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Before landing he sent one of
his most trusty squires for tidings as to how fared Sir Murdour, and
received for answer that the quarrel still raged betwixt him and Sir
Saber. Then Bevis went on shore with all his knights, and bade one of
them tell Sir Murdour that they had sailed from France in quest of
service, and that if he so willed they would fight under his banner,
but, if not, they would offer themselves to his foe.

Sir Murdour was overjoyed at the sight of the strangers, and asked the
name of their leader.

'Sir Jarrard,' said Bevis, who did not wish to make himself known, and
inquired further what were the causes of the war with Sir Saber, and how
long it had lasted. To this Sir Murdour made reply that Sir Saber had
been seeking for many years past to wrest from him the heritage which
was his by purchase from the spendthrift heir Bevis, who had afterwards
quitted the country, but that with the help of the strangers an end
would speedily be put to the quarrel.

While Bevis stood listening to Sir Murdour, his fingers unconsciously
crept to the handle of his sword, but he forced back his wrath and
answered that, had they brought their horses with them, the dispute
might have been settled that very night. Still, much might be done if
Sir Murdour would give them a ship in which to sail to the Isle of
Wight, and would provide them with horses.

Sir Murdour did not need to be asked twice; he gave to Sir Bevis his
finest horses and his best armour, and before many hours Bevis was
standing on the Isle of Wight by the side of his uncle Saber.

'Take yonder fishing-boat,' said he to one of his knights, 'and return
to Southampton and enter the castle. Then tell Sir Murdour that the man
to whom he has given his arms and his horses is no knight of France, but
Sir Bevis earl of Southampton, who has come to take vengeance for the
death of his father.'

* * * * *

The battle which decided the strife was fought upon the island, and
never for a moment did Bevis lose sight of his enemy. In vain did
Murdour ride from one part of the field to the other; Bevis was always
there, though it was long before he was close enough to thrust at him.
At last he managed to hurl him to the ground, but Murdour's followers
pressed hard on him, and Bevis could not, by his own self, take him
captive.

'To me! To me!' he cried at last, and Ascapard strode up, cleaving the
heads of all that stood in his way.

'What shall be done with him?' asked he, picking up the fallen knight
and holding him tightly.

'Put him in the cauldron that is boiling outside the camp,' said Bevis.
'For that is the death for traitors.'

So Sir Bevis got his own again, and he sent to Cologne for Josyan, and
was wedded to her by his uncle the bishop in his good town of
Southampton.

[From the _Early English Metrical Romances_.]




_OGIER THE DANE_


Long, long ago, a baby lay asleep in a cot in a palace. It was a royal
baby, therefore it was never left alone for a moment, but always had two
or three ladies watching it, by day and by night, so that no serpent
should crawl into its cradle and bite it, nor any evil beast run off
with it, as sometimes happened in other countries.

But one evening, after a very hot day, all the ladies in waiting felt
strangely drowsy, and, though they tried their best to keep awake, one
by one they gradually dropped off to sleep in the high carved chairs on
which they sat. Then a gentle rustle might have been heard outside on
the staircase, and when the door opened a brilliant light streamed in,
though the ladies slept too soundly to be awakened by it. Wrapped round
by the light were six fairies, more beautiful than any fairies that ever
were seen, who glided noiselessly to the cradle of the baby.

'How fair he is!' whispered one; 'the true son of a king.'

'And how strong he is!' answered another; 'look at his arms and legs,'
and the whole six bent forward and looked at him.

'The world shall ring with his fame,' said the first, whose name was
Gloriande, 'and I will give him the best gift I have. He shall never
fear death, and no word of shame shall ever touch him.'

Then the second fairy leaned forward and lifted the baby out of his
cradle. She was tall, and on her head was a ruby crown, while a plate of
gold covered her breast.

'Through all your life,' she murmured, 'wherever war and strife may be,
you shall be found in the midst of it, even as your forefathers.'

'Yes,' said a third; 'but my gift is better than hers, for you shall
never be worsted in any fight, and every one shall add to your honour.'

'And though you are the first of knights,' exclaimed the fourth, 'you
shall win fame for your courtesy and gentlehood, no less than for your
valour.'

'The hearts of all women shall turn to you, and they shall love you,'
said the fifth, who was clad in a robe of transparent green; 'but beware
how you give them back their love, for this love of mortals needs
proving'; and with that she slipped away from the cradle.

The sixth fairy looked silently at the child for a few moments, though
her thoughts seemed to be with something far away.

At length she spoke, and these were her words:

'When you are weary of travel and of strife and have won all the glory
and honour that may fall to men, then you shall come to me in my palace
of Avallon, and rest in the joys of fairyland with Morgane le Fay.'

After that the light began to fade, and the six fairies vanished none
could tell how or whither.

By-and-by the baby's attendants woke up, and never knew that during
their sleep the child's fate had been fixed as surely as if he had been
bitten by a serpent or carried off by a wolf. Everything _seemed_ the
same as it had done before, and so they took it for granted that it
_was_.

Time passed on, and Ogier, for that was the name they gave him, was ten
years old. He was tall and strong and could send his arrows farther than
most boys many years older. He could handle a spear too, and his thrusts
went straight at the mark; while he could sing a song, or touch the lute
as delicately as a maiden. His father was proud of him, and it went sore
with him when Charlemagne the emperor, who had had a bitter quarrel
with the king of Denmark, demanded that Ogier should be sent as a
hostage to his court of Paris.

[Illustration: HOW THE FAIRIES CAME TO SEE OGIER THE DANE]

For four years the boy lived happily in Paris, daily making new friends,
and learning to be a skilled swordsman; but at the end of that time the
Danish king sank some of Charlemagne's ships, and the emperor vowed that
Ogier should pay for his father's deed. His life was spared, but the
youth was banished to St. Omer, a little town on the coast. Here he
spent some years, which would have been dull and very wearisome but for
the kindness of the governor, who not only allowed him to fish and hunt
on receiving his word that he would not try to escape, but gave him his
daughter, the fair Belissande, as his companion, and even consented to a
marriage between them. For, kind though he was, he did not forget that
the captive youth was after all heir to the Danish throne.

Ogier would have been quite content to stay where he was, when suddenly
the emperor summoned him to come to Paris and take part in a war which
had broken out between him and the Saracens, who had landed in Italy.
Unwilling though he was, of course Ogier was forced to obey, and he
speedily won such fame that in a little while Charlemagne declared that
from henceforth he should have in battle the place of honour on the
right hand of the emperor himself. This favour so excited the jealousy
of Charlot, the emperor's son, that he laid many snares for Ogier's
life, but, owing to the gift of the fairy Gloriande, the young man
contrived to escape them all.

On his return to France with the army, after the war was over and the
Saracens had been beaten, he found two pieces of news awaiting him. One
was that his father was dead, and that he was king of Denmark, and the
other was that during his absence a son had been born to him.

Taking leave of the emperor, he chose the swiftest horse he could find
in the stables and rode straight to St. Omer. The boy was by this time
three years old, and promised to be tall and strong like his father.
Already he could mount a pony and use a tiny bow and arrows that had
been made for him, and even could tell the names of some of the battles
his father had won.

But Ogier could not tarry long in the castle of St. Omer. Taking his
wife and son with him, he set out at once for Denmark, and spent several
years in the kingdom making laws and teaching his people many things
that he had learnt in his travels.

After ten years, however, he became weary of this peaceful life, and,
after Belissande died, he felt he could bear it no longer. So, leaving
the crown to his uncle, he returned to France with his son and fought
once more by the side of Charlemagne. This was the life he loved, and it
seemed as if it might have gone on for ever had it not been for the
prince Charlot, who, unhappily, only grew more quarrelsome and foolish
the older he got.

Charlot was one day playing chess with the son of Ogier, and, as he was
hasty and impatient, the game went against him. Like many others, he had
never learned how to take a beating like a man, and, raising his hand,
he struck the youth a blow on the temple which killed him. Charlemagne,
grieved though he really was, refused to punish Charlot, and after
saying bitter words Ogier left Paris, and took service with the king of
Lombardy, but was soon captured, while asleep, by Archbishop Turpin.

By this time Charlemagne had felt the loss of Ogier so greatly, and had
besides suffered so much from further ill-doings on the part of his son,
that he lent a ready ear to Ogier's offer of reconciliation, provided he
were allowed to avenge himself on the murderer. But just as Ogier was
about to strike off Charlot's head, and rid the world of a man who never
did any good in it, he was stopped by a mysterious voice which bade him
to spare the son of Charlemagne.



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