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Aslauga's Knight by Fredrich de la Motte-Fouque

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by Friedrich de La Motte-Fouque was scanned and proofed
by Sandra Laythorpe, slaythorpe@cwcom.net.

Aslauga's Knight

by Fredrich de la Motte-Fouque

CHAPTER I.

Many years ago there lived in the island of Fuhnen a noble
knight, called Froda, the friend of the Skalds, who was so
named because he not only offered free hospitality in his fair
castle to every renowned and noble bard, but likewise strove
with all his might to discover those ancient songs, and tales,
and legends which, in Runic writings or elsewhere, were still
to be found; he had even made some voyages to Iceland in
search of them, and had fought many a hard battle with the
pirates of those seas--for he was also a right valiant knight,
and he followed his great ancestors not only in their love of
song, but also in their bold deeds of arms. Although he was
still scarcely beyond the prime of youth, yet all the other
nobles in the island willingly submitted themselves to him,
whether in council or in war; nay, his renown had even been
carried ere now over the sea to the neighbouring land of
Germany.

One bright autumn evening this honour-loving knight sat before
his castle, as he was often wont to do, that he might look far
and wide over land and sea, and that he might invite any
travellers who were passing by, as was his custom, to share in
his noble hospitality.

But on this day he saw little of all that he was accustomed to
look upon; for on his knees there lay an ancient book with
skilfully and richly painted characters, which a learned
Icelander had just sent to him across the sea: it was the
history of Aslauga, the fair daughter of Sigurd, who at first,
concealing her high birth, kept goats among the simple
peasants of the land, clothed in mean attire; then, in the
golden veil of her flowing hair, won the love of King Ragnar
Lodbrog; and at last shone brightly on the Danish throne as
his glorious queen, till the day of her death.

To the Knight Froda it seemed as though the gracious Lady
Aslauga rose in life and birth before him, so that his calm
and steadfast heart, true indeed to ladies' service, but never
yet devoted to one particular female image, burst forth in a
clear flame of love for the fair daughter of Sigurd. "What
matters it," thought he to himself, "that it is more than a
hundred years since she disappeared from earth? She sees so
clearly into this heart of mine--and what more can a knight
desire? wherefore she shall henceforth be my honoured love,
and shall inspire me in battle and in song." And therewith he
sang a lay on his new love, which ran in the following manner:

"They ride over hill and dale apace
To seek for their love the fairest face--
They search through city and forest-glade
To find for their love the gentlest maid--
They climb wherever a path may lead
To seek the wisest dame for their meed.
Ride on, ye knights: but ye never may see
What the light of song has shown to me:
Loveliest, gentlest, and wisest of all,
Bold be the deeds that her name shall recall;
What though she ne'er bless my earthly sight?
Yet death shall reveal her countenance bright.
Fair world, good night! Good day, sweet love!
Who seeks here in faith shall find above."

"Such purpose may come to good," said a hollow voice near the
knight; and when he looked round, he saw the form of a poor
peasant woman, so closely wrapped in a grey mantle that he
could not discern any part of her countenance. She looked
over his shoulder on the book, and said, with a deep sigh,
"I know that story well; and it fares no better with me than
with the princess of whom it tells." Froda looked at her with
astonishment. "Yes, yes," pursued she, with strange becks and
nods; "I am the descendant of the mighty Rolf, to whom the
fairest castles and forests and fields of this island once
belonged; your castle and your domains, Froda, amongst others,
were his. We are now cast down to poverty; and because I am
not so fair as Aslauga there is no hope that my possessions
will be restored to me; and therefore I am fain to veil my
poor face from every eye." It seemed that she shed warm tears
beneath her mantle. At this Froda was greatly moved, and
begged her, for God's sake, to let him know how he could help
her, for that he was a descendant of the famous northern
heroes of the olden time; and perhaps yet something more than
they--namely, a good Christian. "I almost think," murmured
she from beneath her covering, "that you are that very Froda
whom men call the Good, and the friend of the Skalds, and of
whose generosity and mildness such wonderful stories are told.
If it be so, there may be help for me. You need only give up
to me the half of your fields and meadows, and I should be in
a condition to live in some measure such a life as befits the
descendant of the mighty Rolf." Then Froda looked
thoughtfully on the ground; partly because she had asked for
so very much; partly, also, because he was considering whether
she could really be descended from the powerful Rolf. But the
veiled form said, after a pause, "I must have been mistaken,
and you are not indeed that renowned, gentle-hearted Froda:
for how could be have doubted so long about such a trifle?
But I will try the utmost means. See now! for the sake of the
fair Aslauga, of whom you have both read and sang--for the
sake of the honoured daughter of Sigurd, grant my request!"
Then Froda started up eagerly, and cried, "Let it be as you
have said!" and gave her his knightly hand to confirm his
words. But he could not grasp the hand of the peasant-woman,
although her dark form remained close before him. A secret
shudder began to run through his limbs, whilst suddenly a
light seemed to shine forth from the apparition--a golden
light--in which she became wholly wrapped; so that he felt as
though Aslauga stood before him in the flowing veil of her
golden hair, and smiling graciously on him. Transported and
dazzled, he sank on his knees. When he rose up once more he
only saw a cloudy mist of autumn spreading over the meadow,
fringed at its edges with lingering evening lights, and then
vanishing far over the waves. The knight scarcely knew what
had happened to him. He returned to his chamber buried in
thought, and sometimes feeling sure that he had beheld
Aslauga, sometimes, again, that some goblin had risen before
him with deceitful tricks, mocking in spiteful wise the
service which he had vowed to his dead mistress. But
henceforth, wherever he roved, over valley or forest or heath,
or whether he sailed upon the waves of the sea, the like
appearances met him. Once he found a lute lying in a wood,
and drove a wolf away from it, and when sounds burst from the
lute without its being touched a fair child rose up from it,
as of old Aslauga herself had done. At another time he would
see goats clambering among the highest cliffs by the sea-
shore, and it was a golden form who tended them. Then, again,
a bright queen, resplendent in a dazzling bark, would seem to
glide past him, and salute him graciously,--and if he strove
to approach any of those he found nothing but cloud, and mist,
and vapour. Of all this many a lay might be sung. But so
much he learnt from them all--that the fair Lady Aslauga
accepted his service, and that he was now indeed and in truth
become her knight.

Meanwhile the winter had come and gone. In northern lands
this season never fails to bring to those who understand and
love it many an image full of beauty and meaning, with which
a child of man might well be satisfied, so far as earthly
happiness can satisfy, through all his time on earth. But
when the spring came glancing forth with its opening buds and
flowing waters there came also bright and sunny tidings from
the land of Germany to Fuhnen.

There stood on the rich banks of the Maine, where it pours
its waters through the fertile land of Franconia, a castle
of almost royal magnificence, whose orphan-mistress was a
relation of the German emperor. She was named Hildegardis;
and was acknowledged far and wide as the fairest of maidens.
Therefore her imperial uncle wished that she should wed none
but the bravest knight who could anywhere be met with.
Accordingly he followed the example of many a noble lord in
such a case, and proclaimed a tournament, at which the chief
prize should be the hand of the peerless Hildegardis, unless
the victor already bore in his heart a lady wedded or
betrothed to him; for the lists were not to be closed to any
brave warrior of equal birth, that the contest of strength and
courage might be so much the richer in competitors.

Now the renowned Froda had tidings of this from his German
brethren-in-arms; and he prepared himself to appear at the
festival. Before all things, he forged for himself a splendid
suit of armour; as, indeed, he was the most excellent armourer
of the north, far-famed as it is for skill in that art. He
worked the helmet out of pure gold, and formed it so that it
seemed to be covered with bright flowing locks, which called
to mind Aslauga's tresses. He also fashioned, on the
breastplate of his armour, overlaid with silver, a golden
image in half relief, which represented Aslauga in her veil of
flowing locks, that he might make known, even at the beginning
of the tournament--"This knight, bearing the image of a lady
upon his breast, fights not for the hand of the beautiful
Hildegardis, but only for the joy of battle and for knightly
fame." Then he took out of his stables a beautiful Danish
steed, embarked it carefully on board a vessel, and sailed
prosperously to the opposite shore.

CHAPTER II.

In one of those fair beech-woods which abound in the fertile
land of Germany he fell in with a young and courteous knight
of delicate form, who asked the noble northman to share the
meal which he had invitingly spread out upon the greensward,
under the shade of the pleasantest boughs. Whilst the two
knights sat peacefully together at their repast they felt
drawn towards each other and rejoiced when on rising from it,
they observed that they were about to follow the same road.
They had not come to this good understanding by means of many
words; for the young knight Edwald was of a silent nature, and
would sit for hours with a quiet smile upon his lips without
opening them to speak. But even in that quiet smile there lay
a gentle, winning grace; and when from time to time a few
simple words of deep meaning sprang to his lips they seemed
like a gift deserving of thanks. It was the same with the
little songs which he sang ever and anon: they were ended
almost as soon as begun; but in each short couplet there dwelt
a deep and winning spirit, whether it called forth a kindly
sigh or a peaceful smile. It seemed to the noble Froda as if
a younger brother rode beside him, or even a tender, blooming
son. They travelled thus many days together; and it appeared
as if their path were marked out for them in inseparable
union; and much as they rejoiced at this, yet they looked
sadly at each other whenever they set out afresh, or where
cross-roads met, on finding that neither took a different
direction: nay, it seemed at times as if a tear gathered in
Edwald's downcast eye.

It happened on a time, that at their hostelry they met an
arrogant, overbearing knight, of gigantic stature and powerful
frame, whose speech and carriage proved him to be not of
German but foreign birth. He appeared to come from the land
of Bohemia. He cast a contemptuous smile on Froda, who, as
usual, had opened the ancient book of Aslauga's history, and
was attentively reading in it. "You must be a ghostly
knight?" he said, inquiringly; and it appeared as if a whole
train of unseemly jests were ready to follow. But Froda
answered so firmly and seriously with a negative that the
Bohemian stopped short suddenly; as when the beasts, after
venturing to mock their king, the lion, are subdued to
quietness by one glance of his eye. But not so easily was the
Bohemian knight subdued; rather the more did he begin to mock
young Edwald for his delicate form and for his silence--all
which he bore for some time with great patience; but when at
last the stranger used an unbecoming phrase, he arose, girded
on his sword, and bowing gracefully, he said, "I thank you,
Sir Knight, that you have given me this opportunity of proving
that I am neither a slothful nor unpractised knight; for only
thus can your behaviour be excused, which otherwise must be
deemed most unmannerly. Are you ready?"

With these words he moved towards the door; the Bohemian
knight followed, smiling scornfully; while Froda was full of
care for his young and slender companion, although his honour
was so dear to him that he could in no way interpose.

But it soon appeared how needless were the northman's fears.
With equal vigour and address did Edwald assault his gigantic
adversary, so that to look upon, it was almost like one of
those combats between a knight and some monster of the forest,
of which ancient legends tell. The issue, too, was not
unlike. While the Bohemian was collecting himself for a
decisive stroke Edwald rushed in upon him, and, with the force
of a wrestler, cast him to the ground. But he spared his
conquered foe, helped him courteously to rise, and then turned
to mount his own steed. Soon after he and Froda left the
hostelry, and once more their journey led them on the same
path as before.

"From henceforth this gives me pleasure," said Froda, pointing
with satisfaction to their common road. "I must own to you,
Edchen"--he had accustomed himself, in loving confidence, to
call his young friend by that childlike name--"I must own to
you that hitherto, when I have thought that you might perhaps
be journeying with me to the tournament held in honour of the
fair Hildegardis, a heaviness came over my heart. Your noble
knightly spirit I well knew, but I feared lest the strength of
your slender limbs might not be equal to it. Now I have
learned to know you as a warrior who may long seek his match;
and God be praised if we still hold on in the same path, and
welcome our earliest meeting in the lists!"

But Edwald looked at him sorrowfully, and said, "What can my
skill and strength avail if they be tried against you, and for
the greatest earthly prize, which one of us alone can win?
Alas! I have long foreboded with a heavy heart the sad truth,
that you also are journeying to the tournament of the fair
Hildegardis."

"Edchen," answered Froda, with a smile, "my gentle, loving
youth, see you not that I already wear on my breastplate the
image of a liege lady? I strive but for renown in arms, and
not for your fair Hildegardis!"

"MY fair Hildegardis!" answered Edwald, with a sigh. "That
she is not, nor ever will be--or should she, ah! Froda, it
would pierce your heart. I know well the northland faith
is deep-rooted as your rocks, and hard to dissolve as their
summits of snow; but let no man think that he can look
unscathed into the eyes of Hildegardis. Has not she, the
haughty, the too haughty maiden, so bewitched my tranquil,
lowly mind, that I forget the gulf which lies between us, and
still pursue her; and would rather perish than renounce the
daring hope to win that eagle spirit for my own?"

"I will help you to it, Edchen," answered Froda, smiling
still. "Would that I knew how this all-conquering lady looks!
She must resemble the Valkyrien of our heathen forefathers,
since so many mighty warriors are overcome by her."

Edwald solemnly drew forth a picture from beneath his
breastplate, and held it before him. Fixed, and as if
enchanted, Froda gazed upon it, with glowing cheeks and
sparkling eyes; the smile passed away from his countenance,
as the sunlight fades away from the meadows before the coming
darkness of the storm.

"See you not now, my noble comrade," whispered Edwald, "that
for one of us two, or perhaps for both, the joy of life is
gone?"

"Not yet," replied Froda, with a powerful effort; "but hide
your magic picture, and let us rest beneath this shade. You
must be somewhat spent with your late encounter, and a strange
weariness oppresses me with leaden weight." They dismounted
from their steeds, and stretched themselves upon the ground.

The noble Froda had no thought of sleep; but he wished to be
undisturbed whilst he wrestled strongly with himself, and
strove, if it might be, to drive from his mind that image of
fearful beauty. It seemed as if this new influence had
already become a part of his very life, and at last a restless
dreamy sleep did indeed overshadow the exhausted warrior. He
fancied himself engaged in combat with many knights, whilst
Hildegardis looked on smiling from a richly-adorned balcony;
and just as he thought he had gained the victory the bleeding
Edwald lay groaning beneath his horse's feet. Then again it
seemed as if Hildegardis stood by his side in a church, and
they were about to receive the marriage-blessing. He knew
well that this was not right, and the "yes," which he was to
utter, he pressed back with resolute effort into his heart,
and forthwith his eyes were moistened with burning tears.
>From yet stranger and more bewildering visions the voice of
Edwald at last awoke him. He raised himself up, and heard his
young companion saying courteously, as he looked towards a
neighbouring thicket, "Only return, noble maiden; I will
surely help you if I can; and I had no wish to scare you away,
but that the slumbers of my brother in arms might not be
disturbed by you." A golden gleam shone through the branches
as it vanished.

"For heaven's sake", my faithful comrade," cried Froda, "to
whom are you speaking, and who has been here by me?"

"I cannot myself rightly understand," said Edwald. "Hardly
had you dropped asleep when a figure came forth from the
forest, closely wrapped in a dark mantle. At first I took her
for a peasant. She seated herself at your head; and though I
could see nothing of her countenance, I could well observe
that she was sorely troubled, and even shedding tears. I made
signs to her to depart, lest she should disturb your sleep;
and would have offered her a piece of gold, supposing that
poverty must be the cause of her deep distress. But my hand
seemed powerless, and a shudder passed through me, as if I had
entertained such a purpose towards a queen. Immediately
glittering locks of gold waved here and there between the
folds of her close-wrapped mantle, and the thicket began
almost to shine in the light which they shed. 'Poor youth,'
said she then, 'you love truly, and can well understand how
a lofty woman's heart burns in keenest sorrow when a noble
knight, who vowed himself to be her own, withdraws his heart,
and, like a weak bondman, is led away to meaner hopes.'
Hereupon she arose, and, sighing, disappeared in yonder
thicket. It almost seemed to me, Froda, as though she uttered
your name."

"Yes, it was me she named," answered Froda; "and not in vain
she named me. Aslauga, thy knight comes, and enters the
lists, and all for thee and thy reward alone! At the same
time, my Edchen, we will win for you your haughty bride."
With this he sprang upon his steed, full of the proud joy of
former times; and when the magic of Hildegardis' beauty,
dazzling and bewildering, would rise up before him, he said,
smiling, "Aslauga!" and the sun of his inner life shone forth
again cloudless and serene.

CHAPTER III.

>From a balcony of her castle on the Maine Hildegardis was wont
to refresh herself in the cool of the evening by gazing on the
rich landscape below, but gazing more eagerly on the glitter
of arms, which often came in sight from many a distant road;
for knights were approaching singly, or with a train of
followers, all eager to prove their courage and their strength
in striving for the high prize of the tournament. She was in
truth a proud and high-minded maiden--perhaps more so than
became even her dazzling beauty and her princely rank. As she
now gazed with a proud smile on the glittering roads a damsel
of her train began the following lay:--

"The joyous song of birds in spring
Upon the wing
Doth echo far through wood and dell,
And freely tell
Their treasures sweet of love and mirth,
Too gladsome for this lowly earth.

"The gentle breath of flowers in May,
O'er meadows gay,
Doth fill the pure and balmy air
With perfume rare;
Still floating round each slender form,
Though scorched by sun, or torn by storm.

"But every high and glorious aim,
And the pure flame
That deep abiding in my heart
Can ne'er depart,
Too lofty for my falt'ring tongue,
Must die with me, unknown, unsung."

"Wherefore do you sing that song, and at this moment?" said
Hildegardis, striving to appear scornful and proud, though a
deep and secret sadness was plainly enough seen to overshadow
her countenance. "It came into my head unawares," replied the
damsel, "as I looked upon the road by which the gentle Edwald
with his pleasant lays first approached us; for it was from
him I learnt it. But seems it not to you, my gracious lady,
and to you too, my companions, as if Edwald himself were again
riding that way towards the castle?" "Dreamer!" said
Hildegardis, scornfully--and yet could not for some space
withdraw her eyes from the knight, till at length, with an
effort, she turned them on Froda, who rode beside him, saying:
"Yes, truly, that knight is Edwald; but what can you find to
notice in the meek-spirited, silent boy? Here, fix your eyes,
my maidens, on this majestic figure, if you would behold a
knight indeed." She was silent. A voice within her, as
though of prophecy, said, "Now the victor of the tournament
rides into the courtyard;" and she, who had never feared the
presence of any human being, now felt humbled, and almost
painfully awed, when she beheld the northern knight.

At the evening meal the two newly-arrived knights were placed
opposite to the royal Hildegardis. As Froda, after the
northern fashion, remained in full armour, the golden image of
Aslauga gleamed from his silver breast-plate full before the
eyes of the haughty lady. She smiled scornfully, as if
conscious that it depended on her will to drive that image
from the breast and from the heart of the stranger-knight.
Then suddenly a clear golden light passed through the hall,
so that Hildegardis said, "0, the keen lightning!" and covered
her eyes with both her hands. But Froda looked into the
dazzling radiance with a joyful gaze of welcome. At this
Hildegardis feared him yet more, though at the same time she
thought, "This loftiest and most mysterious of men must be
born for me alone." Yet could she not forbear, almost against
her will, to look from time to time in friendly tenderness on
the poor Edwald, who sat there silent, and with a sweet smile
seemed to pity and to mock his own suffering and his own vain
hopes.

"When the two knights were alone in their sleeping-chamber
Edwald looked for a long time in silence into the dewy, balmy
night. Then he sang to his lute:

"A hero wise and brave,
A lowly, tender youth,
Are wandering through the land
In steadfast love and truth.

"The hero, by his deeds,
Both bliss and fame had won,
And still, with heartfelt joy,
The faithful child looked on."

But Froda took the lute from his hands, and said, "No, Edchen,
I will teach you another song; listen!--

"'There's a gleam in the hall, and like morning's light
Hath shone upon all her presence bright.
Suitors watch as she passes by--
She may gladden their hearts by one glance of her eye:
But coldly she gazeth upon the throng,
And they that have sought her may seek her long.
She turns her away from the richly clad knight,
She heeds not the words of the learned wight;
The prince is before her in all his pride,
But other the visions around her that glide.
Then tell me, in all the wide world's space,
Who may e'er win that lady's grace?
In sorrowful love there sits apart
The gentle squire who hath her heart;
They all are deceived by fancies vain,
And he knows it not who the prize shall gain.'"

Edwald thrilled. "As God wills," said he, softly to himself.
"But I cannot understand how such a thing could be." "As God
wills," repeated Froda. The two friends embraced each other,
and soon after fell into a peaceful slumber.

Some days afterwards Froda sat in a secluded bower of the
castle garden, and was reading in the ancient book of his
lovely mistress Aslauga. It happened at that very time that
Hildegardis passed by. She stood still, and said,
thoughtfully, "Strange union that you are of knight and sage,
how comes it that you bring forth so little out of the deep
treasures of your knowledge? And yet I think you must have
many a choice history at your command, even such as that which
now lies open before you; for I see rich and bright pictures
of knights and ladies painted amongst the letters."

"It is, indeed, the most surpassing and enchanting history in
all the world," said Froda; "but you have neither patience nor
thoughtfulness to listen to our wonderful legends of the
north."

"Why think you so?" answered Hildegardis, with that pride
which she rejoiced to display towards Froda, when she could
find courage to do so; and, placing herself on a stone seat
opposite, she commanded him at once to read something to her
out of that fair book.

Froda began, and in the very effort which he made to change
the old heroic speech of Iceland into the German tongue, his
heart and mind were stirred more fervently and solemnly. As
he looked up from time to time, he beheld the countenance of
Hildegardis beaming in ever-growing beauty with joy, wonder,
and interest; and the thought passed through his mind whether
this could indeed be his destined bride, to whom Aslauga
herself was guiding him.

Then suddenly the characters became strangely confused; it
seemed as if the pictures began to move, so that he was
obliged to stop. While he fixed his eyes with a strong effort
upon the book, endeavouring to drive away this strange
confusion, he heard a well-known sweetly solemn voice, which
said, "Leave a little space for me, fair lady. The history
which that knight is reading to you relates to me; and I hear
it gladly."

Before the eyes of Froda, as he raised them from his book, sat
Aslauga in all the glory of her flowing golden locks beside
Hildegardis, on the seat. With tears of affright in her eyes,
the maiden sank back and fainted. Solemnly, yet graciously,
Aslauga warned her knight with a motion of her fair right
hand, and vanished.

"What have I done to you?" said Hildegardis when recovered
from her swoon by his care, "what have I done to you, evil-
minded knight, that you call up your northern spectres before
me, and well-nigh destroy me through terror of your magic
arts? "Lady," answered Froda, "may God help me, as I have not
called hither the wondrous lady who but now appeared to us.
But now her will is known to me, and I commend you to God's
keeping."

With that he walked thoughtfully out of the bower.
Hildegardis fled in terror from the gloomy shade, and, rushing
out on the opposite side, reached a fair open grass-plot,
where Edwald, in the soft glow of twilight, was gathering
flowers, and, meeting her with a courteous smile, offered her
a nosegay of narcissus and pansies.

CHAPTER IV.

At length the day fixed for the tournament arrived, and a
distinguished noble, appointed by the German emperor, arranged
all things in the most magnificent and sumptuous guise for the
solemn festival. The field of combat opened wide, and fair,
and level, thickly strewn with the finest sand, so that, both
man and horse might find sure footing; and, like a pure field
of snow, it shone forth from the midst of the flowery plain.
Rich hangings of silk from Arabia, curiously embroidered with
Indian gold, adorned with their various colours the lists
enclosing the space, and hung from the lofty galleries which
had been erected for the ladies and the nobles who were to
behold the combat. At the upper end, under a canopy of
majestic arches richly wrought in gold, was the place of the
Lady Hildegardis. Green wreaths and garlands waved gracefully
between the glittering pillars in the soft breezes of July.
And with impatient eyes the multitude, who crowded beyond the
lists, gazed upwards, expecting the appearance of the fairest
maiden of Germany, and were only at times drawn to another
part by the stately approach of the combatants. Oh, how many
a bright suit of armour, many a silken richly-embroidered
mantle, how many a lofty waving plume was here to be seen!
The splendid troop of knights moved within the lists, greeting
and conversing with each other, as a bed of flowers stirred by
a breath of wind; but the flower-stems had grown to lofty
trees, the yellow and white flower-leaves had changed to gold
and silver, and the dew-drops to pearls and diamonds. For
whatever was most fair and costly, most varied and full of
meaning, had these noble knights collected in honour of this
day. Many an eye was turned on Froda, who, without scarf,
plume, or mantle, with his shining silver breastplate, on
which appeared the golden image of Aslauga, and with his well-
wrought helmet of golden locks, shone, in the midst of the
crowd, like polished brass. Others, again, there were, who
took pleasure in looking at the young Edwald; his whole armour
was covered by a mantle of white silk, embroidered in azure
and silver, as his whole helmet was concealed by a waving
plume of white feathers. He was arrayed with almost feminine
elegance, and yet the conscious power with which he controlled
his fiery, snow-white steed made known the victorious strength
and manliness of the warlike stripling.

In strange contrast appeared the tall and almost gigantic
figure of a knight clothed in a mantle of black glossy
bearskin, bordered with costly fur, but without any ornament
of shining metal. His very helmet was covered with dark
bearskin, and, instead of plumes, a mass of blood-red
horsehair hung like a flowing mane profusely on every side.
Well did Froda and Edwald remember that dark knight, for he
was the uncourteous guest of the hostelry. He also seemed to
remark the two knights, for he turned his unruly steed
suddenly round, forced his way through the crowd of warriors,
and, after he had spoken over the enclosure to a hideous
bronze-coloured woman, sprang with a wild leap across the
lists, and, with the speed of an arrow, vanished out of sight.
The old woman looked after him with a friendly nod. The
assembled people laughed as at a strange masquing device; but
Edwald and Froda had their own almost shuddering thoughts
concerning it, which, however, neither imparted to the other.

The kettle-drums rolled, the trumpets sounded, and led by the
aged duke, Hildegardis advanced, richly apparelled, but more
dazzling through the brightness of her own beauty. She
stepped forward beneath the arches of the golden bower, and
bowed to the assembly. The knights bent low, and the feeling
rushed into many a heart, "There is no man on earth who can
deserve a bride so queenly." When Froda bowed his head, it
seemed to him as if the golden radiance of Aslauga'a tresses
floated before his sight; and his spirit rose in joy and pride
that his lady held him worthy to be so often reminded of her.

And now the tournament began. At first the knights strove
with blunted swords and battle-axes; then they ran their
course with lances man to man; but at last they divided into
two equal parties, and a general assault began, in which every
one was allowed to use at his own will either sword or lance.
Froda and Edwald equally surpassed their antagonists, as
(measuring each his own strength and that of his friend) they
had foreseen. And now it must be decided by a single combat
with lances to whom the highest prize of victory should
belong. Before this trial began, they rode slowly together
into the middle of the course, and consulted where each should
take his place. "Keep you your guiding-star still before your
sight," said Froda, with a smile; "the like gracious help will
not be wanting to me." Edwald looked round astonished for the
lady of whom his friend seemed to speak, but Froda went on, "I
have done wrong in hiding aught from you, but after the
tournament you shall know all. Now lay aside all needless
thoughts of wonder, dear Edchen, and sit firm in your saddle,
for I warn you that I shall run this course with all my might.
Not my honour alone is at stake, but the far higher honour of
my lady."

"So also do I purpose to demean myself," said Edwald, with a
friendly smile. They shook each other by the hand, and rode
to their places.

Amidst the sound of trumpets they met again, running their
course with lightning speed; the lances shivered with a crash,
the horses staggered, the knights, firm in their saddles,
pulled them up, and rode back to their places. But as they
prepared for another course, Edwald's white steed snorted in
wild affright, and Froda's powerful chestnut reared up
foaming.

It was plain that the two noble animals shrunk from a second
hard encounter, but their riders held them fast with spur and
bit, and, firm and obedient, they again dashed forward at the
second call of the trumpet. Edwald, who by one deep, ardent
gaze on the beauty of his mistress had stamped it afresh on
his soul, cried aloud at the moment of encounter,
"Hildegardis!" and so mightily did his lance strike his
valiant adversary, that Froda sank backwards on his steed,
with difficulty keeping his seat in his saddle, or holding
firm in his stirrups, whilst Edwald flew by unshaken, lowered
his spear to salute Hildegardis as he passed her bower, and
then, amidst the loud applause of the multitude, rushed to his
place, ready for the third course. And, ah! Hildegardis
herself, overcome by surprise, had greeted him with a blush
and a look of kindness; it seemed to him as if the
overwhelming joy of victory were already gained. But it was
not so, for the valiant Froda, burning with noble shame, had
again tamed his affrighted steed, and, chastising him sharply
with the spur for his share in this mischance, said in a low
voice, "Beautiful and beloved lady, show thyself to me--the
honour of thy name is at stake." To every other eye it seemed
as if a golden rosy-tinted summer's cloud was passing over the
deep-blue sky, but Froda beheld the heavenly countenance of
his lady, felt the waving of her golden tresses, and cried,
"Aslauga!" The two rushed together, and Edwald was hurled
from his saddle far upon the dusty plain.

Froda remained for a time motionless, according to the laws of
chivalry, as though waiting to see whether any one would
dispute his victory, and appearing on his mailed steed like
some lofty statue of brass. All around stood the multitude in
silent wonderment. When at length they burst forth into
shouts of triumph, he beckoned earnestly with his hand, and
all were again silent. He then sprang lightly from his
saddle, and hastened to the spot where the fallen Edwald was
striving to rise. He pressed him closely to his breast, led
his snow-white steed towards him, and would not be denied
holding the stirrups of the youth whilst he mounted. Then he
bestrode his own steed, and rode by Edwald's side towards the
golden bower of Hildegardis, where, with lowered spear and
open vizor, he thus spoke: "Fairest of all living ladies, I
bring you here Edwald, your knightly bridegroom, before whose
lance and sword all the knights of this tournament have fallen
away, I only excepted, who can make no claim to the choicest
prize of victory, since I, as the image on my breastplate may
show, already serve another mistress."

The duke was even now advancing towards the two warriors, to
lead them into the golden bower, but Hildegardis restrained
him with a look of displeasure, saying immediately, while her
cheeks glowed with anger, "Then you seem, Sir Froda, the
Danish knight, to serve your lady ill; for even now you openly
styled me the fairest of living ladies."

"That did I," answered Froda, bending courteously, "because my
fair mistress belongs to the dead."

A slight shudder passed at these words through the assembly,
and through the heart of Hildegardis; but soon the anger of
the maiden blazed forth again, and the more because the most
wonderful and excellent knight she knew had scorned her for
the sake of a dead mistress.

"I make known to all," she said, with solemn earnestness,
"that according to the just decree of my imperial uncle, this
hand can never belong to a vanquished knight, however noble
and honourable he may otherwise have proved himself. As the
conqueror of this tournament, therefore, is bound to another
service, this combat concerns me not; and I depart hence as
I came, a free and unbetrothed maiden."

The duke seemed about to reply, but she turned haughtily away,
and left the bower. Suddenly a gust of wind shook the green
wreaths and garlands, and they fell untwined and rustling
behind her. In this the people, displeased with the pride of
Hildegardis, thought they beheld an omen of punishment, and
with jeering words noticed it as they departed.

CHAPTER V.

The two knights had returned to their apartments in deep
silence. When they arrived there, Edwald caused himself to
be disarmed, and laid every piece of his fair shining armour
together with a kind of tender care, almost as if he were
burying the corpse of a beloved friend. Then he beckoned to
his squires to leave the chamber, took his lute on his arm,
and sang the following song to its notes:--

"Bury them, bury them out of sight,
For hope and fame are fled;
And peaceful resting and quiet night
Are all now left for the dead."

"You will stir up my anger against your lute," said Froda.
"You had accustomed it to more joyful songs than this. It
is too good for a passing-bell, and you too good to toll it.
I tell you yet, my young hero, all will end gloriously."

Edwald looked a while with wonder in his face, and he answered
kindly: "Beloved Froda, if it displeases you, I will surely
sing no more." But at the same time he struck a few sad
chords, which sounded infinitely sweet and tender. Then the
northern knight, much moved, clasped him in his arms, and
said: "Dear Edchen, sing and say and do whatever pleases you;
it shall ever rejoice me. But you may well believe me, for I
speak not this without a spirit of presage--your sorrow shall
change, whether to death or life I know not, but great and
overpowering joy awaits you." Edwald rose firmly and
cheerfully from his seat, seized his companion's arm with a
strong grasp, and walked forth with him through the blooming
alleys of the garden into the balmy air.

At that very hour an aged woman, muffled in many a covering,
was led secretly to the apartment of the Lady Hildegardis.
The appearance of the dark-complexioned stranger was
mysterious, and she had gathered round her for some time, by
many feats of jugglery, a part of the multitude returning home
from the tournament, but had dispersed them at last in wild
affright. Before this happened, the tire-woman of Hildegardis
had hastened to her mistress, to entertain her with an account
of the rare and pleasant feats of the bronze-coloured woman.
The maidens in attendance, seeing their lady deeply moved, and
wishing to banish her melancholy, bade the tire-woman bring
the old stranger hither. Hildegardis forbade it not, hoping
that she should thus divert the attention of her maidens,
while she gave herself up more deeply and earnestly to the
varying imaginations which flitted through her mind.

The messenger found the place already deserted; and the
strange old woman alone in the midst, laughing immoderately.
When questioned by her, she did not deny that she had all at
once taken the form of a monstrous owl, announcing to the
spectators in a screeching voice that she was the Devil--and
that every one upon this rushed screaming home.

The tire-woman trembled at the fearful jest, but durst not
return to ask again the pleasure of Hildegardis, whose
discontented mood she had already remarked. She gave strict
charge to the old woman, with many a threat and promise, to
demean herself discreetly in the castle: after which she
brought her in by the most secret way, that none of those whom
she had terrified might see her enter.

The aged crone now stood before Hildegardis, and winked to
her, in the midst of her low and humble salutation, in a
strangely familiar manner, as though there were some secret
between them. The lady felt an involuntary shudder, and could
not withdraw her gaze from the features of that hideous
countenance, hateful as it was to her. The curiosity which
had led the rest to desire a sight of the strange woman was by
no means gratified, for she performed none but the most common
tricks of jugglery, and related only well-known tales, so that
the tire-woman felt wearied and indifferent and, ashamed of
having brought the stranger, she stole away unnoticed.
Several other maidens followed her example, and, as these
withdrew, the old crone twisted her mouth into a smile, and
repeated the same hideous confidential wink towards the lady.
Hildegardis could not understand what attracted her in the
jests and tales of the bronze-coloured woman; but so it was,
that in her whole life she had never bestowed such attention
on the words of any one. Still the old woman went on and on,
and already the night looked dark without the windows, but the
attendants who still remained with Hildegardis had sunk into a
deep sleep, and had lighted none of the wax tapers in the
apartment.

Then, in the dusky gloom, the dark old crone rose from the low
seat on which she had been sitting, as if she now felt herself
well at ease, advanced towards Hildegardis, who sat as if
spell-bound with terror, placed herself beside her on the
purple couch, and embracing her in her long dry arms with a
hateful caress, whispered a few words in her ear. It seemed
to the lady as if she uttered the names of Froda and Edwald,
and from them came the sound of a flute, which, clear and
silvery as were its tones, seemed to lull her into a trance.
She could indeed move her limbs, but only to follow those
sounds, which, like a silver network, floated round the
hideous form of the old woman. She moved from the chamber,
and Hildegardis followed her through all her slumbering
maidens, still singing softly as she went, "Ye maidens, ye
maidens, I wander by night."

Without the castle, accompanied by squire and groom, stood the
gigantic Bohemian warrior; he laid on the shoulders of the
crone a bag of gold so heavy that she sank half whimpering,
half laughing, on the ground; then lifted the entranced
Hildegardis on his steed, and galloped with her silently into
the ever-deepening gloom of night.

"All ye noble lords and knights, who yesterday contended
gallantly for the prize of victory and the hand of the
peerless Hildegardis, arise, arise! saddle your steeds, and
to the rescue! The peerless Hildegardis is carried away!"

Thus proclaimed many a herald through castle and town in the
bright red dawn of the following day; and on all sides rose
the dust from the tread of knights and noble squires along
those roads by which so lately, in the evening twilight,
Hildegardis in proud repose had gazed on her approaching
suitors.

Two of them, well known to us, remained inseparably together,
but they knew as little as the others whether they had taken
the right direction, for how and when the adored lady could
have disappeared from her apartments was still to the whole
castle a fearful and mysterious secret.

Edwald and Froda rode as long as the sun moved over their
heads, unwearied as he; and now, when he sank in the waves of
the river, they thought to win the race from him, and still
spurred on their jaded steeds. But the noble animals
staggered and panted, and the knights were constrained to
grant them some little refreshment in a grassy meadow. Secure
of bringing them back at their first call, their masters
removed both bit and curb, that they might be refreshed with
the green pasture, and with the deep blue waters of the Maine,
while they themselves reposed under the shade of a
neighbouring thicket of alders. And deep in the cool, dark
shade, there shone, as it were, a mild but clear sparkling
light, and checked the speech of Froda, who at that moment was
beginning to tell his friend the tale of his knightly service
to his sovereign lady, which had been delayed hitherto, first
by Edwald's sadness, and then by the haste of their journey.
Ah, well did Froda know that lovely golden light! "Let us
follow it, Edchen," said he in a low tone, "and leave the
horses a while to their pasture." Edwald in silence followed
his companion's advice. A secret voice, half sweet, half
fearful, seemed to tell him that here was the path, the only
right path to Hildegardis. Once only he said in astonishment,
"Never before have I seen the evening glow shine on the leaves
so brightly." Froda shook his head with a smile, and they
pursued in silence their unknown track.

When they came forth on the other side of the alder-thicket
upon the bank of the Maine, which almost wound round it,
Edwald saw well that another glow than that of evening was
shining on them, for dark clouds of night already covered the
heavens, and the guiding light stood fixed on the shore of the
river. It lit up the waves, so that they could see a high
woody island in the midst of the stream, and a boat on the
hither side of the shore fast bound to a stake. But on
approaching, the knights saw much more; a troop of horsemen of
strange and foreign appearance were all asleep, and in the
midst of them, slumbering on cushions, a female form in white
garments.

"Hildegardis!" murmured Edwald to himself, with a smile, and
at the same time he drew his sword in readiness for the combat
as soon as the robbers should awake, and beckoned to Froda to
raise the sleeping lady, and convey her to a place of safety.
But at this moment something like an owl passed whizzing over
the dark squadron, and they all started up with clattering
arms and hideous outcries. A wild unequal combat arose in the
darkness of night, for that beaming light had disappeared.
Freda and Edwald were driven asunder, and only at a distance
heard each other's mighty war-cry. Hildegardis, startled from
her magic sleep, uncertain whether she were waking or
dreaming, fled bewildered and weeping bitterly into the deep
shades of the alder-thicket.

CHAPTER VI.

Froda felt his arm grow weary, and the warm blood was flowing
from two wounds in his shoulder; he wished so to lie down in
death that he might rise up with honour from his bloody grave
to the exalted lady whom he served. He cast his shield behind
him, grasped his sword-hilt with both hands, and rushed
wildly, with a loud war-cry, upon the affrighted foe.
Instantly he heard some voices cry, "It is the rage of the
northern heroes which has come upon him." And the whole troop
were scattered in dismay, while the exhausted knight remained
wounded and alone in the darkness.

Then the golden hair of Aslauga gleamed once more in the
alder-shade; and Froda said, leaning, through weariness, on
his sword, "I think not that I am wounded to death; but
whenever that time shall come, 0 beloved lady, wilt thou not
indeed appear to me in all thy loveliness and brightness?"
A soft "Yes" breathed against his cheek, and the golden light
vanished.

But now Hildegardis came forth from the thicket, half fainting
with terror, and said feebly, "Within is the fair and
frightful spectre of the north--without is the battle. Oh,
merciful heaven! whither shall I go?"

Then Froda approached to sooth the affrighted one, to speak
some words of comfort to her, and to inquire after Edwald; but
wild shouts and the rattling of armour announced the return of
the Bohemian warriors. With haste Froda led the maiden to the
boat, pushed off from the shore, and rowed her with the last
effort of his failing strength towards the island which he had
observed in the midst of the stream. But the pursuers had
already kindled torches, and waved them sparkling here and
there. By this light they soon discovered the boat; they saw
that the dreaded Danish knight was bleeding, and gained fresh
courage for their pursuit. Hardly had Froda pushed the boat
to the shore of the island, before he perceived a Bohemian on
the other side in another skiff, and soon afterwards the
greater number of the enemy embarked to row towards the
island. "To the wood, fair maiden," he whispered, as soon as
he had landed Hildegardis on the shore; "there conceal
yourself, whilst I endeavour to prevent the landing of the
robbers." But Hildegardis, clinging to his arm, whispered
again, "Do I not see that you are pale and bleeding? and would
you have me expire with terror in the dark and lonely clefts
of this rock? Ah! and if your northern gold-haired spectre
were to appear again and seat herself beside me! Think you
that I do not see her there now, shining through the thicket!"

"She shines!" echoed Froda, and new strength and hope ran
through every vein. He climbed the hill, following the
gracious gleam; and Hildegardis, though trembling at the
sight, went readily with her companion, saying only from time
to time, in a low voice "Ah, Sir Knight!--my noble wondrous
knight--leave me not here alone; that would be my death." The
knight, soothing her courteously, stepped ever onwards through
the darkness of dell and forest, for already he heard the
sound of the Bohemians landing on the shore of the island.
Suddenly he stood before a cave thick-covered with underwood,
and the gleam disappeared. "Here, then," he whispered,
endeavouring to hold the branches asunder. For a moment she
paused, and said, "If you should but let the branches close
again behind me, and I were to remain alone with spectres in
this cave! But, Froda, you will surely follow me--a
trembling, hunted child as I am? Will you not?" Without more
misgivings she passed through the branches; and the knight,
who would willingly have remained without as a guard, followed
her. Earnestly he listened through the stillness of the
night, whilst Hildegardis hardly dared to draw her breath.
Then was heard the tramp of an armed man, coming ever nearer
and nearer, and now close to the entrance of the cave. In
vain did Froda strive to free himself from the trembling
maiden. Already the branches before the entrance were
cracking and breaking, and Froda sighed deeply. "Must I,
then, fall like a lurking fugitive, entangled in a woman's
garments? It is a base death to die. But can I cast this
half-fainting creature away from me on the dark, hard earth,
perhaps into some deep abyss? Come, then, what will, thou,
Lady Aslauga, knowest that I die an honourable death!"

"Froda! Hildegardis!" breathed a gentle, well-known voice
at the entrance, and recognising Edwald, Froda bore the lady
towards him into the starlight, saying, "She will die of
terror in our sight in this deep cavern. Is the foe near at
hand?" "Most of them lie lifeless on the shore, or swim
bleeding through the waves," said Edwald. "Set your mind at
rest, and repose yourself. Are you wounded, beloved Froda?"
He gave this short account to his astonished companions--how,
in the darkness, he had mixed with the Bohemians and pressed
into the skiff, and that it had been easy to him on landing to
disperse the robbers entirely, who supposed that they were
attacked by one of their own crew, and thought themselves
bewitched. "They began at last to fall on one another"--so he
ended his history; "and we have only now to wait for the
morning to conduct the lady home, for those who are wandering
about of that owl-squadron will doubtless hide themselves from
the eye of day." While speaking, he had skilfully and
carefully arranged a couch of twigs and moss for Hildegardis,
and when the wearied one, after uttering some gentle words of
gratitude, had sunk into a slumber, he began, as well as the
darkness would allow, to bind up the wounds of his friend.
During this anxious task, while the dark boughs of the trees
murmured over their heads, and the rippling of the stream was
heard from afar, Froda, in a low voice, made known to his
brother-in-arms to the service of what lady he was bound.
Edwald listened with deep attention, but at last he said
tenderly, "Trust me, the noble Princess Aslauga will not
resent it, if you pledge yourself to this earthly beauty in
faithful love. Ah! even now doubtless you are sinning in the
dreams of Hildegardis, richly-gifted and happy knight! I will
not stand in your way with my vain wishes; I see now clearly
that she can never, never love me. Therefore I will this very
day hasten to the war which so many valiant knights of Germany
are waging in the heathen land of Prussia, and the black
cross, which distinguishes them for warriors of the Church, I
will lay as the best balm on my throbbing heart. Take, then,
dear Froda, that fair hand which you have won in battle, and
live henceforth a life of surpassing happiness and joy."

"Edwald," said Froda, gravely, "this is the first time that I
ever heard one word from your lips which a true knight could
not fulfil. Do as it pleases you towards the fair and haughty
Hildegardis, but Aslauga remains my mistress ever, and no
other do I desire in life or death." The youth was startled
by these stern words, and made no reply. Both, without saying
more to each other, watched through the night in solemn
thought.

The next morning, when the rising sun shone brightly over the
flowery plains around the Castle of Hildegardis, the watchman
on the tower blew a joyful blast from his horn, for his keen
eye had distinguished far in the distance his fair lady, who
was riding from the forest between her two deliverers; and
from castle, town, and hamlet, came forth many a rejoicing
train to assure themselves with their own eyes of the happy
news.

Hildegardis turned to Edwald with eyes sparkling through
tears, and said, "Were it not for you, young knight, they
might have sought long and vainly before they found the lost
maiden or the noble Froda, who would now be lying in that dark
cavern a bleeding and lifeless corpse." Edwald bowed lowly in
reply, but persevered in his wonted silence. It even seemed
as though an unusual grief restrained the smile which erewhile
answered so readily, in childlike sweetness, to every friendly
word.

The noble guardian of Hildegardis had, in the overflowing joy
of his heart, prepared a sumptuous banquet, and invited all
the knights and ladies present to attend it. Whilst Froda and
Edwald, in all the brightness of their glory, were ascending
the steps in the train of their rescued lady, Edwald said to
his friend, "Noble, steadfast knight, you can never love me
more!" And as Froda looked in astonishment, he continued--
"Thus it is when children presume to counsel heroes, however
well they may mean it. Now have I offended grievously against
you, and yet more against the noble Lady Aslauga." "Because
you would have plucked every flower of your own garden to
gladden me with them?" said Froda. "No; you are my gentle
brother-in-arms now, as heretofore, dear Edchen, and are
perhaps become yet dearer to me."

Then Edwald smiled again in silent contentment, like a flower
after the morning showers of May.

The eyes of Hildegardis glanced mildly and kindly on him, and
she often conversed graciously with him, while, on the other
hand, since yesterday, a reverential awe seemed to separate
her from Froda. But Edwald also was much altered. However he
welcomed with modest joy the favour of his lady, it yet seemed
as if some barrier were between them which forbade him to
entertain the most distant hope of successful love.

It chanced that a noble count, from the court of the Emperor,
was announced, who being bound on an important embassy, had
wished to pay his respects to the Lady Hildegardis by the way.
She received him gladly, and as soon as the first salutations
were over, he said, looking at her and at Edwald, "I know not
if my good fortune may not have brought me hither to a very
joyful festivity. That would be right welcome news to the
Emperor my master." Hildegardis and Edwald were lovely to
look upon in their blushes and confusion, but the count,
perceiving at once that he had been too hasty, inclined
himself respectfully towards the young knight, and said,
"Pardon me, noble Duke Edwald, my too great forwardness, but I
know the wish of my sovereign, and the hope to find it already
fulfilled prompted my tongue to speak." All eyes were fixed
inquiringly on the young hero, who answered, in graceful
confusion, "It is true; the Emperor, when I was last in his
camp, through his undeserved favour, raised me to the rank of
a duke. It was my good fortune, that in an encounter, some of
the enemy's horse, who had dared to assault the sacred person
of the Emperor, dispersed and fled on my approach." The count
then, at the request of Hildegardis, related every
circumstance of the heroic deed; and it appeared that Edwald
had not only rescued the Emperor from the most imminent peril,
but also, with the cool and daring skill of a general, had
gained the victory which decided the event of the war.

Surprise at first sealed the lips of all; and even before
their congratulations could begin, Hildegardis had turned
towards Edwald, and said in a low voice, which yet, in that
silence, was clearly heard by all, "The noble count has made
known the wish of my imperial uncle, and I conceal it no
longer, my own heart's wish is the same--I am Duke Edwald's
bride." And with that she extended to him her fair right
hand, and all present waited only till he should take it,
before they burst into a shout of congratulation. But Edwald
forbore to do so; he only sunk on one knee before his lady,
saying, "God forbid that the lofty Hildegardis should ever
recall a word spoken solemnly to noble knights and dames.
'To no vanquished knight,' you said, 'might the hand of the
Emperor's niece belong'--and behold there Froda, the noble
Danish knight, my conqueror." Hildegardis, with a slight
blush, turned hastily away, hiding her eyes, and as Edwald
arose, it seemed as though there were a tear upon his cheek.

In his clanging armour Froda advanced to the middle of the
hall, exclaiming, "I declare my late victory over Duke Edwald
to have been the chance of fortune, and I challenge the noble
knight to meet me again to-morrow in the lists."

At the same time he threw his iron gauntlet ringing on the
pavement.

But Edwald moved not to take it up. On the contrary, a glow
of lofty anger was on his cheeks, and his eyes sparkled with
indignation, so that his friend would hardly have recognised
him; and after a silence he spoke--

"Noble Sir Froda, if I have ever offended you, we are now
even. How durst you, a warrior gloriously wounded by two
sword-strokes, challenge a man unhurt into the lists to-
morrow, if you did not despise him?"

"Forgive me, Duke Edwald," answered Froda, somewhat abashed,
but with cheerfulness, "I have spoken too boldly. Not till
I am completely cured do I call you to the field."

Then Edwald took up the gauntlet joyfully. He knelt once more
before Hildegardis, who, turning away her face, gave him her
fair hand to kiss, and walked, with his arm in that of his
noble Danish friend, out of the hall.

CHAPTER VII.

While Froda's wounds were healing Edwald would sometimes
wander, when the shades of evening fell dark and silent
around, on the flowery terraces beneath the windows of
Hildegardis, and sing pleasant little songs; amongst others
the following:--

"Heal fast, heal fast, ye hero-wounds;
0 knight, be quickly strong;
Beloved strife
For fame and life,
0 tarry not too long!"

But that one which the maidens of the castle loved best to
learn from him was this, and it was perhaps the longest song
that Edwald had ever sung in his whole life:--

"Would I on earth were lying,
By noble hero slain;
So that love's gentle sighing
Breathed me to life again!

"Would I an emperor were,
Of wealth and power!
Would I were gathering twigs
In woodland bower!

"Would that in lone seclusion
I lived a hermit's life!
Would, amid wild confusion,
I led the battle-strife!

"0 would the lot were mine,
In bower or field,
To which my lady fair
Her smile would yield!"

At this time it happened that a man who held himself to be
very wise, and who filled the office of secretary to the aged
guardian of Hildegardis, came to the two knightly friends to
propose a scheme to them. His proposal, in few words, was
this, that as Froda could gain no advantage from his victory,
he might in the approaching combat suffer himself to be thrown
from his steed, and thus secure the lady for his comrade, at
the same time fulfilling the wish of the Emperor, which might
turn to his advantage hereafter in many ways.

At this the two friends at first laughed heartily; but then
Froda advanced gravely towards the secretary, and said, "Thou
trifler, doubtless the old duke would drive thee from his
service did he know of thy folly, and teach thee to talk of
the Emperor. Good-night, worthy sir, and trust me that when
Edwald and I meet each other, it will be with all our heart
and strength."

The secretary hastened out of the room with all speed, and was
seen next morning to look unusually pale.

Soon after this Froda recovered from his wounds; the course
was again prepared as before, but crowded by a still greater
number of spectators; and in the freshness of a dewy morning
the two knights advanced solemnly together to the combat.

"Beloved Edwald," said Froda, in a low voice, as they went,
"take good heed to yourself, for neither this time can the
victory be yours--on that rose-coloured cloud appears
Aslauga."

"It may be so," answered Edwald, with a quiet smile; "but
under the arches of that golden bower shines Hildegardis,
and this time she has not been waited for."

The knights took their places--the trumpets sounded, the
course began, and Froda's prophecy seemed to be near its
fulfilment, for Edwald staggered under the stroke of his
lance, so that he let go the bridle, seized the mane with
both hands, and thus hardly recovered his seat, whilst his
high-mettled snow-white steed bore him wildly around the lists
without control. Hildegardis also seemed to shrink at this
sight, but the youth at length reined-in his steed, and the
second course was run.

Froda shot like lightning along the plain, and it seemed as if
the success of the young duke were now hopeless; but in the
shock of their meeting, the bold Danish steed reared, starting
aside as if in fear; the rider staggered, his stroke passed
harmless by, and both steed and knight fell clanging to the
ground before the steadfast spear of Edwald, and lay
motionless upon the field.

Edwald did now as Froda had done before. In knightly wise he
stood still a while upon the spot, as if waiting to see
whether any other adversary were there to dispute his victory;
then he sprang from his steed, and flew to the assistance of
his fallen friend.

He strove with all his might to release him from the weight of
his horse, and presently Froda came to himself, rose on his
feet, and raised up his charger also. Then he lifted up his
vizor, and greeted his conqueror with a friendly smile, though
his countenance was pale. The victor bowed humbly, almost
timidly, and said, "You, my knight, overthrown--and by me!
I understand it not."

"It was her own will," answered Froda, smiling. "Come now to
your gentle bride."

The multitude around shouted aloud, each lady and knight bowed
low, when the aged duke pointed out to them the lovely pair,
and at his bidding, the betrothed, with soft blushes, embraced
each other beneath the green garlands of the golden bower.

That very day were they solemnly united in the chapel of the
castle, for so had Froda earnestly desired. A journey into a
far-distant land, he said, lay before him, and much he wished
to celebrate the marriage of his friend before his departure.

CHAPTER VIII.

The torches were burning clear in the vaulted halls of the
castle, Hildegardis had just left the arm of her lover to
begin a stately dance of ceremony with the aged duke, when
Edwald beckoned to his companion, and they went forth together
into the moonlit gardens of the castle.

"Ah, Froda, my noble, lofty hero," exclaimed Edwald, after a
silence, "were you as happy as I am! But your eyes rest
gravely and thoughtfully on the ground, or kindle almost
impatiently heavenwards. It would be dreadful, indeed, had
the secret wish of your heart been to win Hildegardis--and I,
foolish boy, so strangely favoured, had stood in your way."

"Be at rest, Edchen," answered, the Danish hero, with a smile.
"On the word of a knight, my thoughts and yearnings concern
not your fair Hildegardis. Far brighter than ever does
Aslauga's radiant image shine into my heart: but now hear what
I am going to relate to you.

"At the very moment when we met together in the course--oh,
had I words to express it to you!--I was enwrapped, encircled,
dazzled, by Aslauga's golden tresses, which were waving all
around me. Even my noble steed must have beheld the
apparition, for I felt him start and rear under me. I saw you
no more--the world no more--I saw only the angel-face of
Aslauga close before me, smiling, blooming like a flower in a
sea of sunshine which floated round her. My senses failed me.
Not till you raised me from beneath my horse did my
consciousness return, and then I knew, with exceeding joy,
that her own gracious pleasure had struck me down. But I felt
a strange weariness, far greater than my fall alone could have
caused, and I felt assured at the same time that my lady was
about to send me on a far-distant mission. I hastened to
repose myself in my chamber, and a deep sleep immediately fell
upon me. Then came Aslauga in a dream to me, more royally
adorned than ever; she placed herself at the head of my couch,
and said, 'Haste to array thyself in all the splendour of thy
silver armour, for thou art not the wedding-guest alone, thou
art also the--'

"And before she could speak the word my dream had melted away,
and I felt a longing desire to fulfil her gracious command,
and rejoiced in my heart. But in the midst of the festival
I seemed to myself more lonely than in all my life before, and
I cannot cease to ponder what that unspoken word of my lady
could be intended to announce."

"You are of a far loftier spirit than I am, Froda," said
Edwald, after a silence, "and I cannot soar with you into the
sphere of your joys. But tell me, has it never awakened a
deep pang within you that you serve a lady so withdrawn from
you--alas! a lady who is almost ever invisible?"

"No, Edwald, not so," answered Froda, his eyes sparkling with
happiness. "For well I know that she scorns not my service;
she has even deigned sometimes to appear to me. Oh, I am in
truth a happy knight and minstrel!"

"And yet your silence to-day--your troubled yearnings?"

"Not troubled, dear Edchen; only so heartfelt, so fervent in
the depth of my heart--and so strangely mysterious to myself
withal. But this, with all belonging to me, springs alike
from the words and commands of Aslauga. How, then, can it be
otherwise than something good and fair, and tending to a high
and noble aim?"

A squire, who had hastened after them, announced that the
knightly bridegroom was expected for the torch-dance, and as
they returned, Edwald entreated his friend to take his place
in the solemn dance next to him and Hildegardis. Froda
inclined his head in token of friendly assent.

The horns and hautboys had already sounded their solemn
invitation; Edwald hastened to give his hand to his fair
bride; and while he advanced with her to the midst of the
stately hall, Froda offered his hand for the torch-dance to a
noble lady who stood the nearest to him, without farther
observing her, and took with her the next place to the wedded
pair.

But how was it when a light began to beam from his companion,
before which the torch in his left hand lost all its
brightness? Hardly dared he, in sweet and trembling hope, to
raise his eyes to the lady; and when at last he ventured, all
his boldest wishes and longings were fulfilled. Adorned with
a radiant bridal crown of emeralds, Aslauga moved in solemn
loveliness beside him, and beamed on him from amid the sunny
light of her golden hair, blessing him with her heavenly
countenance. The amazed spectators could not withdraw their
eyes from the mysterious pair--the knight in his light silver
mail, with the torch raised on high in his hand, earnest and
joyful, moving with a measured step, as if engaged in a
ceremony of deep and mysterious meaning. His lady beside him,
rather floating than dancing, beaming light from her golden
hair, so that you would have thought the day was shining into
the night; and when a look could reach through all the
surrounding splendour to her face, rejoicing heart and sense
with the unspeakably sweet smile of her eyes and lips.

Near the end of the dance she inclined towards Froda, and
whispered to him with an air of tender confidence, and with
the last sound of the horns and hautboys she had disappeared.

The most curious spectator dared not question Froda about his
partner. Hildegardis did not seem to have been conscious of
her presence, but shortly before the end of the festival
Edwald approached his friend, and asked in a whisper, "Was
it?"

"Yes, dear youth," answered Froda; "your marriage-dance has
been honoured by the presence of the most exalted beauty which
has been ever beheld in any land. Ah! and if I rightly
understood her meaning, you will never more see me stand
sighing and gazing upon the ground. But hardly dare I hope
it. Now good-night, dear Edchen, good-night. As soon as I
may I will tell you all."

CHAPTER IX.

The light and joyous dreams of morning still played round
Edwald's head when it seemed as though a clear light
encompassed him. He remembered Aslauga, but it was Froda,
the golden locks of whose helmet shone now with no less sunny
brightness than the flowing hair of his lady. "Ah!" thought
Edwald in his dream, "how beautiful has my brother-in-arms
become!" And Froda said to him, "I will sing something to
you, Edchen; but softly, softly, so that it may not awaken
Hildegardis. Listen to me.

"'She glided in, bright as the day,
There where her knight in slumber lay;
And in her lily hand was seen
A band that seemed of the moonlight sheen.
"We are one," she sang, as about his hair
She twined it, and over her tresses fair.
Beneath them the world lay dark and drear:
But he felt the touch of her hand so dear,
Uplifting him far above mortals' sight,
While around him were shed her locks of light,
Till a garden fair lay about him spread--
And this was Paradise, angels said.'"

"Never in your life did you sing so sweetly," said the
dreaming Edwald.

"That may well be, Edchen," said Froda, with a smile, and
vanished.

But Edwald dreamed on and on, and many other visions passed
before him, all of a pleasing kind, although he could not
recall them when, in the full light of morning, he unclosed
his eyes with a smile. Froda alone, and his mysterious song,
stood clear in his memory. He now knew full well that his
friend was dead; but the thought gave him no pain, for he felt
sure that the pure spirit of that minstrel-warrior could only
find its proper joy in the gardens of Paradise, and in
blissful solace with the lofty spirits of the ancient times.
He glided softly from the side of the sleeping Hildegardis to
the chamber of the departed. He lay upon his bed of rest,
almost as beautiful as he had appeared in the dream, and his
golden helmet was entwined with a wondrously-shining lock of
hair. Then Edwald made a fair and shady grave in consecrated
ground, summoned the chaplain of the castle, and with his
assistance laid his beloved Froda therein.

He came back just as Hildegardis awoke; she beheld, with
wonder and humility, his mien of chastened joy, and asked him
whither he had been so early, to which he replied, with a
smile, "I have just buried the corpse of my dearly-loved
Froda, who, this very night, has passed away to his golden-
haired mistress." Then he related the whole history of
Aslauga's Knight, and lived on in subdued, unruffled
happiness, though for some time he was even more silent and
thoughtful than before. He was often found sitting on the
grave of his friend, and singing the following song to his
lute:--

"Listening to celestial lays,
Bending thy unclouded gaze
On the pure and living light,
Thou art blest, Aslauga'a Knight!

"Send us from thy bower on high
Many an angel-melody,
Many a vision soft and bright,
Aslauga's dear and faithful Knight!"

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