop blessed them, and absolved them from all their sins. "For penance I command that ye strike the heathen full sore," he said.Then springing from their knees the Franks leapt again into their saddles, ready now to fight and die.
"Friend," said Roland, turning to Oliver, "thou wert right. It is Ganelon who is the traitor. But the Emperor will avenge us upon him. As for Marsil, he deemeth that he hath bought us, and that Ganelon hath sold us unto him. But he will find it is with our swords that we will pay him."
And now the battle began. "Montjoie!" shouted the Franks. It was the Emperor's own battle-cry. It means "My joy," and came from the name of his famous sword Joyeuse or joyous. This sword was the most wonderful ever seen. Thirty times a day the shimmering light with which it [pg 443] glowed changed. In the gold of the hilt was encased the head of the spear with which the side of Christ had been pierced. And because of this great honor the Emperor called his sword Joyeuse, and from that the Franks took their battle-cry "Montjoie." Now shouting it, and plunging spurs into their horses' sides, they dashed upon the foe. Never before had been such pride of chivalry, such splendor of knightly grace.
With boasting words, King Marsil's nephew came riding in front of the battle. "Ho, felon Franks!" he cried, "ye are met at last. Betrayed and sold are ye by your King. This day hath France lost her fair fame, and from Charlemagne is his right hand torn."
Roland heard him. With spur in side and slackened rein, he dashed upon the heathen, mad with rage. Through shield and hauberk pierced his spear, and the Saracen fell dead ere his scoffing words were done. "Thou dastard!" cried Roland, "no traitor is Charlemagne, but a right noble king and cavalier."King Marsil's brother, sick at heart to see his nephew fall, rode out with mocking words upon his lips. "This day is the honor of France lost," he sneered. But Oliver struck his golden spurs into his steed's side! "Caitiff, thy taunts are little worth," he cried, and, pierced through shield and buckler, the heathen fell.
Bishop Turpin, too, wielded both sword and lance. "Thou lying coward, be silent evermore!" he cried, as a scoffing heathen king fell beneath his blows. "Charlemagne our lord is true and good, and no Frank shall flee this day."
"Montjoie! Montjoie!" sounded high above the clang of battle, as heathen after heathen was laid low. Limbs were lopped, armor flew in splinters. Many a heathen knight was cloven from brow to saddle bow. The plain was strewn with the dying and the dead.
In Roland's hand his lance was shivered to the haft. Throwing the splintered wood away, he drew his famous Durindal. The naked blade shone in the sun and fell upon the helmet of Chernuble, Marsil's mighty champion. The sparkling gems with which it shone were scattered on the grass. Through [pg 444] cheek and chine, through flesh and bone, drove the shining steel, and Chernuble fell upon the ground, a black and hideous heap. "Lie there, caitiff!" cried Roland, "thy Mahomet cannot save thee. Not unto such as thou is the victory."
On through the press rode Roland. Durindal flashed and fell and flashed again, and many a heathen bit the dust. Oliver, too, did marvelous deeds. His spear, as Roland's, was shivered into atoms. But scarcely knowing what he did, he fought still with the broken shaft, and with it brought many a heathen to his death."Comrade, what dost thou?" said Roland. "Is it now the time to fight with staves? Where is thy sword called Hauteclere with its crystal pommel and golden guard?"
"I lacked time in which to draw it," replied Oliver, "there was such need to strike blows fast and hard."
But now he drew his shining Hauteclere from its scabbard, and with it he dealt such blows that Roland cried, "My brother art thou, Oliver, from henceforth. Ah! such blows our Emperor would dearly love to see."
Furious and more furious waxed the fight. On all sides might be heard the cry of "Montjoie! Montjoie!" and many a blow did Frank and heathen give and take. But although thousands of Saracens lay dead, the Franks too had lost many of their bravest knights. Shield and spear, banner and pennon, broken, bloodstained and trampled, strewed the field.
Fiercer, wilder still, the battle grew. Roland, Oliver, Archbishop Turpin and all the twelve peers of France fought in the thickest of the press. Many of the heathen fled, but even in flight they were cut down.
Meanwhile over France burst a fearful storm. Thunder rolled, lightning flashed, the very earth shook and trembled. There was not a town in all the land but the walls of it were cracked and riven. The sky grew black at midday, rain and hail in torrents swept the land. "It is the end of the world," the people whispered in trembling fear.Alas, they knew not! It was the earth's great mourning for the death of Roland, which was nigh.
The battle waxed horrible. The Saracens fled, and the [pg 445] Franks pursued till of that great heathen host but one was left. Of the Saracen army which had set out in such splendor, four hundred thousand strong, one heathen king alone remained. And he, King Margaris, sorely wounded, his spear broken, his shield pierced and battered, fled with the direful news to King Marsil.
The Franks had won the day, and now mournfully over the plain they moved, seeking their dead and dying comrades. Weary men and worn were they, sad at the death of many brother knights, yet glad at the might and victory of France.IV
ROLAND SOUNDS HIS HORN Alone, King Margaris fled, weary and wounded, until he reached King Marsil, and fell panting at his feet.
"Ride! ride! Sire," he cried, "thy army is shattered, thy knights to the last man lie dead upon the field; but thou wilt find the Franks in evil plight. Full half of them also lie dead. The rest are sore wounded and weary. Their armor is broken, their swords and spears are shattered. They have naught wherewith to defend themselves. To avenge the death of thy knights were now easy. Ride! oh, ride!"
In terrible wrath and sorrow King Marsil gathered a new army. In twenty columns through the valleys they came marching. The sun shone upon the gems and goldwork of their helmets, upon lances and pennons, upon buckler and embroidered surcoat. Seven thousand trumpets sounded to the charge, and the wind carried the clamor afar.
"Oliver, my comrade," said Roland, when he heard it, "Oliver, my brother, the traitor Ganelon hath sworn our death. Here his treachery is plainly to be seen. But the Emperor will bring upon him a terrible vengeance. As for us, we must fight again a battle fierce and keen. I will strike with my trusty Durindal and thou with thy Hauteclere bright. We have already carried them with honor in many battles. With them we have won many a victory. No man may say scorn of us."[pg 446] And so once again the Franks made ready for battle.
But King Marsil was a wily foe. "Hearken, my barons all," he cried, "Roland is a prince of wondrous strength. Two battles are not enough to vanquish him. He shall have three. Half of ye shall go forward now, and half remain with me until the Franks are utterly exhausted. Then shall ye attack them. Then shall we see the day when the might of Charlemagne shall fall and France shall perish in shame."So King Marsil stayed upon the hillside while half of his knights marched upon the Franks with battle-cry and trumpet-call. "Oh Heaven, what cometh now!" cried the Franks as they heard the sound. "Wo, wo, that ever we saw Ganelon the felon."
Then spoke the brave archbishop to them. "Now it is certain that we shall die. But it is better to die sword in hand than in slothful ease. Now is the day when ye shall receive great honor. Now is the day that ye shall win your crown of flowers. The gates of paradise are glorious, but therein no coward shall enter."
"We will not fail to enter," cried the Franks. "It is true that we are but few, but we are bold and stanch," and striking their golden spurs into their chargers' flanks, they rode to meet the foe.
Once more the noise and dust of battle rose. Once more the plain was strewn with dead, and the green grass was crimson-dyed, and scattered wide were jewels and gold, splintered weapons, and shattered armor.
Fearful was the slaughter, mighty the deeds of valor done, until at last the heathen broke and fled amain. After them in hot pursuit rode the Franks. Their bright swords flashed and fell again and again, and all the way was marked with dead.At length the heathen cries of despair reached even to where King Marsil stayed upon the hillside. "Marsil, oh our King! ride, ride, we have need of thee!" they cried. Even to the King's feet the Franks pursued the fleeing foe, slaying them before his face. [pg 447] Then Marsil, mounting upon his horse, led his last knights against the fearful foe. The Franks were nigh exhausted, but still three hundred swords flashed in the sunlight, three hundred hearts still beat with hope and courage.
As Roland watched Oliver ever in the thickest of the fight, dealing blow upon blow unceasingly, his heart swelled anew with love for him. "Oh, my comrade leal and true," he cried, "alas! this day shall end our love. Alas! this day we shall part on earth for ever."Oliver heard him and through the press of fighting he urged his horse to Roland's side. "Friend," he said, "keep near to me. So it please God we shall at least die together."
On went the fight, fiercer and fiercer yet, till but sixty weary Franks were left. Then, sadly gazing upon the stricken field, Roland turned to Oliver. "Behold! our bravest lie dead," he cried. "Well may France weep, for she is shorn of all her most valiant knights. Oh my Emperor, my friend, alas, why wert thou not here? Oliver, my brother, how shall we speed him now our mournful news?""I know not," said Oliver sadly, "rather come death now than any craven deed." "I will sound upon my horn," said Roland, all his pride broken and gone. "I will sound upon my horn. Charlemagne will hear it and the Franks will return to our aid."
"Shame would that be," cried Oliver. "Our kin would blush for us and be dishonored all their days. When I prayed of thee thou wouldst not sound thy horn, and now it is not I who will consent to it. Sound upon thy horn! No! there is no courage, no wisdom in that now. Had the Emperor been here we had been saved. But now it is too late, for all is lost. Nay," he cried in rising wrath, "if ever I see again my fair sister Aude, I swear to thee thou shalt never hold her in thine arms. Never shall she be bride of thine." For Roland loved Oliver's beautiful sister Aude and was loved by her, and when Roland would return to France she had promised to be his bride."Ah, Oliver, why dost thou speak to me with so much anger and hate," cried Roland sadly. [pg 448]
"Because it is thy fault that so many Franks lie dead this day," answered Oliver. "It is thy folly that hath slain them. Hadst thou done as I prayed thee our master Charlemagne had been here. This battle had been fought and won. Marsil had been taken and slain. Thy madness it is, Roland, that hath wrought our fate. Henceforward we can serve Charlemagne never more. And now here endeth our loyal friendship. Oh, bitter the parting this night shall see."
With terrible grief in his heart, stricken dumb with misery and pain, Roland gazed upon his friend. But Archbishop Turpin had heard the strife between the two, and setting spurs to his horse he rode swiftly towards them. "Sir Roland, and you, Sir Oliver," he cried, "I pray you strive not thus. See! we all must die, and thy horn, Roland, can avail nothing now. Great Karl is too far and would return too late. Yet it were well to sound it. For the Emperor when he hears it will come to avenge our fall, and the heathen will not return joyously to their homes. When the Franks come, they will alight from their horses, they will find our bodies, and will bury them with mourning and with tears, so we shall rest in hallowed graves, and the beasts of the field shall not tear our bones asunder."
Again Roland put his horn to his mouth. He was weary now and faint. Blood was upon his pale lips, the blue veins in his temples stood out like cords. Very mournfully he blew [pg 449] upon his horn, but the sound of it was carried far, very far, although it was so feeble and so low.
Again to the soft, sweet note Charlemagne bent his ear. Duke Naimes, too, and all the Frankish knights, paused at the sound. "It is the horn of Roland," cried the Emperor, "and very surely had there been no battle, he had not sounded it."
"There is no battle," said Ganelon in fretful tones. "Thou art grown old and fearful. Thou talkest as a frightened child. Well thou knowest the pride of Roland, the strong, bold, great and boastful Roland, that God hath suffered so long upon His earth. For one hare Roland would sound his horn all day long. Doubtless now he laughs among his peers. And besides, who would dare to attack Roland? Who so bold? Of a truth there is none. Ride on, Sire, ride on. Why halt? Our fair land is still very far in front."So again, yet more unwillingly, the Emperor rode on.
Crimson-stained were the lips of Roland. His cheeks were sunken and white, yet once again he raised his horn. Faintly now, in sadness and in anguish, once again he blew. The soft, sweet notes took on a tone so pitiful, they wrung the very heart of Charlemagne, where, full thirty leagues afar, he onward rode."That horn is very long of breath," he sighed, looking backward anxiously.
"It is Roland," cried Duke Naimes. "It is Roland who suffers yonder. On my soul, I swear, there is battle. Some one hath betrayed him. If I mistake not, it is he who now deceives thee. Arm, Sire, arm! Sound the trumpets of war. Long enough hast thou hearkened to the plaint of Roland."
Quickly the Emperor gave command. Quickly the army turned about, and came marching backward. The evening sunshine fell upon their pennons of crimson, gold and blue, it gleamed upon helmet and corslet, upon lance and shield. Fiercely rode the knights. "Oh, if we but reach Roland before he die," they cried, "oh, what blows we will strike for him."Alas! alas! they are late, too late!
The evening darkened, night came, yet on they rode. [pg 450] Through all the night they rode, and when at length the rising sun gleamed like flame upon helmet, and hauberk and flowing pennon, they still pressed onward.
Foremost the Emperor rode, sunk in sad thought, his fingers twisted in his long white beard which flowed over his cuirass, his eyes filled with tears. Behind him galloped his knights—strong men though they were, every one of them with a sob in his throat, a prayer in his heart, for Roland, Roland the brave and fearless.
One knight only had anger in his heart. That knight was Ganelon. And he by order of the Emperor had been given over to the keeping of the kitchen knaves. Calling the chief among them, "Guard me well this felon," said Charlemagne, "guard him as a traitor, who hath sold all mine house to death."
Then the chief scullion and a hundred of his fellows surrounded Ganelon. They plucked him by the hair and buffeted him, each man giving him four sounding blows. Around his neck they then fastened a heavy chain, and leading him as one might lead a dancing bear, they set him upon a common baggage-horse. Thus they kept him until the time should come that Charlemagne would ask again for the felon knight.V
THE RETURN OF CHARLEMAGNE
Roland was dead and bright angels had already carried his soul to heaven, when Charlemagne and all his host at last rode into the valley of Roncesvalles. What a dreadful sight was there! Not a path nor track, not a yard nor foot of ground but was covered with slain Franks and heathen lying side by side in death.
Charlemagne gazed upon the scene with grief and horror. "Where art thou, Roland?" he called. "The archbishop, where is he? Oliver, where art thou?" All the twelve peers he called by name. But none answered. The wind moaned over the field, fluttering here and there a fallen banner, but voice to answer there was none.
In and out of his long white beard his fingers twisted, and tears of grief and anger stood in his eyes. Behind him, rank upon rank, crowded his knights and barons full of wrath and sorrow. Not one among them but had lost a son or brother, a friend or comrade. For a time they stood dumb with grief and horror.
Then spoke Duke Naimes. Wise in counsel, brave in battle was he. "Look, Sire," he cried, "look where two leagues from us the dust arises upon the great highway. There is gathered the army of the heathen. Ride, Sire, ride and avenge our wrongs."And so it was, for those who had fled from the battle-field were gathered together and were now crowding onward to Saragossa. "Alas!" said Charlemagne, "they are already far away. Yet they have taken from me the very flower of France, so for the sake of right and honor I will do as thou desirest."
Then the Emperor called to him four of his chief barons. "Rest here," he said, "guard the field, the valleys and the hills. Leave the dead lying as they are, but watch well that neither lion nor any other savage beast come nigh to them. Neither shall any servant or squire touch them. I forbid ye to let man lay hand upon them till we return.""Sire we will do thy will," answered the four.
Then, leaving a thousand knights to be with them, Charlemagne sounded his war trumpets, and the army set forth upon the pursuit of the heathen. Furiously they rode and fast, but already the foe was far. Anxiously the Emperor looked to the sun as it slowly went down toward the west. Night was at hand and the enemy still afar.
Then, alighting from his horse, Charlemagne kneeled upon the green grass. "Oh Lord, I pray thee," he cried, "make the sun to stop. Say thou to the night, 'wait.' Say thou to the day, 'remain.'" And as the Emperor prayed, his guardian angel stooped down and whispered to him, "Ride onward, Charlemagne! Light shall not fail thee. Thou hast [pg 452] lost the flower of France. The Lord knoweth it right well. But thou canst now avenge thee upon the wicked. Ride!"
Hearing these words, Charlemagne sprang once more to horse and rode onward. And truly a miracle was done for him. The sun stood motionless in the sky, the heathen fled, the Franks pursued, until in the Valley of Darkness they fell upon them and beat them with great slaughter. The heathen still fled, but the Franks surrounded them, closing every path, and in front flowed the river Ebro wide and deep. Across it there was no bridge, upon it no boat, no barge. Calling upon their gods Tervagan and Apollin and upon Mahomet to save them, the heathen threw themselves into the water. But there no safety they found. Many, weighted with their heavy armor, sank beneath the waves. Others, carried by the tide, were swept away, and all were drowned, King Marsil alone fleeing towards Saragossa.
When Charlemagne saw that all his enemies were slain, he leapt from his horse, and, kneeling upon the ground, gave thanks to Heaven. And even as he rose from his knees the sun went down and all the land was dim in twilight.
"Now is the hour of rest," said the Emperor. "It is too late to return to Roncesvalles, for our steeds are weary and exhausted. Take off their saddles and their bridles, and let them refresh themselves upon the field.""Sire, it is well said," replied the Franks.
So the knights, leaping from their horses, took saddle and bridle from them, and let them wander free upon the green meadows by the river-side. Then, being very weary, the Franks lay down upon the grass, all dressed as they were in their armor, and with their swords girded to their sides, and slept. So worn were they with battle and with grief, that none that night kept watch, but all alike slept.The Emperor too slept upon the ground among his knights and barons. Like them he lay in his armor. And his good sword Joyeuse was girt about him.
The night was clear and the moon shone brightly. And Charlemagne, lying on the grass, thought bitterly of Roland [pg 453] and of Oliver, and of all the twelve peers of France who lay dead upon the field of Roncesvalles. But at last, overcome with grief and weariness, he fell asleep.
As the Emperor slept, he dreamed. He thought he saw the sky grow black with thunderclouds, then jagged lightning flashed and flamed, hail fell and wild winds howled. Such a storm the earth had never seen, and suddenly in all its fury it burst upon his army. Their lances were wrapped in flame, their shields of gold were melted, hauberks and helmets were crushed to pieces. Then bears and wolves from out the forests sprang upon the dismayed knights, devouring them. Monsters untold, serpents, fiery fiends, and more than thirty thousand griffins, all rushed upon the Franks with greedy, gaping jaws.
"Arm! arm! Sire," they cried to him. And Charlemagne, in his dream, struggled to reach his knights. But something, he knew not what, held him bound and helpless. Then from out the depths of the forest a lion rushed upon him. It was a fierce, terrible, and proud beast. It seized upon the Emperor, and together they struggled, he fighting with his naked hands. Who would win, who would be beaten, none knew, for the dream passed and the Emperor still slept.
Again Charlemagne dreamed. He stood, he thought, upon the marble steps of his great palace of Aix holding a bear by a double chain. Suddenly out of the forest there came thirty other bears to the foot of the steps where Charlemagne stood. They all had tongues and spoke like men. "Give him back to us, Sire," they said, "he is our kinsman, and we must help him. It is not right that thou shouldest keep him so long from us."
Then from out the palace there came a hound. Bounding among the savage beasts he threw himself upon the largest of them. Over and over upon the grass they rolled, fighting terribly. Who would be the victor, who the vanquished? Charlemagne could not tell. The vision passed, and he slept till daybreak.
As the first dim light of dawn crept across the sky, Charlemagne awoke. Soon all the camp was astir, and before the [pg 454] sun rose high the knights were riding back over the wide roads to Roncesvalles.
When once again they reached the dreadful field, Charlemagne wandered over all the plain until he came where Roland lay. Then taking him in his arms he made great moan. "My friend, my Roland, who shall now lead my army? My nephew, beautiful and brave, my pride, my glory, all are gone. Alas the day! alas!" Thus with tears and cries he mourned his loss.
Then said one, "Sire, grieve not overmuch. Command rather that we search the plain and gather together all our men who have been slain by the heathen. Then let us bury them with chant, and song and solemn ceremony, as befits such heroes.""Yea," said Charlemagne, "it is well said. Sound your trumpets!" So the trumpets were sounded, and over all the field the Franks searched, gathering their slain brothers and comrades.
With the army there were many bishops, abbots and monks, and so with chant and hymn, with prayer and incense, the Franks were laid to rest. With great honor they were buried. Then, for they could do no more, their comrades left them.
Only the bodies of Roland, Oliver and Archbishop Turpin, they did not lay in Spanish ground. In three white marble coffins covered with silken cloths they were placed on chariots, ready to be carried back to the fair land of France.
Hero Of Spain: The Cid
ADAPTED BY ROBERT SOUTHEY I
RODRIGO AND THE LEPER
Rodrigo forthwith set out upon the road, and took with him twenty knights. And as he went he did great good, and gave alms, feeding the poor and needy. And upon the way they found a leper, struggling in a quagmire, who cried out to them with a loud voice to help him for the love of God; and when Rodrigo heard this, he alighted from his beast and helped him, and placed him upon the beast before him, and carried him with him in this manner to the inn where he took up his lodging that night. At this were his knights little pleased.
When supper was ready he bade his knights take their seats, and he took the leper by the hand, and seated him next himself, and ate with him out of the same dish. The knights were greatly offended at this foul sight, insomuch that they rose up and left the chamber. But Rodrigo ordered a bed to be made ready for himself and for the leper, and they twain slept together. When it was midnight and Rodrigo was fast asleep, the leper breathed against him between his shoulders, and that breath was so strong that it passed through him, even through his breast; and he awoke, being astounded, and felt for the leper by him, and found him not; and he began to call him, but there was no reply. Then he arose in fear, and called for a light, and it was brought him; and he looked for the leper and could see nothing; so he returned into the bed, leaving the light burning. And he began to think within himself what had [pg 456] happened, and of that breath which had passed through him, and how the leper was not there. After a while, as he was thus musing, there appeared before him one in white garments, who said unto him, "Sleepest thou or wakest thou, Rodrigo?" and he answered and said, "I do not sleep: but who art thou that bringest with thee such brightness and so sweet an odor?" Said he, "I am Saint Lazarus, and know that I was a leper to whom thou didst so much good and so great honor for the love of God; and because thou didst this for his sake hath God now granted thee a great gift; for whensoever that breath which thou hast felt shall come upon thee, whatever thing thou desirest to do, and shalt then begin, that shalt thou accomplish to thy heart's desire, whether it be in battle or aught else, so that thy honor shall go on increasing from day to day; and thou shalt be feared both by Moors and Christians, and thy enemies shall never prevail against thee, and thou shalt die an honorable death in thine own house, and in thy renown, for God hath blessed thee therefore go thou on, and evermore persevere in doing good;" and with that he disappeared. And Rodrigo arose and prayed to our lady and intercessor St. Mary, that she would pray to her blessed son for him to watch over his body and soul in all his undertakings; and he continued in prayer till the day broke. Then he proceeded on his way, and performed his pilgrimage, doing much good for the love of God and of St. Mary.II
THE KNIGHTING OF RODRIGO
Now it came to pass that while the King lay before Coimbra, there came a pilgrim from the land of Greece on pilgrimage to Santiago; his name was Estiano, and he was a bishop. And as he was praying in the church he heard certain of the townsmen and of the pilgrims saying that Santiago was wont to appear in battle like a knight, in aid of the Christians. And when he heard this, it nothing pleased him, and he said unto them, "Friends, call him not a knight, but rather a fisherman." Upon this it pleased God that he should fall asleep, and in his [pg 457] sleep Santiago appeared to him with a good and cheerful countenance, holding in his hand a bunch of keys, and said unto him, "Thou thinkest it a fable that they should call me a knight, and sayest that I am not so: for this reason am I come unto thee that thou never more mayest doubt concerning my knighthood; for a knight of Jesus Christ I am, and a helper of the Christians against the Moors."
Then a horse was brought him the which was exceeding white, and the apostle Santiago mounted upon it, being well clad in bright and fair armor, after the manner of a knight. And he said to Estiano, "I go to help King Don Ferrando, who has lain these seven months before Coimbra, and to-morrow, with these keys which thou seest, will I open the gates of the city unto him at the third hour, and deliver it into his hand." Having said this, he departed. And the bishop, when he woke in the morning, called together the clergy and people of Compostella, and told them what he had seen and heard. And as he said, even so did it come to pass; for tidings came, that on that day, and at the third hour, the gates of the city had been opened.
King Don Ferrando then assembled his counts and chief captains, and told them all that the monks of Lorvam had done, in bringing him to besiege the city, and in supplying his army in their time of need: and the counts and chief captains made answer and said, "Certes, O King, if the monks had not given us the stores of their monastery, thou couldest not have taken the city at this time." The King then called for the abbot and the brethren, for they were with him in the host, and said the hours to him daily, and mass in St. Andre's, and buried there and in their monastery as many as had died during the siege, either of arrow-wounds or by lances, or of their own infirmities. So they came before him and gave him joy of his conquest; and he said unto them, "Take ye now of this city as much as ye desire, since by God's favor and your counsel I have won it." But they made answer, "Thanks be to God and to you, and to your forefathers, we have enough and shall have, if so be that we have your favor and dwell among Christians. Only for the love of God, and for the remedy of your [pg 458] own soul, give us one church with its dwelling-houses within the city, and confirm unto us the gifts made to us in old times by your forefathers."
With that the King turned to his sons and his soldiers, and said, "Of a truth, by our Creator, they who desire so little are men of God. I would have given them half the city, and they will have only a single church! Now therefore, since they require but this, on the part of God Almighty let us grant and confirm unto them what they ask, to the honor of God and St. Mamede." And the brethren brought him their charters of King Ramiro, and King Bermudo, and King Alfonso, and of Gonzalo Moniz, who was a knight and married a daughter of King Bermudo, and of other good men. And the King confirmed them, and he bade them make a writing of all which had passed between him and them at the siege of Coimbra; and when they brought him the writing, they brought him also a crown of silver and of gold, which had been King Bermudo's, and which Gonzalo Moniz had given to the monastery in honor of God and St. Mamede.
The King saw the crown, set with precious stones, and said, "To what end bring ye hither this crown?" And they said, "That you should take it, sire, in return for the good which you have done us." But he answered, "Far be it from me that I should take from your monastery what the good men before me have given to it! Take ye back the crown, and take also ten marks of silver, and make with the money a good cross, to remain with you forever. And he who shall befriend you, may God befriend him; but he who shall disturb you or your monastery, may he be cursed by the living God and by his saints." So the King signed the writing which he had commanded to be made, and his sons and chief captains signed it also, and in the writing he enjoined his children and his children's children, as many as should come after him, to honor and protect the monastery of Lorvam; upon his blessing he charged them so to do, because he had found the brethren better than all the other monks in his dominions.
Then King Don Ferrando knighted Rodrigo of Bivar in the great mosque of Coimbra, which he dedicated to St. Mary. [pg 459] And the ceremony was after this manner: the King girded on his sword, and gave him the kiss, but not the blow. To do him honor the Queen gave him his horse, and the Infanta Dona Urraca fastened on his spurs; and from that day forth he was called Ruydiez. Then the King commanded him to knight nine noble squires with his own hand; and he took his sword before the altar, and knighted them. The King then gave Coimbra to the keeping of Don Sisnando, Bishop of Iria; a man who, having more hardihood than religion, had by reason of his misdeeds gone over to the Moors, and sorely infested the Christians in Portugal. But during the siege he had come to the King's service, and bestirred himself well against the Moors; and therefore the King took him into his favor, and gave him the city to keep, which he kept, and did much evil to the Moors till the day of his death. And the King departed and went to Compostella, to return thanks to Santiago.
But then Benalfagi, who was the lord of many lands in Estremadura, gathered together a great power of the Moors and built up the walls of Montemor, and from thence waged war against Coimbra, so that they of Coimbra called upon the King for help. And the King came up against the town, and fought against it, and took it. Great honor did Ruydiez win at that siege; for having to protect the foragers, the enemy came out upon him, and thrice in one day was he beset by them; but he, though sorely pressed by them, and in great peril, nevertheless would not send to the camp for succor, but put forth his manhood and defeated them. And from that day che King gave more power into his hands, and made him head over all his household.
Now the men of Leon besought the King that he should repeople Zamora, which had lain desolate since it was destroyed by Almanzor. And he went thither and peopled the city, and gave to it good privileges. And while he was there came messengers from the five kings who were vassals to Ruydiez of Bivar, bringing him their tribute; and they came to him, he being with the King, and called him Cid, which signifieth lord, and would have kissed his hands, but he would not give them his hand till they had kissed the hand of the King. And Ruydiez [pg 460] took the tribute and offered the fifth thereof to the King, in token of his sovereignty; and the King thanked him, but would not receive it; and from that time he ordered that Ruydiez should be called the Cid, because the Moors had so called him.III
HOW THE CID MADE A COWARD INTO A BRAVE MAN
At this time Martin Pelaez the Asturian came with a convoy of laden beasts, carrying provisions to the host of the Cid; and as he passed near the town the Moors sallied out in great numbers against him; but he, though he had few with him, defended the convoy right well, and did great hurt to the Moors, slaying many of them, and drove them into the town. This Martin Pelaez who is here spoken of, did the Cid make a right good knight, of a coward, as ye shall hear. When the Cid first began to lay seige to the city of Valencia, this Martin Pelaez came unto him; he was a knight, a native of Santillana in Asturias, a hidalgo, great of body and strong of limb, a well-made man and of goodly semblance, but withal a right coward at heart, which he had shown in many places when he was among feats of arms. And the Cid was sorry when he came unto him, though he would not let him perceive this; for he knew he was not fit to be of his company. Howbeit he thought that since he was come, he would make him brave, whether he would or not.
When the Cid began to war upon the town, and sent parties against it twice and thrice a day, for the Cid was alway upon the alert, there was fighting and tourneying every day. One day it fell out that the Cid and his kinsmen and friends and vassals were engaged in a great encounter, and this Martin Pelaez was well armed; and when he saw that the Moors and Christians were at it, he fled and betook himself to his lodging, and there hid himself till the Cid returned to dinner. And the Cid saw what Martin Pelaez did, and when he had conquered the Moors he returned to his lodging to dinner. Now it was the custom of the Cid to eat at a high table, seated on his bench, at the head. And Don Alvar Fañez, and Pero [pg 461] Bermudez, and other precious knights, ate in another part, at high tables, full honorably, and none other knights whatsoever dared take their seats with them, unless they were such as deserved to be there; and the others who were not so approved in arms ate upon estrados, at tables with cushions. This was the order in the house of the Cid, and every one knew the place where he was to sit at meat, and every one strove all he could to gain the honor of sitting at the table of Don Alvar Fañez and his companions, by strenuously behaving himself in all feats of arms; and thus the honor of the Cid was advanced.
Martin Pelaez, thinking none had seen his badness, washed his hands in turn with the other knights, and would have taken his place among them. And the Cid went unto him, and took him by the hand and said, "You are not such a one as deserves to sit with these, for they are worth more than you or than me; but I will have you with me:" and he seated him with himself at table. And he, for lack of understanding, thought that the Cid did this to honor him above all the others. On the morrow the Cid and his company rode towards Valencia, and the Moors came out to the tourney; and Martin Pelaez went out well armed, and was among the foremost who charged the Moors, and when he was in among them he turned the reins, and went back to his lodging; and the Cid took heed to all that he did, and saw that though he had done badly he had done better than the first day. And when the Cid had driven the Moors into the town he returned to his lodging, and as he sat down to meat he took this Martin Pelaez by the hand, and seated him with himself, and bade him eat with him in the same dish, for he had deserved more that day than he had the first. And the knight gave heed to that saying, and was abashed; howbeit he did as the Cid commanded him: and after he had dined he went to his lodging and began to think upon what the Cid had said unto him, and perceived that he had seen all the baseness which he had done; and then he understood that for this cause he would not let him sit at board with the other knights who were precious in arms, but had seated him with himself, more to affront him than to do him honor, for there were other knights there better than he, and he did not show [pg 462] them that honor. Then resolved he in his heart to do better than he had done heretofore.
Another day it happened that the Cid and his company, along with Martin Pelaez, rode toward Valencia, and the Moors came out to the tourney full resolutely, and Martin Pelaez was among the first, and charged them right boldly; and he smote down and slew presently a good knight, and he lost there all the bad fear which he had had, and was that day one of the best knights there: and as long as the tourney lasted there he remained, smiting and slaying and overthrowing the Moors, till they were driven within the gates, in such manner that the Moors marveled at him, and asked where that devil came from, for they had never seen him before. And the Cid was in a place where he could see all that was going on, and he gave good heed to him, and had great pleasure in beholding him, to see how well he had forgotten the great fear which he was wont to have. And when the Moors were shut up within the town, the Cid and all his people returned to their lodging, and Martin Pelaez full leisurely and quietly went to his lodging also, like a good knight. And when it was the hour of eating, the Cid waited for Martin Pelaez; and when he came, and they had washed, the Cid took him by the hand and said, "My friend, you are not such a one as deserves to sit with me from henceforth; but sit you here with Don Alvar Fañez, and with these other good knights, for the good feats which you have done this day have made you a companion for them;" and from that day forward he was placed in the company of the good.
The history saith that from that day forward this knight Martin Pelaez was a right good one, and a right valiant, and a right precious, in all places where he chanced among feats of arms, and he lived alway with the Cid, and served him right well and truly. And the history saith, that after the Cid had won the city of Valencia, on the day when they conquered and discomfited the King of Seville, this Martin Pelaez was so good a one, that setting aside the body of the Cid himself, there was no such good knight there, nor one who bore such part, as well in the battle as in the pursuit. And so great was the mortality which he made among the Moors that day, that when he [pg 463] returned from the business the sleeves of his mail were clotted with blood, up to the elbow; insomuch that for what he did that day his name is written in this history, that it may never die. And when the Cid saw him come in that guise, he did him great honor, such as he never had done to any knight before that day, and from thenceforward gave him a place in all his actions and in all his secrets, and he was his great friend. In this knight Martin Pelaez was fulfilled the example which saith, that he who betaketh himself to a good tree, hath good shade, and he who serves a good lord winneth good guerdon; for by reason of the good service which he did the Cid, he came to such good state that he was spoken of as ye have heard: for the Cid knew how to make a good knight, as a good groom knows how to make a good horse.IV
HOW THE CID RULED VALENCIA
On the following day after the Christians had taken possession of the town, the Cid entered it with a great company, and he ascended the highest tower of the wall and beheld all the city; and the Moors came unto him, and kissed his hand, saying he was welcome. And the Cid did great honor unto them. And then he gave order that all the windows of the towers which looked in upon the town should be closed up, that the Christians might not see what the Moors did in their houses; and the Moors thanked him for this greatly. And he commanded and requested the Christians that they should show great honor to the Moors, and respect them, and greet them when they met: and the Moors thanked the Cid greatly for the honor which the Christians did them, saying that they had never seen so good a man, nor one so honorable, nor one who had his people under such obedience.
Now Abeniaf thought to have the love of the Cid; and calling to mind the wrath with which he had formerly been received, because he had not taken a gift with him, he took now great riches which he had taken from those who sold bread [pg 464] for so great a price during the siege of Valencia, and this he carried to the Cid as a present. Among those who had sold it were some men from the islands of Majorca, and he took from them all that they had. This the Cid knew, and he would not accept his gifts. And the Cid caused proclamation to be made in the town and throughout the whole district thereof, that the honorable men and knights and castellans should assemble together in the garden of Villa Nueva, where the Cid at that time sojourned. And when they were all assembled, he went out unto them, to a place which was made ready with carpets and with mats, and he made them take their seats before him full honorable, and began to speak unto them, saying: "I am a man who have never possessed a kingdom, neither I nor any man of my lineage. But the day when I first beheld this city I was well pleased therewith, and coveted it that I might be its lord; and I besought the Lord our God that he would give it me. See now what his power is, for the day when I sat down before Juballa I had no more than four loaves of bread, and now by God's mercy I have won Valencia.
"If I administer right and justice here, God will let me enjoy it; if I do evil, and demean myself proudly and wrongfully, I know that he will take it away. Now then, let every one go to his own lands, and possess them even as he was wont to have and to hold them. He who shall find his field, or his vineyard, or his garden, desert, let him incontinently enter thereon; and he who shall find his husbanded, let him pay him that hath cultivated it the cost of his labor, and of the seed which he hath sown therein, and remain with his heritage, according to the law of the Moors. Moreover, I have given order that they who collect my dues take from you no more than the tenth, because so it is appointed by the custom of the Moors, and it is what ye have been wont to pay. And I have resolved in my heart to hear your complaints two days in the week, on the Monday and the Thursday; but if causes should arise which require haste, come to me when ye will and I will give judgment, for I do not retire with women to sing and to drink, as your lords have done, so that ye could obtain no justice, but will myself see to these things, and watch over ye as friend over his [pg 465] friend, and kinsman over his kinsman. And I will be cadi and guazil, and when dispute happens among ye I will decide it." When he had said these things, they all replied that they prayed God to preserve him through long and happy years; and four of the most honorable among them arose and kissed his hands, and the Cid bade them take their seats again.
Then the Cid spake unto them and said: "It is told me that Abeniaf hath done much evil, and committed great wrong toward some of ye, in that he hath taken great riches from ye to present them to me, saying, that this he did because ye sold food for a great price during the siege. But I will accept no such gift; for if I were minded to have your riches, I could take them, and need not ask them neither from him, nor from any other; but thing so unseemly as to take that which is his from any one, without just cause, I will not do. They who have gotten wealth thus, God hath given it them; let them go to Abeniaf, and take back what he hath forced from them, for I will order him to restore the whole." Then he said, "Ye see the riches which I took from the messengers who went to Murcia; it is mine by right, for I took it in war because they brake the covenant which they had made, and would have deceived me: nevertheless I will restore it to the uttermost centesimo, that nothing thereof shall be lost. And ye shall do homage to me that ye will not withdraw yourselves, but will abide here, and do my bidding in all things, and never depart from the covenant which ye make with me; for I love ye, and am grieved to think of the great evil and misery which ye endured from the great famine, and of the mortality which there was. And if ye had done that before which ye have done now, ye would not have been brought to these sufferings and have bought the cafiz of wheat at a thousand maravedis; but I trust in God to bring it to one maravedi. Be ye now secure in your lands, and till your fields, and rear cattle; for I have given order to my men that they offer ye no wrong, neither enter into the town to buy nor to sell; but that they carry on all their dealings in Alcudia, and this I do that ye may receive no displeasure. Moreover I command them not to take any captive into the town, but if this should be done, lay ye hands on the captive and set him [pg 466] free, without fear, and if any one should resist, kill him and fear not. I myself will not enter your city nor dwell therein, but I will build me a place beside the bridge of Alcantara, where I may go and disport myself at times, and repair when it is needful." When he had said these things he bade them go their way.
Well pleased were the Moors when they departed from him, and they marveled at the greatness of his promises, and they set their hearts at rest, and put away the fear which they had had, thinking all their troubles were over; for in all the promises which the Cid had made unto them, they believed that he spake truth; but he said these things only to quiet them, and to make them come to what he wished, even as came to pass. And when he had done, he sent his Almoxarife, Abdalla Adiz, to the custom-house, and made him appoint men to collect the rents of the town for him, which was done accordingly. And when the Cid had given order concerning his own affairs at his pleasure, the Moors would fain have entered again into possession of their heritages as he told them; but they found it all otherwise, for of all the fields which the Christians had husbanded, they would not yield up one; albeit they let them enter upon such as were left waste: some said that the Cid had given them the lands that year, instead of their pay, and other some that they rented them and had paid rent for the year.
The Moors waited till Thursday, when the Cid was to hear complaints, as he had said unto them. When Thursday came all the honorable men went to the garden, but the Cid sent to say unto them that he could not come out that day, because of other causes which he had to determine; and he desired that they would go their way for that time, and come again on the Monday: this was to show his mastery. And when it was Monday they assembled again in the garden, and the Cid came out to them, and took his seat upon the estrado, and the Moors made their complaint. And when he had heard them he began to make similitudes, and offer reasons which were not like those which he had spoken the first day; for he said to them, "I ask of ye, whether it is well that I should be left without men? or if I were without them, I should be like unto one who hath [pg 467] lost his right arm, or to a bird that hath no wings, or to one who should do battle and hath neither spear nor sword. The first thing which I have to look to is to the well-being of my people, that they may live in wealth and honor, so that they may be able to serve me, and defend my honor: for since it has pleased God to give me the city of Valencia, I will not that there be any other lord here than me. Therefore I say unto you and command you, if you would be well with me, and would that I should show favor unto you, that ye see how to deliver that traitor Abeniaf into my hands. Ye all know the great treason which he committed upon King Yahia, his lord and yours, how he slew him, and the misery which he brought upon you in the siege; and since it is not fitting that a traitor who hath slain his lord should live among you, and that his treason should be confounded with your loyalty, see to the obeyment of my command."
When the honorable Moors heard this, they were dismayed; verily they knew that he spake truth touching the death of the King, but it troubled them that he departed form the promise which he had made; and they made answer that they would take counsel concerning what he had said, and then reply. Then five of the best and most honorable among them withdrew, and went to Abdalla Adiz, and said unto him, "Give us thy counsel now the best and truest that thou canst, for thou art of our law, and oughtest to do this: and the reason why we ask counsel of thee is this. The Cid promised us many things, and now behold he says nothing to us of what he said before, but moveth other new reasons, at which great dismay hath seized us. And because thou better knowest his ways, tell us now what is his pleasure, for albeit we might wish to do otherwise, this is not a time wherein anything but what he shall command can be done." When the Almoxarife heard this he made answer, "Good men, it is easy to understand what he would have, and to do what should be done. We all know the great treason which Abeniaf committed against ye all in killing your lord the King; for albeit at that time ye felt the burden of the Christians, yet was it nothing so great as after he had killed him, neither did ye suffer such misery. And since God [pg 468] hath brought him who was the cause to this state, see now by all means how ye may deliver him into the hands of the Cid; and fear not, neither take thought for the rest; for though the Cid may do his pleasure in some things, better is it to have him for lord than this traitor who hath brought so much evil upon ye. Moreover the things of this world soon pass away, and my heart tells me that we shall ere long come out of the bondage of the Cid, and of the Christians; for the Cid is well-nigh at the full of his days, and we who remain alive after his death shall then be masters of our city."
The good men thanked him much, and held themselves to be well advised, and said that they would do willingly what he bade them; and they returned forthwith to the Cid, and said unto him that they would fulfill his commandment. Incontinently did the good men dispeed themselves of the Cid, and they went into the city, and gathered together a great posse of armed men, and went to the place where Abeniaf dwelt; and they assaulted the house and brake the doors, and entered in and laid hands on him, and his son, and all his company, and carried them before the Cid. And the Cid ordered Abeniaf to be cast into prison, and all those who had taken counsel with him for the death of King Yahia.
When this was done, the Cid said unto the good men, "Now that ye have fulfilled my bidding, I hold it good to show favor unto you in that which ye yourselves shall understand to be fitting for me to grant. Say therefore what ye would have, and I will do that which I think behooveth me: but in this manner, that my dwelling-place be within the city of Valencia, in the Alcazar, and that my Christian men have all the fortresses in the city." And when the good men heard this, they were greatly troubled; howbeit they dissembled the sorrow which they resented, and said unto him, "Sir Cid, order it as you think good, and we consent thereto." Then said he unto them that he would observe towards them all the uses and customs of their law, and that he would have the power, and be lord of all; and they should till their fields and feed their flocks and herds, and give him his tenth, and he would take no more.
When the Moors heard this they were pleased; and since [pg 469] they were to remain in the town, and in their houses and their inheritances, and with their uses and customs, and that their mosques were to be left them, they held themselves not to be badly off. Then they asked the Cid to let their guazil be the same as he had first appointed, and that he would give them for their cadi the Alfaqui Alhagi, and let him appoint whom he would to assist him in distributing justice to the Moors; and thus he himself would be relieved of the wearisomeness of hearing them, save only when any great occasion might befall. And the Cid granted this which they required, and they kissed his hand, and returned into the town. Nine months did the Cid hold Valencia besieged, and at the end of that time it fell into his power, and he obtained possession of the walls, as ye have heard. And one month he was practising with the Moors that he might keep them quiet, till Abeniaf was delivered into his hands; and thus ten months were fulfilled, and they were fulfilled on Thursday, the last day of June, in the year of the era one thousand one hundred and thirty and one, which was in the year one thousand ninety and three of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when the Cid had finished all his dealings with the Moors, on this day he took horse with all his company in good array, his banner being carried before him, and his arms behind; and in this guise, with great rejoicings he entered the city of Valencia. And he alighted at the Alcazar, and gave order to lodge all his men round about it; and he bade them plant his banner upon the highest tower of the Alcazar. Glad was the Campeador, and all they who were with him, when they saw his banner planted in that place. And from that day forth was the Cid possessed of all the castles and fortresses which were in the kingdom of Valencia, and established in what God had given him, and he and all his people rejoiced.V
THE CID'S LAST VICTORY
Three days after the Cid had died King Bucar came into the port of Valencia, and landed with all his power, which [pg 470] was so great that there is not a man in the world who could give account of the Moors whom he brought. And there came with him thirty and six kings, and one Moorish queen, who was a negress, and she brought with her two hundred horsewomen, all negresses like herself, all having their hair shorn save a tuft on the top, and this was in token that they came as if upon a pilgrimage, and to obtain the remission of their sins; and they were all armed in coats of mail and with Turkish bows. King Bucar ordered his tents to be pitched round about Valencia, and Abenalfarax, who wrote this history in Arabic, saith that there were full fifteen thousand tents; and he bade that Moorish negress with her archers to take their station near the city. And on the morrow they began to attack the city, and they fought against it three days strenuously; and the Moors received great loss, for they came blindly up to the walls and were slain there. And the Christians defended themselves right well; and every time that they went upon the walls, they sounded trumpets and tambours, and made great rejoicings, as the Cid had commanded. This continued for eight days or nine, till the companions of the Cid had made ready everything for their departure, as he had commanded. And King Bucar and his people thought that the Cid dared not come out against them; and they were the more encouraged, and began to think of making bastiles and engines wherewith to combat the city, for certes they weened that the Cid Ruydiez dared not come out against them, seeing that he tarried so long.
All this while the company of the Cid were preparing all things to go into Castile, as he had commanded before his death; and his trusty Gil Diaz did nothing else but labor at this. And the body of the Cid was thus prepared: first it was embalmed and anointed, and the virtue of the balsam and myrrh was such that the flesh remained firm and fair, having its natural color, and his countenance as it was wont to be, and the eyes open, and his long beard in order, so that there was not a man who would have thought him dead if he had seen him and not known it. And on the second day after he had departed, Gil Diaz placed the body upon a right noble saddle, and this saddle with the body upon it [pg 471] he put upon a frame; and he dressed the body in a gambax of fine sendal, next the skin. And he took two boards and fitted them to the body, one to the breast and the other to the shoulders; these were so hollowed out and fitted that they met at the sides and under the arms, and the hind one came up to the pole, and the other up to the beard. These boards were fastened into the saddle, so that the body could not move.
All this was done by the morning of the twelfth day; and all that day the people of the Cid were busied in making ready their arms, and in loading beasts with all that they had, so that they left nothing of any price in the whole city of Valencia, save only the empty houses. When it was midnight they took the body of the Cid, fastened to the saddle as it was, and placed it upon his horse Bavieca, and fastened the saddle well; and the body sat so upright and well that it seemed as if he was alive. And it had on painted hose of black and white, so cunningly painted that no man who saw them would have thought but that they were greaves and cuishes, unless he had laid his hand upon them; and they put on it a surcoat of green sendal, having his arms blazoned thereon, and a helmet of parchment, which was cunningly painted that every one might have believed it to be iron; and his shield was hung round his neck, and they placed the sword Tizona in his hand, and they raised his arm, and fastened it up so subtilely that it was a marvel to see how upright he held the sword. And the Bishop Don Hieronymo went on one side of him, and the trusty Gil Diaz on the other, and he led the horse Bavieca, as the Cid had commanded him. And when all this had been made ready, they went out from Valencia at midnight, through the gate of Roseros, which is towards Castile. Pero Bermudez went first with the banner of the Cid, and with him five hundred knights who guarded it, all well appointed. And after these came all the baggage. Then came the body of the Cid, with an hundred knights, all chosen men, and behind them Dona Ximena with all her company, and six hundred knights in the rear. All these went out so silently, and with such a measured pace, that it seemed as if there were only a score. And by the time that they had all gone out it was broad day.[pg 472]
Now Alvar Fañez Minaya had set the host in order, and while the Bishop Don Hieronymo and Gil Diaz led away the body of the Cid, and Dona Ximena, and the baggage, he fell upon the Moors. First he attacked the tents of that Moorish queen the negress, who lay nearest to the city; and this onset was so sudden, that they killed full a hundred and fifty Moors before they had time to take arms or go to horse. But that Moorish negress was so skilful in drawing the Turkish bow, that it was held for a marvel; and it is said that they called her in Arabic Nugueymat Turya, which is to say, the Star of the Archers. And she was the first that got on horseback, and with some fifty that were with her, did some hurt to the company of the Cid; but in fine they slew her, and her people fled to the camp. And so great was the uproar and confusion, that few there were who took arms, but instead thereof they turned their backs and fled toward the sea. And when King Bucar and his kings saw this, they were astonished. And it seemed to them that there came against them on the part of the Christians full seventy thousand knights, all as white as snow: and before them a knight of great stature upon a white horse with a bloody cross, who bore in one hand a white banner, and in the other a sword which seemed to be of fire, and he made a great mortality among the Moors who were flying. And King Bucar and the other kings were so greatly dismayed that they never checked the reins till they had ridden into the sea; and the company of the Cid rode after them, smiting and slaying and giving them no respite; and they smote down so many that it was marvelous, for the Moors did not turn their heads to defend themselves. And when they came to the sea, so great was the press among them to get to the ships, that more than ten thousand died in the water. And of the six and thirty kings, twenty and two were slain. And King Bucar and they who escaped with him hoisted sails and went their way, and never more turned their heads.
Alvar Fañez and his people, when they had discomfited the Moors, spoiled the field, and the spoil thereof was so great that they could not carry it away. And they loaded camels and horses with the noblest things which they found, and went after the Bishop Don Hieronymo and Gil Diaz, who, with the [pg 473] body of the Cid, and Doña Ximena, and the baggage, had gone on till they were clear of the host, and then waited for those who were gone against the Moors. And so great was the spoil of that day, that there was no end to it: and they took up gold, and silver, and other precious things as they rode through the camp, so that the poorest man among the Christians, horseman or on foot, became rich with what he won that day.
Hero Of Switzerland: William Tell
ADAPTED BY H.E. MARSHALL I
Far away in the heart of Europe there lies a little country called Switzerland. It seems wonderful that when great and powerful kings and princes swept over the world, fighting and conquering, little Switzerland should not have been conquered and swallowed up by one or other of the great countries which lay around. But the Swiss have always been a brave and fearless people.
At one time one of the great princes of Europe tried to conquer Switzerland and take away the freedom of its people. But the people fought so bravely that instead of being conquered they conquered the tyrants and drove them away.
In those far-off times the greatest ruler in Europe was the Emperor, and his empire was divided into many states, over each of which ruled a prince or king who acknowledged the Emperor as overlord. When an Emperor died the kings and princes met together and chose another Emperor from among their number.
Switzerland was one of the countries which owned the Emperor as overlord. But the Swiss were a free people. They had no king or prince over them, but a governor only, who was appointed by the Emperor.
Austria was another of the states of the great empire, and at one time a Duke of Austria was made ruler of Switzerland. Because of its great beauty, this duke cast greedy eyes upon Switzerland and longed to possess it for his very own.[pg 475]
But the Swiss would not give up their freedom; and three cantons, as the divisions of Switzerland are called, joined together, and swore to stand by each other, and never to submit to Austria.
Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were the names of these three cantons. A little later another canton joined the three. These four cantons lie round a lake which is called the Lake of the four Forest Cantons. When Albrecht, Duke of Austria was chosen Emperor he said to himself that now truly he would be lord and master of Switzerland. So he sent two nobles to the Swiss to talk to them, and persuade them to own him as their king.Some of the people of Switzerland were persuaded to belong to Austria, but all the people of the free cantons replied that they wished to remain free.
So the messengers went back to Albrecht and told him what the people said. When he heard the message he was very angry. "The proud peasants," he cried, "they will not yield. Then I will bend and break them. They will be soft and yielding enough when I have done with them."
Months went by and the Emperor appointed no ruler over Switzerland. At last the people, feeling that they must have a governor, sent messengers to the Emperor, begging him to appoint a ruler, as all the Emperors before him had done. "A governor you shall have." said Albrecht. "Go home and await his coming. Whom I send to you, him you must obey in all things."
When they had gone, Albrecht smiled grimly to himself. "They will not yield," he said, "but I will oppress them and ill-treat them until I force them to rebel. Then I will fight against them and conquer them, and at last Switzerland will be mine."
A few days later Albrecht made his friends Hermann Gessler and Beringer of Landenberg governors over the free cantons, telling them to take soldiers with them to enforce the law and to tax the people in order to pay the soldiers. "You will punish all wrong-doers severely," he said, "I will endure no rebels within my empire."[pg 476]
Hard and bitter days began when Gessler and Landenberg settled there. They delighted in oppressing the people. They loaded them with taxes; nothing could be either bought or sold but the governors claimed a great part of the money; the slightest fault was punished with long imprisonment and heavy fines. The people became sad and downcast, but still they would not yield to Austria.
Gessler lived in a great castle at Küssnacht in Schwyz. In it were dreadful dungeons where he imprisoned the people and tortured them according to his wicked will. But he was not pleased to have only one castle, and he made up his mind to build another in Uri. So he began to build one near the little town of Altorf, which lay at the other end of the Lake of the Forest Cantons. Gessler forced the men of Uri to build this castle, and he meant to use it not only as a house for himself, but as a prison for the people.
"What will you call your castle?" asked a friend one day, as they stood to watch the building. "I will call it the Curb of Uri," said Gessler, with a cruel laugh, "for with it I will curb the proud spirit of these peasants." After watching the work for some time, Gessler and his friend rode away. "My friend," said Gessler, as he rode, "we will go back to Kiissnacht by another way. I have heard that an insolent peasant called Werner Stauffacher has built himself a new house. I wish to see it. There is no end to the impudence of these peasants." "But what will you do?" asked his friend. "Do" said Gessler, "why, turn him out, to be sure. What need have these peasants for great houses?" So they rode on to Stauffacher's house. "Whose house is this?" he demanded. Stauffacher answered quietly, "My lord, this house belongs to the Emperor, and is yours and mine in fief to hold and use for his service." "I rule this land," said Gessler, "in the name of the Emperor, and I will not allow peasants to build houses without asking leave. I will have you understand that." And he rode from the doorway. Stauffacher told his wife what had happened and she advised him to call a secret meeting of his friends to plan to free themselves from the governor's rule.[pg 477]
Werner Stauffacher spent some days in going from village to village, trying to find out how the peasants and common people felt, and everywhere heard complaints and groans. Coming to Altorf, where his friend Walter Fürst lived, he heard in the market-place a great noise of shouting and trampling of feet.
Down the street a party of Austrian soldiers came marching. One of them carried a long pole, and another a red cap with a peacock's feather in it. Then the pole with the red cap on the top of it was firmly planted in the ground.
As soon as the pole was set up a herald stepped out, blew his trumpet and cried, "Se ye this cap here set up? It is his Majesty's will and commandment that ye do all bow the knee and bend the head as ye do pass it by."
This was a new insult to a free people. Stauffacher went to the house of Walter Fürst, where he met Arnold of Melchthal, who had suffered much from Landenberg. Calling upon God and his saints, these three men swore a solemn oath to protect each other and promised to meet in a little meadow called the Rütli, the Wednesday before Martinmas.
Three weeks passed, and in the darkness and quiet the men stole to the place of meeting with other friends of freedom whom they had brought. Near Walter Fürst stood a young man straight and tall with clear and honest eyes. "William Tell," said Arnold, "and the best shot in all Switzerland. I have seen him shoot an apple from a tree a hundred paces off."Then they swore never to betray each other, to be true to the Emperor, but to drive the Austrian governor, his friends, his servants, and his soldiers out of the land. II
WILLIAM TELL AND HIS GREAT SHOT
William Tell did not live in Altorf, but in another village some way off, called Bürglen. His wife, who was called Hedwig, was Walter Fürst's daughter. Tell and Hedwig had [pg 478] two sons, William and Walter. Walter, the younger, was about six years old.William Tell loved his wife and his children very much, and they all lived happily together in a pretty little cottage at Bürglen.
"Hedwig," said Tell one morning, some days after the meeting mentioned above, "I am going into Altorf to see your father."
Hedwig looked troubled. "Do be careful, William," she said. "Must you really go? You know the governor is there just now, and he hates you."
"Why is there always snow on the mountains, father?" [pg 479] asked Walter, thinking of something else. And so he went on, asking questions about one thing after another, until his father was quite tired of answering.
Walter was chattering so much that Tell forgot all about the hat upon the pole, and, instead of going round by another way to avoid it, as he had meant to do, he went straight through the market-place to reach Walter Fürst's house.
"Father, look," said Walter, "look, how funny! there is a hat stuck up on a pole. What is it for?"
But it was too late. The soldier, who stood beside the pole to guard it and see that people bowed in passing, pointed his spear at Tell and bade him stop. "Stand, in the Emperor's name," he cried."Let be, friend," said Tell, "let me past." "Not till you obey the Emperor's command. Not till you bow to the hat." "It is no command of the Emperor," said Tell. "It is Gessler's folly and tyranny. Let me go."
"Nay, but you must not speak of my lord the governor in such terms. And past you shall not go until you bow to the cap. And, if you bow not, to prison I will lead you. Such is my lord's command."
"Why should I bow to a cap?" said Tell, his voice shaking with rage. "Were the Emperor himself here, then would I bend the knee and bow my head to him with all reverence. But to a hat! Never!" and he tried to force his way past Heinz the soldier. But Heinz would not let him pass, and kept his spear pointed at Tell.
Hearing loud and angry voices, many people gathered to see what the cause might be. Soon there was quite a crowd around the two. Every one talked at once, and the noise and confusion were great. Heinz tried to take Tell prisoner, and the people tried to take him away. "Help! help!" shouted Heinz, hoping that some of his fellow-soldiers would hear him and come to his aid,—"Help, help! treason, treason!"[pg 480] Then over all the noise of the shouting there sounded the tramp of horses' hoofs and the clang and jangle of swords and armor. "Room for the governor. Room, I say," cried a herald.
The shouting ceased and the crowd silently parted, as Gessler, richly dressed, haughty and gloomy, rode through it, followed by a gay company of his friends and soldiers. He checked his horse and, gazing angrily round the crowd, "What is this rioting?" he asked.
"My lord," said Heinz, stepping forward, "this scoundrel here will not bow to the cap, according to your lordship's command."
"Eh, what?" said Gessler, his dark face growing more dark and angry still. "Who dares to disobey my orders?"
Tell hesitated. He looked down at little Walter with his rosy cheeks and curly hair. Then he thought of William at home with his pretty loving ways. "I love them both alike, my lord," he said at last.
"Ah," said Gessler, and thought a minute. "Well, Tell," [pg 481] he said after a pause. "I have heard so much of this boast of yours about hitting apples, that I should like to see something of it. You shall shoot an apple off your boy's head at a hundred yards' distance. That will be easier than shooting off a tree.""My lord," said Tell, turning pale, "you do not mean that? It is horrible. I will do anything rather than that."
"You will shoot an apple off your boy's head," repeated Gessler in a slow and scornful voice. "I want to see your wonderful skill, and I command you to do it at once. You have your crossbow there. Do it."
"I will die first," said Tell.
"Very well," said Gessler, "but you need not think in that way to save your boy. He shall die with you. Shoot, or die both of you. And, mark you, Tell, see that you aim well, for if you miss you will pay for it with your life."
Tell turned pale. His voice trembled as he replied, "My lord, it was but thoughtlessness. Forgive me this once, and I will always bow to the cap in future." Proud and brave although he was, Tell could not bear the thought that he might kill his own child.
"Have done with this delay," said Gessler, growing yet more angry. "You break the laws, and when, instead of punishing you as you deserve, I give you a chance of escape, you grumble and think yourself hardly used. Were peasants ever more unruly and discontented? Have done, I say. Heinz, bring me an apple."The soldier hurried away. "Bind the boy to that tree," said Gessler, pointing to a tall lime-tree near by.
Two soldiers seized Walter and bound him fast to the tree. He was not in the least afraid, but stood up against the trunk straight and quiet. Then, when the apple was brought, Gessler rode up to him and, bending from the saddle, himself placed the apple upon his head.All this time the people crowded round silent and wondering, and Tell stood among them as if in a dream, watching everything with a look of horror in his eyes. [pg 482] "Clear a path there," shouted Gessler, and the soldiers charged among the people, scattering them right and left.
When a path had been cleared, two soldiers, starting from the tree to which Walter was bound, marched over the ground, measuring one hundred paces, and halted. "One hundred paces, my lord," they said, turning to Gessler.Gessler rode to the spot, calling out, "Come, Tell, from here you shall shoot."
Tell took his place. He drew an arrow from his quiver, examined it carefully, and then, instead of fitting it to his bow, he stuck it in his belt. Then, still carefully, he chose another arrow and fitted it to his bow.
A deep silence fell upon every one as Tell took one step forward. He raised his bow. A mist was before his eyes, his arm trembled, his bow dropped from his hand. He could not shoot. The fear that he might kill his boy took away all his skill and courage. A groan broke from the people as they watched. Then from far away under the lime-tree came Walter's voice, "Shoot, father, I am not afraid. You cannot miss."
Once more Tell raised his bow. The silence seemed deeper than ever. The people of Altorf knew and loved Tell, and Fürst, and little Walter. And so they watched and waited with heavy hearts and anxious faces.
"Ping!" went the bowstring. The arrow seemed to sing through the frosty air, and, a second later, the silence was broken by cheer after cheer. The apple lay upon the ground pierced right through the center.
One man sprang forward and cut the rope with which Walter was bound to the tree; another picked up the apple and ran with it to Gessler. But Tell stood still, his bow clutched in his hand, his body bent forward, his eyes wild and staring, as if he were trying to follow the flight of the arrow. Yet he saw nothing, heard nothing."He has really done it!" exclaimed Gessler in astonishment, as he turned the apple round and round in his hand. "Who would have thought it? Right in the center, too."
Little Walter, quite delighted, came running to his father. [pg 483] "Father," he cried, "I knew you could do it. I knew you could, and I was not a bit afraid. Was it not splendid?" and he laughed and pressed his curly head against his father.
Then suddenly Tell seemed to wake out of his dream, and taking Walter in his arms he held him close, kissing him again and again. "You are safe, my boy. You are safe," was all he said. But strong man though he was his eyes were full of tears, and he was saying to himself, "I might have killed him. I might have killed my own boy."Meanwhile Gessler sat upon his horse watching them with a cruel smile upon his wicked face. "Tell," he said at last, "that was a fine shot, but for what was the other arrow?" Tell put Walter down and, holding his hand, turned to Gessler, "It is always an archer's custom, my lord, to have a second arrow ready," he said. "Nay, nay," said Gessler, "that answer will not do, Tell. Speak the truth." Tell was silent. "Speak, man," said Gessler, "and if you speak the truth, whatever it may be, I promise you your life."
"Then," said Tell, throwing his shoulders back and looking straight at Gessler, "since you promise me my life, hear the truth, if that first arrow had struck my child, the second one was meant for you, and be sure I had not missed my mark a second time." Gessler's face grew dark with rage. For a moment or two he could not speak. When at last he did speak, his voice was low and terrible, "You dare," he said, "you dare to tell me this! I promised you your life indeed. Your life you shall have, but you shall pass it in a dark and lonely prison, where neither sun nor moon shall send the least glimmer of light. There you shall lie, so that I may be safe from you. Ah, my fine archer, your bows and arrows will be of little use to you henceforth. Seize him, men, and bind him, lest he do murder even now."In a moment the soldiers sprang forward, and Tell was seized and bound.
As Gessler sat watching them, he looked round at all the angry faces of the crowd. "Tell has too many friends here," [pg 484] he said to himself. "If I imprison him in the Curb of Uri, they may find some way to help him to escape. I will take him with me in my boat to Klissnacht. There he can have no friends. There he will be quite safe." Then aloud he said, "Follow me, my men. Bring him to the boat."As he said these words, there was a loud murmur from the crowd. "That is against the law," cried many voices. "Law, law?" growled Gessler. "Who makes the law, you or I?"
Walter Fürst had been standing among the crowd silent and anxious. Now he stepped forward and spoke boldly. "My lord," he said, "it has ever been a law among the Swiss that no one shall be imprisoned out of his own canton. If my son-in-law, William Tell, has done wrong, let him be tried and imprisoned here, in Uri, in Altorf. If you do otherwise you wrong our ancient freedom and rights."
"Your freedom! your rights!" said Gessler roughly. "I tell you, you are here to obey the laws, not to teach me how I shall rule." Then turning his horse and calling out, "On, men, to the boat with him," he rode towards the lake, where, at a little place called Fliielen, his boat was waiting for him.
But Walter clung to his father, crying bitterly. Tell could not take him in his arms to comfort him, for his hands were tied. But he bent over him to kiss him, saying, "Little Walter, little Walter, be brave. Go with thy grandfather and comfort thy mother."So Tell was led to Gessler's boat, followed by the sorrowing people. Their hearts were full of hot anger against the tyrant. Yet what could they do? He was too strong for them.
Tell was roughly pushed into the boat, where he sat closely guarded on either side by soldiers. His bow and arrows, which had been taken from him, were thrown upon a bench beside the steersman.
Gessler took his seat. The boat started, and was soon out on the blue water of the lake. As the people of Altorf watched Tell go, their hearts sank. They had not known, until they saw him bound and a prisoner, how much they had trusted and loved him.[pg 485]III
THE ESCAPE OF WILLIAM TELL
On the lakes of Switzerland storms of wind arise very quickly. The Swiss used to dread these storms so much that they gave names to the winds as if they were people. The south wind, which is the fiercest, they called the Föhn. There used to be a law that when the Föhn arose, all fires were to be put out. For the wind whistled and blew down the wide chimneys like great bellows, till the fires flared up so fiercely that the houses, which were built of wood, were in danger of being burned to the ground. Now one of these fierce storms arose.
No one noticed when Gessler's boat pushed off from the shore how dark the sky had grown nor how keenly the wind was blowing. But before the boat had gone very far the waves began to rise, and the wind to blow fiercer and fiercer.
Soon the little boat was tossing wildly on great white-crested waves. The rowers bent to the oars and rowed with all their might. But in spite of all they could do, the waves broke over the boat, filling it with water. They were tossed here and there, until it seemed every minute that they would sink.
Pale with fear, the captain stood at the helm. He was an Austrian who knew nothing of the Swiss lakes, and he had never before been in such a storm. He was helpless, and he knew that very soon the boat would be a wreck.Wrapped in his mantle, Gessler sat silent and still, watching the storm. He, too, knew the danger.
As the waves dashed over him, one of Gessler's servants staggered to his master's feet. "My lord," he said, "you see our need and danger, yet methinks there is one man on board who could save us.""Who is that?" asked Gessler. "William Tell, your prisoner," replied the man. "He is known to be one of the best sailors on this lake. He knows every inch of it. If any one can save the boat, he can." [pg 486] "Bring him here," said Gessler. "It seems you are a sailor as well as an archer, Tell," said Gessler, when his prisoner had been brought before him. "Can you save the boat and bring us to land?" "Yes," said Tell. "Unbind him, then," said Gessler to the soldier, "but mark you, Tell, you go not free. Even although you save us, you are still my prisoner. Do not think to have any reward." The rope which bound Tell's hands was cut, and he took his place at the helm.
The waves still dashed high, the wind still howled, but under Tell's firm hand the boat seemed to steady itself, and the rowers bent to their work with new courage and strength in answer to his commanding voice.
Tell, leaning forward, peered through the darkness and the spray. There was one place where he knew it would be possible to land—where a bold and desperate man at least might land. He was looking for that place. Nearer and nearer to the shore he steered. At last he was quite close to it. He glanced quickly round. His bow and arrows lay beside him. He bent and seized them. Then with one great leap he sprang ashore, and as he leaped he gave the boat a backward push with his foot, sending it out again into the stormy waters of the lake.There was a wild outcry from the sailors, but Tell was free, for no one dared to follow him. Quickly clambering up the mountain-side, he disappeared among the trees.
As Tell vanished, Gessler stood up and shouted in anger, but the little boat, rocking and tossing on the waves, drifted out into the lake, and the Austrian sailors, to whom the shore was unknown, dared not row near to it again, lest they should be dashed to pieces upon the rocks. Even as it was, they expected every moment that the boat would sink, and that all would be drowned. But despair seemed to give the sailors fresh strength, and soon the wind fell and the waves became quieter. A few hours later, wet, weary, but safe, Gessler and his company landed on the shore of Schwyz.IV
TELL'S SECOND SHOT
As soon as Gessler landed, he called for his horse, and silent and gloomy, his heart full of bitter hate against Tell and all the Swiss, he mounted and rode towards his castle at Küssnacht.
But Tell's heart, too, was full of hate and anger. That morning he had been a gentle, peace-loving man. Now all was changed. Gessler's cruel jest had made him hard and angry. He could not forget that he might have killed his own boy. He seemed to see always before him Walter bound to the tree with the apple on his head. Tell made up his mind that Gessler should never make any one else suffer so much. There was only one thing to do. That was to kill Gessler, and that Tell meant to do.
If Gessler escaped from the storm, Tell was sure that he would go straight to his castle at Küssnacht. There was only one road which led from the lake to the castle, and at a place called the Hollow Way it became very narrow, and the banks rose steep and rugged on either side. There Tell made up his mind to wait for Gessler. There he meant to free his country from the cruel tyrant.
Without stopping for food or rest, Tell hurried through the woods until he came to the Hollow Way. There he waited and watched. Many people passed along the road. There were herds with their flocks, and travelers of all kinds, among them a poor woman whose husband had been put in prison by Gessler, so that now she had no home, and had to wander about with her children begging. She stopped and spoke to Tell, and the story she told of Gessler's cruelty made Tell's heart burn with anger, and made him more sure than ever that the deed he meant to do was just and right.
The day went on, and still Gessler did not come, and still Tell waited. At last he heard the distant tramp of feet and the sound of voices. Surely he had come at last. But as the sounds came nearer, Tell knew that it could not be Gessler, [pg 488] for he heard music and laughter, and through the Hollow Way came a gaily dressed crowd. It was a weddingparty. Laughing and merry, the bride and bridegroom with their friends passed along. When they were out of sight the wind brought back the sound of their merry voices to Tell, as he waited upon the bank. They, at least, had for a time forgotten Gessler.At last, as the sun was setting, Tell heard the tramp of horses, and a herald dashed along the road, shouting, "Room for the governor. Room, I say."
As Gessler came slowly on behind, Tell could hear him talking in a loud and angry voice to a friend. "Obedience I will have," he was saying. "I have been far too mild a ruler over this people. They grow too proud. But I will break their pride. Let them prate of freedom, indeed. I will crush—" The sentence was never finished. An arrow whizzed through the air, and with a groan Gessler fell, dead.Tell's second arrow had found its mark. Immediately everything was in confusion. Gessler's soldiers crowded round, trying to do something for their master. But it was useless. He was dead. Tell's aim had been true. "Who has done this foul murder?" cried one of Gessler's * friends, looking round.
"The shot was mine," answered Tell, from where he stood on the high bank. "But no murder have I done. I have but freed an unoffending people from a base and cowardly tyrant. My cause is just, let God be the judge."At the sound of his voice every one turned to look at Tell, as he stood above them calm and unafraid. "Seize him!" cried the man who had already spoken, as soon as he recovered from his astonishment. "Seize him, it is Tell the archer."
Five or six men scrambled up the steep bank as fast as they could. But Tell slipped quietly through the bushes, and when they reached the top he was nowhere to be found. The short winter's day was closing in fast, and Tell found it easy to escape in the darkness from Gessler's soldiers. They soon gave up the chase, and, returning to the road, took up their master's dead body and carried it to his castle at Küssnacht [pg 489] There was little sorrow for him, for he had been a hard master. The Austrian soldiers did not grieve, and the Swiss, wherever they heard the news, rejoiced.
As soon as he was free of the soldiers, Tell turned and made for Stauffacher's house. All through the night he walked, until he came to the pretty house with its red roofs and many windows which had made Gessler so angry.
Now there was no light in any of the windows, and all was still and quiet. But Tell knew in which of the rooms Stauffacher slept, and he knocked softly upon the window until he had aroused his friend."William Tell!" said Stauffacher in astonishment. "I heard from Walter Fürst that you were a prisoner. Thank Heaven that you are free again." "I am free," said Tell; "you, too, are free. Gessler is dead." "Gessler dead!" exclaimed Stauffacher. "Now indeed have we cause for thankfulness. Tell me, how did it happen?" and he drew William Tell into the house. Tell soon told all his story. Then Stauffacher, seeing how weary he was, gave him food and made him rest.
That night Tell slept well. All next day he remained hidden in Stauffacher's house. "You must not go," said his friend, "Gessler's soldiers will be searching for you." But when evening came Tell crept out into the dark again, and kind friends rowed him across the lake back to Flüelen. There, where a few days before he had been a prisoner, he landed, now free.
Tell went at once to Walter Fürst's house, and soon messengers were hurrying all through the land to gather together again the Confederates, as those who had met on that eventful night were called.
This time they gathered with less fear and less secrecy, for was not the dreaded governor dead? Not one but was glad, yet some of the Confederates blamed Tell, for they had all promised to wait until the first of January before doing anything. "I know," said Tell, "but he drove me to it." And every man there who had left a little boy at home felt that he too might have done the same thing.[pg 490]
Now that Tell had struck the first blow, some of the Confederates wished to rise at once. But others said, "No, it is only a few weeks now until New Year's Day. Let us wait." So they waited, and everything seemed quiet and peaceful in the land, for the Emperor sent no governor to take Gessler's place, as he was far away in Austria, too busy fighting and quarreling there to think of Switzerland in the meantime. "When I have finished this war," he said, "it will be time enough to crush these Swiss rebels."
Hero Of Persia: Rustem
ADAPTED BY ALFRED J. CHURCH I
THE SEVEN ADVENTURES OF RUSTEM
King Keïkobad died, and his son Kaoüs sat upon his throne. At first he was a moderate and prudent prince; but finding his riches increase, and his armies grow more and more numerous, he began to believe that there was no one equal to him in the whole world, and that he could do what he would. One day as he sat drinking in one of the chambers of his palace, and boasting after his custom, a Genius, disguised as a minstrel, came to the King's chamberlain, and desired to be admitted to the royal presence. "I came," he said, "from the country of the Genii, and I am a sweet singer. Maybe the King, if he were to hear me, would give me a post in his court."The chamberlain went to the King, and said, "There is a minstrel at the gate; he has a harp in his hand, and his voice is marvelously sweet." "Bring him up," said the King.
So they brought him in, and gave him a place among the musicians, and commanded that he should give them a trial of his powers. So the minstrel, after playing a prelude on his harp, sang a song of the land of the Genii.
"There is no land in all the world" this was the substance of his song—"like Mazanderan, the land of the Genii. All the year round the rose blooms in its gardens and the hyacinth on its hills. It knows no heat nor cold, only an eternal spring. [pg 492] The nightingales sing in its thicket, and through its valleys wander the deer, and the water of its stream is as the water of roses, delighting the soul with its perfume. Of its treasures there is no end; the whole country is covered with gold and embroidery and jewels. No man can say that he is happy unless he has seen Mazanderan."
When the King heard this song, he immediately conceived the thought of marching against this wonderful country. Turning, therefore, to his warriors, he said: "We are given over to feasting; but the brave must not suffer himself to rest in idleness. I am wealthier and, I doubt not, stronger than all the kings that have gone before me; it becomes me also to surpass them in my achievements. We will conquer the land of Genii."
The warriors of the King were little pleased to hear such talk from his lips. No one ventured to speak, but their hearts were full of trouble and fear, for they had no desire to fight against the Genii.
"We are your subjects, O King," they said, "and will do as you desire." But when they were by themselves, and could speak openly, they said one to another, "What a trouble is this that has come of our prosperous fortune! Unless by good fortune the King forgets this purpose of his, we and the whole country are lost. Jemshid, whom the Genii and the Peris and the very birds of the air used to obey, never ventured to talk in this fashion of Mazanderan, or to seek war against the Genii; and Feridun, though he was the wisest of kings, and skilful in all magical arts, never cherished such a plan." So they sat, overwhelmed with anxiety.
At last one of them said, "My friends, there is only one way of escaping from this danger. Let us send a swift dromedary to Zal of the white hair, with this message: 'Though your head be covered with dust, do not stay to wash it, but come.' Perhaps Zal will give the King wise advice, and, telling him that this plan of his is nothing but a counsel of Satan, will persuade him to change his purpose. Otherwise we are lost, small and great."The nobles listened to this advice, and sent a messenger to Zal, mounted on a swift dromedary. [pg 493] When Zal heard what had happened, he said:
"The King is self-willed. He has not yet felt either the cold or the heat of the world. He thinks that all men, great and small, tremble at his sword, and it must needs be that he learn better by experience. However, I will go; I will give him the best advice that I can. If he will be persuaded by me, it will be well; but if not, the way is open, and Rustem shall go with his army." All night long he revolved these matters in his heart. The next morning he went his way, and arrived at the court of the King.The King received him with all honor, bade him sit by his side, and inquired how he had borne the fatigue of his journey, and of the welfare of Rustem, his son. Then Zal spoke:
"I have heard, my lord, that you are forming plans against the land of the Genii. Will it please you to listen to me? There have been mighty kings before you, but never during all my years, which now are many, has any one of them conceived in his heart such a design as this. This land is inhabited by Genii that are skilful in all magical arts. They can lay such bonds upon men that no one is able to hurt them. No sword is keen enough to cut them through; riches and wisdom and valor are alike powerless against them. I implore you, therefore, not to waste your riches, and the riches of your country and the blood of your warriors, on so hopeless an enterprise."
The King answered, "Doubtless it is true that the kings my predecessors never ventured to entertain such a plan. But am I not superior to them in courage, in power and wealth? Had they such warriors as you, and Rustem your son? Do not think to turn me from my purpose. I will go against the country of these accursed magicians, and verily I will not leave one single soul alive in it, for they are an evil race. If you do not care to come with me, at least refrain from advising me to sit idle upon my throne."
When Zal heard this answer, he said: "You are the King, and we are your slaves. Whatever you ordain is right and just, and it is only by thy good pleasure that we breathe and move. I have said what was in my heart. All that remains [pg 494] now is to obey, and to pray that the Ruler of the world may prosper your counsels."When he had thus spoken, Zal took leave of the King, and departed for his own country.
The very next day the King set out with his army for the land of the Genii, and, after marching for several days, pitched his tent at the foot of Mount Asprus, and held a great revel all the night long with his chiefs. The next morning he said, "Choose me two thousand men who will break down the gates of Mazanderan with their clubs. And take care that when you have taken the city you spare neither young nor old, for I will rid the world of these magicians." They did as the King commanded, and in a short space of time the city, which was before the richest and most beautiful in the whole world, was made into a desert.
When the King of Mazanderan heard of these things he called a messenger, and said: "Go to the White Genius and say to him, 'The Persians have come with a great army and are destroying everything. Make haste and help me, or there will be nothing left to preserve.'"The White Genius said, "Tell the King not to be troubled; I will see to these Persians."
That same night the whole army of King Kaoüs was covered with a wonderful cloud. The sky was dark as pitch, and there fell from it such a terrible storm of hailstones that no one could stand against them. When the next morning came, lo! the King and all that had not fled—for many fled to their own country—or been killed by the hailstones, were blind. Seven days they remained terrified and helpless. On the eighth day they heard the voice, loud as a clap of thunder, of the White Genius.
"King," said he, "you coveted the land of Mazanderan, you entered the city, you slew and took prisoners many of the people; but you did not know what I could do. And now, see, you have your desire. Your lot is of your own contriving."
The White Genius then gave over the King and his companions to the charge of an army of twelve thousand Genii, and commanded that they should be kept in prison, and have [pg 495] just so much food given them as should keep them alive from day to day. Kaoüs, however, contrived to send by one of his warriors a message to Zal the White-haired, telling him of all the troubles that had come upon him. When Zal heard the news he was cut to the heart, and sent without delay for Rustem. "Rustem," said he, "this is no time for a man to eat and drink and take his pleasure. The King is in the hands of Satan, and we must deliver him. As for me, I am old and feeble; but you are of the age for war. Saddle Raksh, your horse, and set forth without a moment's delay. The White Genius must not escape the punishment of his misdeeds at your hands."
"The way is long," said Rustem; "how shall I go?" "There are two ways," answered Zal, "and both are difficult and dangerous. The King went by the longer way. The other is by far the shorter, a two-weeks' march and no more; but it is full of lions and evil Genii, and it is surrounded by darkness. Still, I would have you go by it. God will be your helper; and difficult as the way may be, it will have an end, and your good horse Raksh will accomplish it. And if it be the will of Heaven that you should fall by the hand of the White Genius, who can change the ordering of destiny? Sooner or later we must all depart, and death should be no trouble to him who has filled the earth with his glory."
"My father, I am ready to do your bidding," said Rustem. "Nevertheless, the heroes of old cared not to go of their own accord into the land of death; and it is only he who is weary of life that throws himself in the way of a roaring lion. Still I go, and I ask for no help but from the justice of God. With that on my side I will break the charm of the magicians. The White Genius himself shall not escape me."Rustem armed himself, and went on his way.
Rustem made such speed that he accomplished two days' journey in one. But at last, finding himself hungry and weary, and seeing that there were herds of wild asses in the plain which he was traversing, he thought that he would catch one of them for his meal, and rest for the night. So pressing his knees into his horse's side, he pursued one of them. There was no escape for the swiftest beast when Rustem was mounted on [pg 496] Raksh, and in a very short time a wild ass was caught with the lasso. Rustem struck a light with a flintstone, and making a fire with brambles and branches of trees, roasted the ass and ate it for his meal. This done he took the bridle from his horse, let him loose to graze upon the plain, and prepared himself to sleep in a bed of rushes. Now in the middle of this bed of rushes was a lion's lair, and at the end of the first watch the lion came back, and was astonished to see lying asleep on the rushes a man as tall as an elephant, with a horse standing near him. The lion said to himself, "I must first tear the horse, and then the rider will be mine whenever I please." So he leaped at Raksh; but the horse darted at him like a flash of fire, and struck him on the head with his fore feet. Then he seized him by the back with his teeth, and battered him to pieces on the earth. When Rustem awoke and saw the dead lion, which indeed was of a monstrous size, he said to Raksh, "Wise beast, who bade you fight with a lion? If you had fallen under his claws, how should I have carried to Mazanderan this cuirass and helmet, this lasso, my bow and my sword?" Then he went to sleep again; but awaking at sunrise, saddled Raksh and went on his way.
He had now to accomplish the most difficult part of his journey, across a waterless desert, so hot that the very birds could not live in it. Horse and rider were both dying of thirst, and Rustem, dismounting, could scarcely struggle along while he supported his steps by his spear. When he had almost given up all hope, he saw a well-nourished ram pass by. "Where," said he to himself, "is the reservoir from which this creature drinks?" Accordingly he followed the ram's footsteps, holding his horse's bridle in one hand and his sword in the other, and the ram led him to a spring. Then Rustem lifted up his eyes to heaven and thanked God for his mercies; afterwards he blessed the ram, saying, "No harm come to thee forever! May the grass of the valleys and the desert be always green for thee, and may the bow of him that would hunt thee be broken, for thou hast saved Rustem; verily, without thee he would have been torn to pieces by the wild beasts of the desert."[pg 497]
After this he caught another wild ass, and roasted him for his meal. Then having bathed in the spring, he lay down to sleep; but before he lay down, he said to Raksh, his horse: "Do not seek quarrel or friendship with any. If an enemy come, run to me; and do not fight either with Genius or lion."After this he slept; and Raksh now grazed, and now galloped over the plain.
Now it so happened that there was a great dragon that had its bed in this part of the desert. So mighty a beast was it, that not even a Genius had dared to pass by that way. The dragon was astonished to see a man asleep and a horse by his side, and began to make its way to the horse. Raksh did as he had been bidden, and running towards his master, stamped with his feet upon the ground. Rustem awoke, and seeing nothing when he looked about him—for the dragon meanwhile had disappeared—was not a little angry. He rebuked Raksh, and went to sleep again. Then the dragon came once more out of the darkness, and the horse ran with all speed to his master, tearing up the ground and kicking. A second time the sleeper awoke, but as he saw nothing but darkness round him, he was greatly enraged, and said to his faithful horse:
"Why do you disturb me? If it wearies you to see me asleep, yet you cannot bring the night to an end. I said that if a lion came to attack you, I would protect you; but I did not tell you to trouble me in this way. Verily, if you make such a noise again, I will cut off your head and go on foot, carrying all my arms and armor with me to Mazanderan."
A third time Rustem slept, and a third time the dragon came. This time Raksh, who did not venture to come near his master, fled over the plain; he was equally afraid of the dragon and of Rustem. Still his love for his master did not suffer him to rest. He neighed and tore up the earth, till Rustem woke up again in a rage. But this time God would not suffer the dragon to hide himself, and Rustem saw him through the darkness, and, drawing his sword, rushed at him.But first he said, "Tell me your name; my hand must not tear your soul from your body before I know your name."
The dragon said, "No man can ever save himself from my [pg 498] claws; I have dwelt in this desert for ages, and the very eagles have not dared to fly across. Tell me then your name, bold man. Unhappy is the mother that bore you."
"I am Rustem, son of Zal of the white hair," said the hero, "and there is nothing on earth that I fear."
Then the dragon threw itself upon Rustem. But the horse Raksh laid back his ears, and began to tear the dragon's back with his teeth, just as a lion might have torn it.
The hero stood astonished for a while; then, drawing his sword, severed the monster's head from his body. Then, having first bathed, he returned thanks to God, and mounting on Raksh, went his way.
All that day he traveled across the plain, and came at sunset to the land of the magicians. Just as the daylight was disappearing, he spied a delightful spot for his night's encampment. There were trees and grass, and a spring of water. And beside the spring there was a flagon of red wine, and a roast kid, with bread and salt and confectionery neatly arranged. Rustem dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and looked with astonishment at the provisions thus prepared. It was the meal of certain magicians, who had vanished when they saw him approach.Of this he knew nothing, but sitting down without question, filled a cup with wine, and taking a harp which he found lying by the side of the flagon, sang:
"The scourge of the wicked am I, And my days still in battle go by; Not for me is the red wine that glows In the reveler's cup, nor the rose
That blooms in the land of delight; But with monsters and demons to fight."
The music and the voice of the singer reached the ears of a witch that was in those parts. Forthwith, by her art, she made her face as fair as spring, and, approaching Rustem, asked him how he fared, and sat down by his side. The hero thanked Heaven that he had thus found in the desert such good fare and excellent company; for he did not know that the lovely visitor was a witch. He welcomed her, and handed her a cup of wine; [pg 499] but, as he handed it, he named the name of God, and at the sound her color changed, and she became as black as charcoal.When Rustem saw this, quick as the wind he threw his lasso over her head. "Confess who you are," he cried; "show yourself in your true shape." Then the witch was changed into a decrepit, wrinkled old woman. Rustem cut her in halves with a blow of his sword.
The next day he continued his journey with all the speed that he could use, and came to a place where it was utterly dark. Neither sun, nor moon, nor stars could be seen; and all that the hero could do was to let the reins fall on his horse's neck, and ride on as chance might direct.
In time he came to a most delightful country, where the sun was shining brightly, and where the ground was covered with green. Rustem took off his cuirass of leopard-skin, and his helmet, and let Raksh find pasture where he could in the fertile fields, and lay down to sleep. When the keeper of the fields saw the horse straying among them and feeding, he was filled with rage; and running up to the hero, dealt him with his stick a great blow upon the feet.
"There has come to this place a son of Satan, clad in a cuirass of leopard-skin, with an iron helmet. I was going to drive his horse out of the cornfields, when he leaped upon me, tore my ears from my head without saying a single word, and then lay down to sleep again."
Aulad was about to go hunting with his chiefs; but when he heard the keeper's story he altered his plan, and set out to the place where he heard that Rustem had been seen. Rustem, as soon as he saw him approach, and a great company with [pg 500] him, ran to Raksh, leaped on his back, and rode forward. Aulad said to him, "Who are you? What are you doing here? Why did you pluck off my keeper's ears and let your horse feed in the cornfields?""If you were to hear my name," said Rustem, "it would freeze the blood in your heart."
So saying he drew his sword, and fastening his lasso to the bow of his saddle, rushed as a lion rushes into the midst of a herd of oxen. With every blow of his sword he cut off a warrior's head, till the whole of Aulad's company was either slain or scattered. Aulad himself he did not kill, but throwing his lasso, caught him by the neck, dragged him from his horse, and bound his hands. "Now," said he, "if you will tell me the truth, and, without attempting to deceive, will show me where the White Genius dwells, and will guide me to where King Kaoüs is kept prisoner, then I will make you king of Mazanderan. But if you speak a word of falsehood you die."
"It is well," said Aulad; "I will do what you desire. I will show you where the King is imprisoned. It is four hundred miles from this place; and four hundred miles farther, a difficult and dangerous way, is the dwelling of the White Genius. It is a cavern so deep that no man has ever sounded it, and it lies between two mountains. Twelve thousand Genii watch it during the night, for the White Genius is the chief and master of all his tribe. You will find him a terrible enemy, and, for all your strong arms and hands, your keen sword, your lance and your club, you will scarcely be able to conquer him; and when you have conquered him, there will still be much to be done. In the city of the King of Mazanderan there are thousands of warriors, and not a coward among them; and besides these, there are two hundred war-elephants. Were you made of iron, could you venture to deal alone with these sons of Satan?"
Rustem smiled when he heard this, and said, "Come with me, and you will see what a single man, who puts his trust in God, can do. And now show me first the way to the King's prison."
Rustem mounted on Raksh, and rode gaily forward, and [pg 501] Aulad ran in front of him. For a whole day and night he ran, nor ever grew tired, till they reached the foot of Mount Asprus, where King Kaoüs had fallen into the power of the Genii. About midnight they heard a great beating of drums, and saw many fires blaze up.Rustem said to Aulad, "What mean these fires that are blazing up to right and left of us?" Aulad answered, "This is the way into Mazanderan. The great Genius Arzeng must be there."
Then Rustem went to sleep; and when he woke in the morning he took his lasso and fastened Aulad to the trunk of a tree. Then hanging his grandfather's club to his saddlebow, he rode on.
His conflict with Arzeng, the chief of the army of the Genii, was soon finished. As he approached the camp he raised his battle-cry. His shout was loud enough, one would have said, to split the very mountains; and Arzeng, when he heard it, rushed out of his tent. Rustem set spurs to his horse, and galloping up to the Genius, caught him by the head, tore it from the body, and threw it into the midst of the army. When the Genii saw it, and caught sight also of the great club, they fled in the wildest confusion, fathers trampling upon their sons in their eagerness to escape. The hero put the whole herd of them to the sword, and then returned as fast as he could to the place where he had left Aulad bound to the tree. He unloosed the knots of the lasso, and bidding him lead the way to the prisonhouse of the King, set spurs to Raksh, Aulad running in front as before.
When they entered the town, Raksh neighed. His voice was as loud as thunder, and the King heard it, and in a moment understood all that had happened. "That is the voice of Raksh," he said to the Persians that were with him; "our evil days are over. This was the way in which he neighed in King Kobad's time, when he made war on the Scythians."
The Persians said to themselves, "Our poor King has lost his senses, or he is dreaming. There is no help for us." But they had hardly finished speaking when the hero appeared, and did homage to the King. Kaoüs embraced him, and then [pg 502] said: "If you are to help me, you must go before the Genii know of your coming. So soon as the White Genius shall hear of the fall of Arzeng, he will assemble such an army of his fellows as shall make all your pains and labor lost. But you must know that you have great difficulties to overcome. First, you must cross seven mountains, all of them occupied by troops of Genii; then you will see before you a terrible cavern—more terrible, I have heard say, than any other place in the world. The entrance to it is guarded by warrior Genii, and in it dwells the White Genius himself. He is both the terror and the hope of his army. Conquer him, and all will be well. A wise physician tells me that the only remedy for my blindness is to drop into my eyes three drops of the White Genius's blood. Go and conquer, if you would save your King."
Without any delay Rustem set forth, Raksh carrying him like the wind. When he reached the great cavern, he said to Aulad, who had guided him on his way as before, "The time of conflict is come. Show me the way."Aulad answered, "When the sun shall grow hot, the Genii will go to sleep. That will be your time to conquer them."
Rustem waited till the sun was at its highest, and then went forth to battle. The Genii that were on guard fled at the sound of his voice, and he went on without finding any to resist him till he came to the great cavern of which the King had spoken. It was a terrible place to see, and he stood for a while with his sword in his hand, doubting what he should do. No one would choose such a spot for battle; and as for escaping from it, that was beyond all hope. Long he looked into the darkness, and at last he saw a monstrous shape, which seemed to reach across the whole breadth of the cave. It was the White Genius that was lying asleep. Rustem did not attempt to surprise him in his sleep, but woke him by shouting his battle-cry. When the White Genius saw him, he rushed at once to do battle with him. First he caught up from the ground a stone as big as a millstone and hurled it at him. For the first time Rustem felt a thrill of fear, so terrible was his enemy. Nevertheless, gathering all his strength, he struck at him a great blow with his sword and cut off one of his feet. The monster, though having [pg 503] but one foot, leaped upon him like a wild elephant, and seized him by the breast and arms, hoping to throw him to the ground, and tore from his body great pieces of flesh, so that the whole place was covered with blood. Rustem said to himself, "If I escape to-day I shall live forever;" and the White Genius thought, "Even if I do deliver myself from the claws of this dragon, I shall never see Mazanderan again." Still he did not lose courage, but continued to struggle against the hero with all his might.
So the two fought together, the blood and sweat running from them in great streams. At last Rustem caught the Genius round the body, and, putting out all his strength, hurled him to the ground with such force that his soul was driven out of his body. Then he plunged his poinard into the creature's heart, and tore the liver out of his body. This done he returned to Aulad, whom he had left bound with his lasso, loosed him, and set out for the place where he had left the King. But first Aulad said to him, "I have the marks of your bonds upon me; my body is bruised with the knots of your lasso; I beseech you to respect the promise which you made me of a reward. A hero is bound to keep his word."
Rustem said: "I promised that you should be King of Mazanderan, and King you shall be. But I have much to do before my word can be kept. I have a great battle to fight, in which I may be conquered, and I must rid this country of the magicians with whom it is encumbered. But be sure that, when all is done, I will not fail of the promises which I have made."
So Rustem returned to King Kaoüs, and, dropping the blood of the White Genius into his eyes, gave him back his sight. Seven days the King and his nobles feasted together, Rustem having the chief place. On the eighth day they set out to clear the country of the accursed race of magicians. When they had done this, the King said, "The guilty have now been punished. Let no others suffer. And now I will send a letter to the King of Mazanderan."
So the King wrote a letter in these words: "You see how God has punished the wrongdoers—how he has brought to naught the Genii and the magicians. Quit then your town, [pg 504] and come here to pay homage and tribute to me. If you will not, then your life shall be as the life of Arzeng and the White Genius."
This letter was carried to the King by a certain chief named Ferbad. When the King had read it, he was greatly troubled. Three days he kept Ferbad as his guest, and then sent back by him this answer: "Shall the water of the sea be equal to wine? Am I one to whom you can say, 'Come down from your throne, and present yourself before me?' Make ready to do battle with me, for verily I will bring upon the land of Persia such destruction that no man shall be able to say what is high and what is low."
Ferbad hastened back to the King of Persia. "The man," he said, "is resolved not to yield." Then the King sent to Rustem. And Rustem said, "Send me with a letter that shall be as keen as a sword and a message like a thunder-cloud." So the King sent for a scribe, who, making the point of his reed as fine as an arrowhead, wrote thus: "These are foolish words, and do not become a man of sense. Put away your arrogance, and be obedient to my words. If you refuse, I will bring such an army against you as shall cover your land from one sea to the other; and the ghost of the White Genius shall call the vultures to feast on your brains."
The King set his seal to this letter, and Rustem departed with it, with his club hanging to his saddlebow. When the King of Mazanderan heard of his coming, he sent some of his nobles to meet him. When Rustem saw them, he caught a huge tree that was by the wayside in his hands, twisted it with all his might, and tore it up, roots and all. Then he poised it in his hand as if it were a javelin. One of the nobles, the strongest of them all, rode up to him, caught one of his hands, and pressed it with all his might. Rustem only smiled; but when in his turn he caught the noble's hand in his, he crushed all the veins and bones, so that the man fell fainting from his horse.
When the King heard what had been done, he called one of his warriors, Kalahour by name, the strongest man in his dominions, and said to him, "Go and meet this messenger; [pg 505] show him your prowess, and cover his face with shame." So Kalahour rode to meet Rustem, and, taking him by the hand, wrung it with all the strength of an elephant. The hand turned blue with the pain, but the hero did not flinch or give any sign of pain. But when in his turn he wrung the hand of Kalahour, the nails dropped from it as the leaves drop from a tree. Kalahour rode back, his hand hanging down, and said to the King, "It will be better for you to make peace than to fight with this lion, whose strength is such that no man can stand against him. Pay this tribute, and we will make it good to you. Otherwise we are lost."
At this moment Rustem rode up. The King gave him a place at his right hand, and asked him of his welfare. Rustem, for answer, gave him the letter of Kei-Kaöus. When the King had read the letter, his face became black as thunder. Then he said, "Carry back this answer to your master: 'You are lord of Persia, and I of Mazanderan. Be content; seek not that which is not yours. Otherwise your pride will lead you to your fall.'"
The King would have given Rustem royal gifts, robes of honor, and horses, and gold. But the hero would have none of them, but went away in anger. When he had returned to the King of Persia, he said to him, "Fear nothing, but make ready for battle. As for the warriors of this land of Mazanderan, they are nothing; I count them no better than a grain of dust."
Meanwhile the king of the magicians prepared for war. He gathered an army, horsemen and foot-soldiers and elephants, that covered the face of the earth, and approached the borders of Persia; and, on the other hand, King Kaoüs marshaled his men of war and went out to encounter him. The King himself took his place in the center of the line of battle, and in front of all stood the great Rustem.
One of the nobles of Mazanderan came out of their line, with a great club in his hands, and approaching the Persian army, cried in a loud voice, "Who is ready to fight with me? He should be one who is able to change water into dust."None of the Persian nobles answered him, and King Kaoüs [pg 506] said, "Why is it, ye men of war, that your faces are troubled, and your tongues silent before this Genius?"
But still the nobles made no answer. Then Rustem caught the rein of his horse, and, putting the point of his lance over his shoulder, rode up to the King, and said, "Will the King give me permission to fight with this Genius?"The King said, "The task is worthy of you, for none of the Persians dare to meet this warrior. Go and prosper!" So Rustem set spurs to Raksh, and rode against the warrior who had challenged the Persians.
"Hear," he said, as soon as he came near, "your name is blotted out of the list of the living; for the moment is come when you shall suffer the recompense of all your misdeeds."
The warrior answered, "Boast not yourself so proudly. My sword makes mothers childless."
When Rustem heard this, he cried with a voice of thunder, "I am Rustem!" and the warrior, who had no desire to fight the champion of the world, turned his back and fled. But Rustem pursued him, and thrust at him with his lance where the belt joins the coat of mail, and pierced him through, for the armor could not turn the point of the great spear. Then he lifted him out of his saddle, and raised him up in the air, as if he were a bird which a man had run through with a spit. This done, he dashed him down dead upon the ground, and all the nobles of Mazanderan stood astonished at the sight.
After this the two armies joined battle. The air grew dark, and the flashing of the swords and clubs flew like the lightning out of a thunder-cloud, and the mountains trembled with the cries of the combatants. Never had any living man seen so fierce a fight before.
For seven days the battle raged, and neither the one side nor the other could claim the victory. On the eighth day King Kaoüs bowed himself before God, taking his crown from his head, and prayed with his face to the ground, saying, "O Lord God, give me, I beseech thee, the victory over the Genii who fear thee not."
Then he set his helmet on his head, and put himself at the head of his army. First of all Rustem began the attack, charging [pg 507] the center of the enemy's army. He directed his course straight to the place where the King of Mazanderan stood, surrounded with his chiefs and a great host of elephants. When the King saw the shine of his lance, he lost courage, and would have fled. But Rustem, with a cry like a lion's roar, charged him, and struck him on the girdle with his spear. The spear pierced the steel, and would have slain the King, but that by his magic art he changed himself, before the eyes of all the Persian army, into a mass of rock. Rustem stood astonished to see such a marvel.When King Kaoüs came up with his warriors, he said to Rustem, "What is it? What ails you that you tarry here, doing no thing?"
"My lord," answered Rustem, "I charged the King of Mazanderan, spear in hand; I struck him on the girdle, but when I thought to see him fall from his saddle, he changed himself into a rock before my eyes, and now he feels nothing that I can do."
Then King Kaoüs commanded that they should take up the rock and put it before his throne. But when the strongest men in the army came to handle the rock, or sought to draw it with cords, they could do nothing; it remained immovable. Rustem, however, without any one to help him, lifted it from the earth, and carrying it into the camp, threw it down before the King's tent, and said, "Give up these cowardly tricks and the art of magic, else I will break this rock into pieces."
When the King of Mazanderan heard this, he made himself visible, black as a thundercloud, with a helmet of steel upon his head and a coat of mail upon his breast. Rustem laughed, and caught him by the hand, and brought him before the King.
"See," said he, "this lump of rock, who, for fear of the hatchet has given himself up to me!"
When Kaoüs looked at him and observed how savage of aspect he was, with the neck and tusks of a wild boar, he saw that he was not worthy to sit upon a throne, and bade the executioner take him away and cut him in pieces. This done, he sent to the enemies' camp, and commanded that all the [pg 508] spoil, the King's throne, and his crown and girdle, the horses and the armor, the swords and jewels, should be gathered together. Then he called up his army, and distributed to them rewards in proportion to what they had done and suffered. After this he spent seven days in prayer, humbling himself before God, and offering up thanksgiving. On the eighth day he seated himself on his throne, and opened his treasures, and gave to all that had need. Thus he spent another seven days. On the fifteenth day, he called for wine and cups of amber and rubies, and sat for seven days on his throne, with the wine-cup in his hand.He sent for Rustem, and said, "It is of your doing, by your strength and courage, that I have recovered my throne."
Rustem answered, "A man must do his duty. As for the honors that you would give me, I owe them all to Aulad, who has always guided me on the right way. He hopes to be made king of Mazanderan. Let the King, therefore, if it please him, invest him with the crown."And this the King did.
The next day Kaoüs and his army set out to return to the land of Persia. When he had reached his palace, he seated himself upon his throne, and sending for Rustem, put him at his side.Rustem said, "My lord, permit me to go back to the old man Zal, my father."
The King commanded that they should bring splendid presents for the hero. The presents were these: A throne of turquoise, adorned with rams' heads; a royal crown set about with jewels; a robe of brocade of gold, such as is worn by the King of kings; a bracelet and a chain of gold; a hundred maidens, with faces fair as the full moon, and girdles of gold; a hundred youths, whose hair was fragrant with musk; a hundred horses, harnessed with gold and silver; a hundred mules with black hair, with loads of brocade that came from the land of Room and from Persia. After these they brought and laid at the hero's feet a hundred purses filled with gold pieces; a cup of rubies, filled with pure musk; another cup of turquoise, filled with attar of roses; and, last of all, a letter written on pages of [pg 509] silk, in ink made of wine and aloes and amber and the black of lamps. By this letter the King of kings gave anew to Rustem the kingdom of the south. Then Kaoüs blessed him, and said: "May you live as long as men shall see the sun and the moon in heaven! May the great of the earth join themselves to you! May your own soul be full of modesty and tenderness!"Rustem prostrated himself on the earth, and kissed the throne; and so took his departure.