Part 5 out of 6
'I am that raven, and I was delivered by thee from the spells
that bound me, and in reward thou wilt get this bundle. Go back
by the road thou camest, and lie as before, a night in each
house, but be careful not to unloose the bundle till thou art in
the place wherein thou wouldst most wish to dwell.'
Then the king's son set out, and thus it happened as it had
happened before, till he entered a thick wood near his father's
house. He had walked a long way and suddenly the bundle seemed to
grow heavier; first he put it down under a tree, and next he
thought he would look at it.
The string was easy to untie, and the king's son soon unfastened
the bundle. What was it he saw there? Why, a great castle with an
orchard all about it, and in the orchard fruit and flowers and
birds of very kind. It was all ready for him to dwell in, but
instead of being in the midst of the forest, he did wish he had
left the bundle unloosed till he had reached the green valley
close to his father's palace. Well, it was no use wishing, and
with a sigh he glanced up, and beheld a huge giant coming towards
'Bad is the place where thou hast built thy house, king's son,'
said the giant.
'True; it is not here that I wish to be,' answered the king's
'What reward wilt thou give me if I put it back in the bundle?'
asked the giant.
'What reward dost thou ask?' answered the king's son.
'The first boy thou hast when he is seven years old,' said the
'If I have a boy thou shalt get him,' answered the king's son,
and as he spoke the castle and the orchard were tied up in the
'Now take thy road, and I will take mine,' said the giant. 'And
if thou forgettest thy promise, I will remember it.'
Light of heart the king's son went on his road, till he came to
the green valley near his father's palace. Slowly he unloosed the
bundle, fearing lest he should find nothing but a heap of stones
or rags. But no! all was as it had been before, and as he opened
the castle door there stood within the most beautiful maiden that
ever was seen.
'Enter, king's son,' said she, 'all is ready, and we will be
married at once,' and so they were.
The maiden proved a good wife, and the king's son, now himself a
king, was so happy that he forgot all about the giant. Seven
years and a day had gone by, when one morning, while standing on
the ramparts, he beheld the giant striding towards the castle.
Then he remembered his promise, and remembered, too, that he had
told the queen nothing about it. Now he must tell her, and
perhaps she might help him in his trouble.
The queen listened in silence to his tale, and after he had
finished, she only said:
'Leave thou the matter between me and the giant,' and as she
spoke, the giant entered the hall and stood before them.
'Bring out your son,' cried he to the king, 'as you promised me
seven years and a day since.'
The king glanced at his wife, who nodded, so he answered:
'Let his mother first put him in order,' and the queen left the
hall, and took the cook's son and dressed him in the prince's
clothes, and led him up to the giant, who held his hand, and
together they went out along the road. They had not walked far
when the giant stopped and stretched out a stick to the boy.
'If your father had that stick, what would he do with it?' asked
'If my father had that stick, he would beat the dogs and cats
that steal the king's meat,' replied the boy.
'Thou art the cook's son!' cried the giant. 'Go home to thy
mother'; and turning his back he strode straight to the castle.
'If you seek to trick me this time, the highest stone will soon
be the lowest,' said he, and the king and queen trembled, but
they could not bear to give up their boy.
'The butler's son is the same age as ours,' whispered the queen;
'he will not know the difference,' and she took the child and
dressed him in the prince's clothes, and the giant let him away
along the road. Before they had gone far he stopped, and held out
'If thy father had that rod, what would he do with it?' asked the
'He would beat the dogs and cats that break the king's glasses,'
answered the boy.
'Thou art the son of the butler!' cried the giant. 'Go home to
thy mother'; and turning round he strode back angrily to the
'Bring out thy son at once,' roared he, 'or the stone that is
highest will be lowest,' and this time the real prince was
But though his parents wept bitterly and fancied the child was
suffering all kinds of dreadful things, the giant treated him
like his own son, though he never allowed him to see his
daughters. The boy grew to be a big boy, and one day the giant
told him that he would have to amuse himself alone for many
hours, as he had a journey to make. So the boy wandered to the
top of the castle, where he had never been before. There he
paused, for the sound of music broke upon his ears, and opening a
door near him, he beheld a girl sitting by the window, holding a
'Haste and begone, I see the giant close at hand,' she whispered
hurriedly, 'but when he is asleep, return hither, for I would
speak with thee.' And the prince did as he was bid, and when
midnight struck he crept back to the top of the castle.
'To-morrow,' said the girl, who was the giant's daughter, 'to-
morrow thou wilt get the choice of my two sisters to marry, but
thou must answer that thou wilt not take either, but only me.
This will anger him greatly, for he wishes to betroth me to the
son of the king of the Green City, whom I like not at all.'
Then they parted, and on the morrow, as the girl had said, the
giant called his three daughters to him, and likewise the young
prince to whom he spoke.
'Now, O son of the king of Tethertown, the time has come for us
to part. Choose one of my two elder daughters to wife, and thou
shalt take her to your father's house the day after the wedding.'
'Give me the youngest instead,' replied the youth, and the
giant's face darkened as he heard him.
'Three things must thou do first,' said he.
'Say on, I will do them,' replied the prince, and the giant left
the house, and bade him follow to the byre, where the cows were
'For a hundred years no man has swept this byre,' said the giant,
'but if by nightfall, when I reach home, thou has not cleaned it
so that a golden apple can roll through it from end to end, thy
blood shall pay for it.'
All day long the youth toiled, but he might as well have tried to
empty the ocean. At length, when he was so tired he could hardly
move, the giant's youngest daughter stood in the doorway.
'Lay down thy weariness,' said she, and the king's son, thinking
he could only die once, sank on the floor at her bidding, and
fell sound asleep. When he woke the girl had disappeared, and the
byre was so clean that a golden apple could roll from end to end
of it. He jumped up in surprise, and at that moment in came the
'Hast thou cleaned the byre, king's son?' asked he.
'I have cleaned it,' answered he.
'Well, since thou wert so active to-day, to-morrow thou wilt
thatch this byre with a feather from every different bird, or
else thy blood shall pay for it,' and he went out.
Before the sun was up, the youth took his bow and his quiver and
set off to kill the birds. Off to the moor he went, but never a
bird was to be seen that day. At last he got so tired with
running to and fro that he gave up heart.
'There is but one death I can die,' thought he. Then at midday
came the giant's daughter.
'Thou art tired, king's son?' asked she.
'I am,' answered he; 'all these hours have I wandered, and there
fell but these two blackbirds, both of one colour.'
'Lay down thy weariness on the grass,' said she, and he did as
she bade him, and fell fast asleep.
When he woke the girl had disappeared, and he got up, and
returned to the byre. As he drew near, he rubbed his eyes hard,
thinking he was dreaming, for there it was, beautifully thatched,
just as the giant had wished. At the door of the house he met the
'Hast thou thatched the byre, king's son?'
'I have thatched it.'
'Well, since thou hast been so active to-day, I have something
else for thee! Beside the loch thou seest over yonder there grows
a fir tree. On the top of the fir tree is a magpie's nest, and in
the nest are five eggs. Thou wilt bring me those eggs for
breakfast, and if one is cracked or broken, thy blood shall pay
Before it was light next day, the king's son jumped out of bed
and ran down to the loch. The tree was not hard to find, for the
rising sun shone red on the trunk, which was five hundred feet
from the ground to its first branch. Time after time he walked
round it, trying to find some knots, however small, where he
could put his feet, but the bark was quite smooth, and he soon
saw that if he was to reach the top at all, it must be by
climbing up with his knees like a sailor. But then he was a
king's son and not a sailor, which made all the difference.
However, it was no use standing there staring at the fir, at
least he must try to do his best, and try he did till his hands
and knees were sore, for as soon as he had struggled up a few
feet, he slid back again. Once he climbed a little higher than
before, and hope rose in his heart, then down he came with such
force that his hands and knees smarted worse than ever.
'This is no time for stopping,' said the voice of the giant's
daughter, as he leant against the trunk to recover his breath.
'Alas! I am no sooner up than down,' answered he.
'Try once more,' said she, and she laid a finger against the tree
and bade him put his foot on it. Then she placed another finger a
little higher up, and so on till he reached the top, where the
magpie had built her nest.
'Make haste now with the nest,' she cried, 'for my father's
breath is burning my back,' and down he scrambled as fast as he
could, but the girl's little finger had caught in a branch at the
top, and she was obliged to leave it there. But she was too busy
to pay heed to this, for the sun was getting high over the hills.
'Listen to me,' she said. 'This night my two sisters and I will
be dressed in the same garments, and you will not know me. But
when my father says 'Go to thy wife, king's son,' come to the one
whose right hand has no little finger.'
So he went and gave the eggs to the giant, who nodded his head.
'Make ready for thy marriage,' cried he, 'for the wedding shall
take place this very night, and I will summon thy bride to greet
thee.' Then his three daughters were sent for, and they all
entered dressed in green silk of the same fashion, and with
golden circlets round their heads. The king's son looked from one
to another. Which was the youngest? Suddenly his eyes fell on the
hand of the middle one, and there was no little finger.
'Thou hast aimed well this time too,' said the giant, as the
king's son laid his hand on her shoulder, 'but perhaps we may
meet some other way'; and though he pretended to laugh, the bride
saw a gleam in his eye which warned her of danger.
The wedding took place that very night, and the hall was filled
with giants and gentlemen, and they danced till the house shook
from top to bottom. At last everyone grew tired, and the guests
went away, and the king's son and his bride were left alone.
'If we stay here till dawn my father will kill thee,' she
whispered, 'but thou art my husband and I will save thee, as I
did before,' and she cut an apple into nine pieces, and put two
pieces at the head of the bed, and two pieces at the foot, and
two pieces at the door of the kitchen, and two at the big door,
and one outside the house. And when this was done, and she heard
the giant snoring, she and the king's son crept out softly and
stole across to the stable, where she led out the blue-grey mare
and jumped on its back, and her husband mounted behind her. Not
long after, the giant awoke.
'Are you asleep?' asked he.
'Not yet,' answered the apple at the head of the bed, and the
giant turned over, and soon was snoring as loudly as before. By
and bye he called again.
'Are you asleep?'
'Not yet,' said the apple at the foot of the bed, and the giant
was satisfied. After a while, he called a third time, 'Are you
'Not yet,' replied the apple in the kitchen, but when in a few
minutes, he put the question for the fourth time and received an
answer from the apple outside the house door, he guessed what had
happened, and ran to the room to look for himself.
The bed was cold and empty!
'My father's breath is burning my back,' cried the girl, 'put thy
hand into the ear of the mare, and whatever thou findest there,
throw it behind thee.' And in the mare's ear there was a twig of
sloe tree, and as he threw it behind him there sprung up twenty
miles of thornwood so thick that scarce a weasel could go through
it. And the giant, who was striding headlong forwards, got caught
in it, and it pulled his hair and beard.
'This is one of my daughter's tricks,' he said to himself, 'but
if I had my big axe and my wood-knife, I would not be long making
a way through this,' and off he went home and brought back the
axe and the wood-knife.
It took him but a short time to cut a road through the
blackthorn, and then he laid the axe and the knife under a tree.
'I will leave them there till I return,' he murmured to himself,
but a hoodie crow, which was sitting on a branch above, heard
'If thou leavest them,' said the hoodie, 'we will steal them.'
'You will,' answered the giant, 'and I must take them home.' So
he took them home, and started afresh on his journey.
'My father's breath is burning my back,' cried the girl at
midday. 'Put thy finger in the mare's ear and throw behind thee
whatever thou findest in it,' and the king's son found a splinter
of grey stone, and threw it behind him, and in a twinkling twenty
miles of solid rock lay between them and the giant.
'My daughter's tricks are the hardest things that ever met me,'
said the giant, 'but if I had my lever and my crowbar, I would
not be long in making my way through this rock also,' but as he
had got them, he had to go home and fetch them. Then it took him
but a short time to hew his way through the rock.
'I will leave the tools here,' he murmured aloud when he had
'If thou leavest them, we will steal them,' said a hoodie who was
perched on a stone above him, and the giant answered:
'Steal them if thou wilt; there is no time to go back.'
'My father's breath is burning my back,' cried the girl; 'look in
the mare's ear, king's son, or we are lost,' and he looked, and
found a tiny bladder full of water, which he threw behind him,
and it became a great lock. And the giant, who was striding on so
fast, could not stop himself, and he walked right into the middle
and was drowned.
The blue-grey mare galloped on like the wind, and the next day
the king's son came in sight of his father's house.
'Get down and go in,' said the bride, 'and tell them that thou
hast married me. But take heed that neither man nor beast kiss
thee, for then thou wilt cease to remember me at all.'
'I will do thy bidding,' answered he, and left her at the gate.
All who met him bade him welcome, and he charged his father and
mother not to kiss him, but as he greeted them his old greyhound
leapt on his neck, and kissed him on the mouth. And after that he
did not remember the giant's daughter.
All that day she sat on a well which was near the gate, waiting,
waiting, but the king's son never came. In the darkness she
climbed up into an oak tree that shadowed the well, and there she
lay all night, waiting, waiting.
On the morrow, at midday, the wife of a shoemaker who dwelt near
the well went to draw water for her husband to drink, and she saw
the shadow of the girl in the tree, and thought it was her own
'How handsome I am, to be sure,' said she, gazing into the well,
and as she stopped to behold herself better, the jug struck
against the stones and broke in pieces, and she was forced to
return to her husband without the water, and this angered him.
'Thou hast turned crazy,' said he in wrath. 'Go thou, my
daughter, and fetch me a drink,' and the girl went, and the same
thing befell her as had befallen her mother.
'Where is the water?' asked the shoemaker, when she came back,
and as she held nothing save the handle of the jug he went to the
well himself. He too saw the reflection of the woman in the tree,
but looked up to discover whence it came, and there above him sat
the most beautiful woman in the world.
'Come down,' he said, 'for a while thou canst stay in my house,'
and glad enough the girl was to come.
Now the king of the country was about to marry, and the young men
about the court thronged the shoemaker's shop to buy fine shoes
to wear at the wedding.
'Thou hast a pretty daughter,' said they when they beheld the
girl sitting at work.
'Pretty she is,' answered the shoemaker, 'but no daughter of
'I would give a hundred pounds to marry her,' said one.
'And I,' 'And I,' cried the others.
'That is no business of mine,' answered the shoemaker, and the
young men bade him ask her if she would choose one of them for a
husband, and to tell them on the morrow. Then the shoemaker asked
her, and the girl said that she would marry the one who would
bring his purse with him. So the shoemaker hurried to the youth
who had first spoken, and he came back, and after giving the
shoemaker a hundred pounds for his news, he sought the girl, who
was waiting for him.
'Is it thou?' inquired she. 'I am thirsty, give me a drink from
the well that is yonder.' And he poured out the water, but he
could not move from the place where he was; and there he stayed
till many hours had passed by.
'Take away that foolish boy,' cried the girl to the shoemaker at
last, 'I am tired of him,' and then suddenly he was able to walk,
and betook himself to his home, but he did not tell the others
what had happened to him.
Next day there arrived one of the other young men, and in the
evening, when the shoemaker had gone out and they were alone, she
said to him, 'See if the latch is on the door.' The young man
hastened to do her bidding, but as soon as he touched the latch,
his fingers stuck to it, and there he had to stay for many hours,
till the shoemaker came back, and the girl let him go. Hanging
his head, he went home, but he told no one what had befallen him.
Then was the turn of the third man, and his foot remained
fastened to the floor, till the girl unloosed it. And thankfully,
he ran off, and was not seen looking behind him.
'Take the purse of gold,' said the girl to the shoemaker, 'I have
no need of it, and it will better thee.' And the shoemaker took
it and told the girl he must carry the shoes for the wedding up
to the castle.
'I would fain get a sight of the king's son before he marries,'
'Come with me, then,' answered he; 'the servants are all my
friends, and they will let you stand in the passage down which
the king's son will pass, and all the company too.'
Up they went to the castle, and when the young men saw the girl
standing there, they led her into the hall where the banquet was
laid out and poured her out some wine. She was just raising the
glass to drink when a flame went up out of it, and out of the
flame sprang two pigeons, one of gold and one of silver. They
flew round and round the head of the girl, when three grains of
barley fell on the floor, and the silver pigeon dived down, and
'If thou hadst remembered how I cleaned the byre, thou wouldst
have given me my share,' cooed the golden pigeon, and as he spoke
three more grains fell, and the silver pigeon ate them as before.
'If thou hadst remembered how I thatched the byre, thou wouldst
have given me my share,' cooed the golden pigeon again; and as he
spoke three more grains fell, and for the third time they were
eaten by the silver pigeon.
'If thou hadst remembered how I got the magpie's nest, thou
wouldst have given me my share,' cooed the golden pigeon.
Then the king's son understood that they had come to remind him
of what he had forgotten, and his lost memory came back, and he
knew his wife, and kissed her. But as the preparations had been
made, it seemed a pity to waste them, so they were married a
second time, and sat down to the wedding feast.
From 'Tales of the West Highlands.'
The Lady of the Fountain.
In the centre of the great hall in the castle of Caerleon upon
Usk, king Arthur sat on a seat of green rushes, over which was
thrown a covering of flame-coloured silk, and a cushion of red
satin lay under his elbow. With him were his knights Owen and
Kynon and Kai, while at the far end, close to the window, were
Guenevere the queen and her maidens embroidering white garments
with strange devices of gold.
'I am weary,' said Arthur, 'and till my food is prepared I would
fain sleep. You yourselves can tell each other tales, and Kai
will fetch you from the kitchen a flagon of mean and some meat.'
And when they had eaten and drunk, Kynon, the oldest among them,
began his story.
'I was the only son of my father and mother, and much store they
set by me, but I was not content to stay with them at home, for I
thought no deed in all the world was too mighty for me. None
could hold me back, and after I had won many adventures in my own
land, I bade farewell to my parents and set out to see the world.
Over mountains, through deserts, across rivers I went, till I
reached a fair valley full of trees, with a path running by the
side of a stream. I walked along that path all the day, and in
the evening I came to a castle in front of which stood two youths
clothed in yellow, each grasping an ivory bow, with arrows made
of the bones of the whale, and winged with peacock's feathers. By
their sides hung golden daggers with hilts of the bones of the
'Near these young men was a man richly dressed, who turned and
went with me towards the castle, where all the dwellers were
gathered in the hall. In one window I beheld four and twenty
damsels, and the least fair of them was fairer than Guenevere at
her fairest. Some took my horse, and others unbuckled my armour,
and washed it, with my sword and spear, till it all shone like
silver. Then I washed myself and put on a vest and doublet which
they brought me, and I and the man that entered with me sat down
before a table of silver, and a goodlier feast I never had.
'All this time neither the man nor the damsels had spoken one
word, but when our dinner was half over, and my hunger was
stilled, the man began to ask who I was. Then I told him my name
and my father's name, and why I came there, for indeed I had
grown weary of gaining the mastery over all men at home, and
sought if perchance there was one who could gain the mastery over
me. And at this the man smiled and answered:
'"If I did not fear to distress thee too much, I would show thee
what thou seekest." His words made me sorrowful and fearful of
myself, which the man perceived, and added, "If thou meanest
truly what thou sayest, and desirest earnestly to prove thy
valour, and not to boast vainly that none can overcome thee, I
have somewhat to show thee. But to-night thou must sleep in the
this castle, and in the morning see that thou rise early and
follow the road upwards through the valley, until thou reachest a
wood. In the wood is a path branching to the right; go along this
path until thou comest to a space of grass with a mound in the
middle of it. On the top of the mound stands a black man, larger
than any two white men; his eye is in the centre of his forehead
and he has only one foot. He carries a club of iron, and two
white men could hardly lift it. Around him graze a thousand
beasts, all of different kinds, for he is the guardian of that
wood, and it is he who will tell thee which way to go in order to
find the adventure thou art in quest of."
'So spake the man, and long did that night seem to me, and before
dawn I rose and put on my armour, and mounted my horse and rode
on till I reached the grassy space of which he had told me. There
was the black man on top of the mound, as he had said, and in
truth he was mightier in all ways than I had thought him to be.
As for the club, Kai, it would have been a burden for four of our
warriors. He waited for me to speak, and I asked him what power
he held over the beasts that thronged so close about him.
'"I will show thee, little man," he answered, and with his club
he struck a stag on the head till he brayed loudly. And at his
braying the animals came running, numerous as the stars in the
sky, so that scarce was I able to stand among them. Serpents were
there also, and dragons, and beasts of strange shapes, with horns
in places where never saw I horns before. And the black man only
looked at them and bade them go and feed. And they bowed
themselves before him, as vassals before their lord.
'"Now, little man, I have answered thy question and showed thee
my power," said he. "Is there anything else thou wouldest know?"
Then I inquired of him my way, but he grew angry, and, as I
perceived, would fain have hindered me; but at the last, after I
had told him who I was, his anger passed from him.
'"Take that path," said he, "that leads to the head of this
grassy glade, and go up the wood till thou reachest the top.
There thou wilt find an open space, and in the midst of it a tall
tree. Under the tree is a fountain, and by the fountain a marble
slab, and on the slab a bowl of silver, with a silver chain. Dip
the bowl in the fountain, and throw the water on the slab, and
thou wilt hear a might peal of thunder, till heaven and earth
seem trembling with the noise. After the thunder will come hail,
so fierce that scarcely canst thou endure it and live, for the
hailstones are both large and thick. Then the sun will shine
again, but every leaf of the tree will by lying on the ground.
Next a flight of birds will come and alight on the tree, and
never didst thou hear a strain so sweet as that which they will
sing. And at the moment in which their song sounds sweetest thou
wilt hear a murmuring and complaining coming towards thee along
the valley, and thou wilt see a knight in black velvet bestriding
a black horse, bearing a lance with a black pennon, and he will
spur his steed so as to fight thee. If thou turnest to flee, he
will overtake thee. And if thou abidest were thou art, he will
unhorse thee. And if thou dost not find trouble in that
adventure, thou needest not to seek it during the rest of thy
'So I bade the black man farewell, and took my way to the top of
the wood, and there I found everything just as I had been told. I
went up to the tree beneath which stood the fountain, and filling
the silver bowl with water, emptied it on the marble slab.
Thereupon the thunder came, louder by far than I had expected to
hear it, and after the thunder came the shower, but heavier by
far than I had expected to feel it, for, of a truth I tell thee,
Kai, not one of those hailstones would be stopped by skin or by
flesh till it had reached the bone. I turned my horse's flank
towards the shower, and, bending over his neck, held my shield so
that it might cover his head and my own. When the hail had
passed, I looked on the tree and not a single leaf was left on
it, and the sky was blue and the sun shining, while on the
branches were perched birds of very kind, who sang a song sweeter
than any that has come to my ears, either before or since.
'Thus, Kai, I stood listening to the birds, when lo, a murmuring
voice approached me, saying:
'"O knight, what has brought thee hither? What evil have I done
to thee, that thou shouldest do so much to me, for in all my
lands neither man nor beast that met that shower has escaped
alive." Then from the valley appeared the knight on the black
horse, grasping the lance with the black pennon. Straightway we
charged each other, and though I fought my best, he soon overcame
me, and I was thrown to the ground, while the knight seized the
bridle of my horse, and rode away with it, leaving me where I
was, without even despoiling me of my armour.
'Sadly did I go down the hill again, and when I reached the glade
where the black man was, I confess to thee, Kai, it was a marvel
that I did not melt into a liquid pool, so great was my shame.
That night I slept at the castle where I had been before, and I
was bathed and feasted, and none asked me how I had fared. The
next morning when I arose I found a bay horse saddled for me,
and, girdling on my armour, I returned to my own court. The horse
is still in the stable, and I would not part with it for any in
'But of a truth, Kai, no man ever confessed an adventure so much
to his own dishonour, and strange indeed it seems that none other
man have I ever met that knew of the black man, and the knight
and the shower.'
'Would it not be well,' said Owen, 'to go and discover the
'By the hand of my friend,' answered Kai, 'often dost thou utter
that with thy tongue which thou wouldest not make good with thy
'In truth,' said Guenevere the queen, who had listened to the
tale, 'thou wert better hanged, Kai, than use such speech towards
a man like Owen.'
'I meant nothing, lady,' replied Kai; 'thy praise of Owen is not
greater than mine.' And as he spoke Arthur awoke, and asked if he
had not slept for a little.
'Yes, lord,' answered Owen, 'certainly thou hast slept.'
'Is it time for us to go to meat?'
'It is, lord,' answered Owen.
Then the horn for washing themselves was sounded, and after that
the king and his household sat down to eat. And when they had
finished, Owen left them, and made ready his horse and his arms.
With the first rays of the sun he set forth, and travelled
through deserts and over mountains and across rivers, and all
befell him which had befallen Kynon, till he stood under the
leafless tree listening to the song of the birds. Then he heard
the voice, and turning to look found the knight galloping to meet
him. Fiercely they fought till their lances were broken, and then
they drew their swords, and a blow from Owen cut through the
knight's helmet, and pierced his skull.
Feeling himself wounded unto death the knight fled, and Owen
pursued him till they came to a splendid castle. Here the knight
dashed across the bridge that spanned the moat, and entered the
gate, but as soon as he was safe inside, the drawbridge was
pulled up and caught Owen's horse in the middle, so that half of
him was inside and half out, and Owen could not dismount and knew
not what to do.
While he was in this sore plight a little door in the castle gate
opened, and he could see a street facing him, with tall houses.
Then a maiden with curling hair of gold looked through the little
door and bade Owen open the gate.
'By my troth!' cried Owen, 'I can no more open it from here than
thou art able to set me free.'
'Well,' said she, 'I will do my best to release thee if thou wilt
do as I tell thee. Take this ring and put it on with the stone
inside thy hand, and close thy fingers tight, for as long as thou
dost conceal it, it will conceal thee. When the men inside have
held counsel together, they will come to fetch thee to thy death,
and they will be much grieved not to find thee. I will stand on
the horse block yonder and thou canst see me though I cannot see
thee. Therefore draw near and place thy hand on my shoulder and
follow me wheresoever I go.'
Upon that she went away from Owen, and when the men came out from
the castle to seek him and did not find him they were sorely
grieved, and they returned to the castle.
Then Owen went to the maiden and placed his hand on her shoulder,
and she guided him to a large room, painted all over with rich
colours, and adorned with images of gold. Here she gave him meat
and drink, and water to wash with and garments to wear, and he
lay down upon a soft bed, with scarlet and fur to cover him, and
In the middle of the night he woke hearing a great outcry, and he
jumped up and clothed himself and went into the hall, where the
maiden was standing.
'What is it?' he asked, and she answered that the knight who
owned the castle was dead, and they were bearing his body to the
church. Never had Owen beheld such vast crowds, and following the
dead knight was the most beautiful lady in the world, whose cry
was louder than the shout of the men, or the braying of the
trumpets. And Owen looked on her and loved her.
'Who is she?' he asked the damsel. 'That is my mistress, the
countess of the fountain, and the wife of him whom thou didst
'Verily,' said Owen, 'she is the woman that I love best.'
'She shall also love thee not a little,' said the maiden.
Then she left Owen, and after a while went into the chamber of
her mistress, and spoke to her, but the countess answered her
'What aileth thee, mistress?' inquired the maiden.
'Why hast thou kept far from me in my grief, Luned?' answered the
countess, and in her turn the damsel asked:
'Is it well for thee to mourn so bitterly for the dead, or for
anything that is gone from thee?'
'There is no man in the world equal to him,' replied the
countess, her cheeks growing red with anger. 'I would fain banish
thee for such words.'
'Be not angry, lady,' said Luned, 'but listen to my counsel. Thou
knowest well that alone thou canst not preserve thy lands,
therefore seek some one to help thee.'
'And how can I do that?' asked the countess.
'I will tell thee,' answered Luned. 'Unless thou canst defend the
fountain all will be lost, and none can defend the fountain
except a knight of Arthur's court. There will I go to seek him,
and woe betide me if I return without a warrior that can guard
the fountain, as well as he who kept it before.'
'Go then,' said the countess, 'and make proof of that which thou
So Luned set out, riding on a white palfrey, on pretence of
journeying to King Arthur's court, but instead of doing that she
hid herself for as many days as it would have taken her to go and
come, and then she left her hiding-place, and went into the
'What news from the court?' asked her mistress, when she had
given Luned a warm greeting.
'The best of news,' answered the maiden, 'for I have gained the
object of my mission. When wilt thou that I present to thee the
knight who has returned with me?'
'To-morrow at midday,' said the countess, 'and I will cause all
the people in the town to come together.'
Therefore the next day at noon Owen put on his coat of mail, and
over it he wore a splendid mantle, while on his feet were leather
shoes fastened with clasps of gold. And he followed Luned to the
chamber of her mistress.
Right glad was the countess to see them, but she looked closely
at Owen and said:
'Luned, this knight has scarcely the air of a traveller.'
'What harm is there in that, lady?' answered Luned.
'I am persuaded,' said the countess, 'that this man and no other
chased the soul from the body of my lord.'
'Had he not been stronger than thy lord,' replied the damsel, 'he
could not have taken his life, and for that, and for all things
that are past, there is no remedy.'
'Leave me, both of you,' said the countess, 'and I will take
Then they went out.
The next morning the countess summoned her subjects to meet in
the courtyard of the castle, and told them that now that her
husband was dead there was none to defend her lands.
'So choose you which it shall be,' she said. 'Either let one of
you take me for a wife, or give me your consent to take a new
lord for myself, that my lands be not without a master.'
At her words the chief men of the city withdrew into one corner
and took counsel together, and after a while the leader came
forward and said that they had decided that it was best, for the
peace and safety of all, that she should choose a husband for
herself. Thereupon Owen was summoned to her presence, and he
accepted with joy the hand that she offered him, and they were
married forthwith, and the men of the earldom did him homage.
From that day Owen defended the fountain as the earl before him
had done, and every knight that came by was overthrown by him,
and his ransom divided among his barons. In this way three years
passed, and no man in the world was more beloved than Owen.
Now at the end of the three years it happened that Gwalchmai the
knight was with Arthur, and he perceived the king to be very sad.
'My lord, has anything befallen thee?' he asked.
'Oh, Gwalchmai, I am grieved concerning Owen, whom I have lost
these three years, and if a fourth year passes without him I can
live no longer. And sure am I that the tale told by Kynon the son
of Clydno caused me to lose him. I will go myself with the men of
my household to avenge him if he is dead, to free him if he is in
prison, to bring him back if he is alive.'
Then Arthur and three thousand men of his household set out in
quest of Owen, and took Kynon for their guide. When Arthur
reached the castle, the youths were shooting in the same place,
and the same yellow man was standing by, and as soon as he beheld
Arthur he greeted him and invited him in, and they entered
together. So vast was the castle that the king's three thousand
men were of no more account than if they had been twenty.
At sunrise Arthur departed thence, with Kynon for his guide, and
reached the black man first, and afterwards the top of the wooded
hill, with the fountain and the bowl and the tree.
'My lord,' said Kai, 'let me throw the water on the slab, and
receive the first adventure that may befall.'
'Thou mayest do so,' answered Arthur, and Kai threw the water.
Immediately all happened as before; the thunder and the shower of
hail which killed many of Arthur's men; the song of the birds and
the appearance of the black knight. And Kai met him and fought
him, and was overthrown by him. Then the knight rode away, and
Arthur and his men encamped where they stood.
In the morning Kai again asked leave to meet the knight and to
try to overcome him, which Arthur granted. But once more he was
unhorsed, and the black knight's lance broke his helmet and
pierced the skin even to the bone, and humbled in spirit he
returned to the camp.
After this every one of the knights gave battle, but none came
out victor, and at length there only remained Arthur himself and
'Oh, let me fight him, my lord,' cried Gwalchmai, as he saw
Arthur taking up his arms.
'Well, fight then,' answered Arthur, and Gwalchmai threw a robe
over himself and his horse, so that none knew him. All that day
they fought, and neither was able to throw the other, and so it
was on the next day. On the third day the combat was so fierce
that they fell both to the ground at once, and fought on their
feet, and at last the black knight gave his foe such a blow on
his head that his helmet fell from his face.
'I did not know it was thee, Gwalchmai,' said the black knight.
'Take my sword and my arms.'
'No,' answered Gwalchmai, 'it is thou, Owen, who art the victor,
take thou my sword'; but Owen would not.
'Give me your swords,' said Arthur from behind them, 'for neither
of you has vanquished the other,' and Owen turned and put his
arms round Arthur's neck.
The next day Arthur would have given orders to his men to make
ready to go back whence they came, but Owen stopped him.
'My lord,' he said, 'during the three years that I have been
absent from thee I have been preparing a banquet for thee,
knowing full well that thou wouldst come to seek me. Tarry with
me, therefore, for a while, thou and thy men.'
So they rode to the castle of the countess of the fountain, and
spent three months in resting and feasting. And when it was time
for them to depart Arthur besought the countess that she would
allow Owen to go with him to Britain for the space of three
months. With a sore heart she granted permission, and so content
was Owen to be once more with his old companions that three years
instead of three months passed away like a dream.
One day Owen sat at meat in the castle of Caerleon upon Usk, when
a damsel on a bay horse entered the hall, and riding straight up
to the place where Owen sat she stooped and drew the ring from
off his hand.
'Thus shall be treated the traitor and the faithless,' said she,
and turning her horse's head she rode out of the hall.
At her words Owen remembered all that he had forgotten, and
sorrowful and ashamed he went to his own chamber and made ready
to depart. At the dawn he set out, but he did not go back to the
castle, for his heart was heavy, but he wandered far into wild
places till his body was weak and thin, and his hair was long.
The wild beasts were his friends, and he slept by their side, but
in the end he longed to see the face of a man again, and he came
down into a valley and fell asleep by a lake in the lands of a
Now it was the time when the countess took her walk, attended by
her maidens, and when they saw a man lying by the lake they
shrank back in terror, for he lay so still that they thought he
was dead. But when they had overcome their fright, they drew near
him, and touched him, and saw that there was life in him. Then
the countess hastened to the castle, and brought from it a flask
full of precious ointment and gave it to one of her maidens.
'Take that horse which is grazing yonder,' she said, 'and a suit
of men's garments, and place them near the man, and pour some of
this ointment near his heart. If there is any life in him that
will bring it back. But if he moves, hide thyself in the bushes
near by, and see what he does.'
The damsel took the flask and did her mistress' bidding. Soon the
man began to move his arms, and then rose slowly to his feet.
Creeping forward step by step he took the garments from off the
saddle and put them on him, and painfully he mounted the horse.
When he was seated the damsel came forth and greeted him, and
glad was he when he saw her and inquired what castle that was
'It belongs to a widowed countess,' answered the maiden. 'Her
husband left her two earldoms, but it is all that remains of her
broad lands, for they have been torn from her by a young earl,
because she would not marry him.'
'That is a pity,' replied Owen, but he said no more, for he was
too weak to talk much. Then the maiden guided him to the castle,
and kindled a fire, and brought him food. And there he stayed and
was tended for three months, till he was handsomer than ever he
At noon one day Owen heard a sound of arms outside the castle,
and he asked of the maiden what it was.
'It is the earl of whom I spoke to thee,' she answered, 'who has
come with a great host to carry off my mistress.'
'Beg of her to lend me a horse and armour,' said Owen, and the
maiden did so, but the countess laughed somewhat bitterly as she
'Nay, but I will give them to him, and such a horse and armour
and weapons as he has never had yet, though I know not what use
they will be to him. Yet mayhap it will save them from falling
into the hands of my enemies.'
The horse was brought out and Owen rode forth with two pages
behind him, and they saw the great host encamped before them.
'Where is the earl?' said he, and the pages answered:
'In yonder troop where are four yellow standards.'
'Await me,' said Owen, 'at the gate of the castle, and he cried a
challenge to the earl, who came to meet him. Hard did they fight,
but Owen overthrew his enemy and drove him in front to the castle
gate and into the hall.
'Behold the reward of thy blessed balsam,' said he, as he bade
the earl kneel down before her, and made him swear that he would
restore all that he had taken from her.
After that he departed, and went into the deserts, and as he was
passing through a wood he heard a loud yelling. Pushing aside the
bushes he beheld a lion standing on a great mound, and by it a
rock. Near the rock was a lion seeking to reach the mound, and
each time he moved out darted a serpent from the rock to prevent
him. Then Owen unsheathed his sword, and cut off the serpent's
head and went on his way, and the lion followed and played about
him, as if he had been a greyhound. And much more useful was he
than a greyhound, for in the evening he brought large logs in his
mouth to kindle a fire, and killed a fat buck for dinner.
Owen made his fire and skinned the buck, and put some of it to
roast, and gave the rest to the lion for supper. While he was
waiting for the meat to cook he heard a sound of deep sighing
close to him, and he said:
'Who are thou?'
'I am Luned,' replied a voice from a cave so hidden by bushes and
green hanging plants that Owen had not seen it.
'And what dost thou here?' cried he.
'I am held captive in this cave on account of the knight who
married the countess and left her, for the pages spoke ill of
him, and because I told them that no man living was his equal
they dragged me here and said I should die unless he should come
to deliver me by a certain day, and that is no further than the
day after to-morrow. His name is Owen the son of Urien, but I
have none to send to tell him of my danger, or of a surety he
would deliver me.'
Owen held his peace, but gave the maiden some of the meat, and
bade her be of good cheer. Then, followed by the lion, he set out
for a great castle on the other side of the plain, and men came
and took his horse and placed it in a manger, and the lion went
after and lay down on the straw. Hospitable and kind were all
within the castle, but so full of sorrow that it might have been
thought death was upon them. At length, when they had eaten and
drunk, Owen prayed the earl to tell him the reason of their
'Yesterday,' answered the earl, 'my two sons were seized, while
thy were hunting, by a monster who dwells on those mountains
yonder, and he vows that he will not let them go unless I give
him my daughter to wife.'
'That shall never be,' said Owen; 'but what form hath this
'In shape he is a man, but in stature he is a giant,' replied the
earl, 'and it were better by far that he should slay my sons than
that I should give up my daughter.'
Early next morning the dwellers in the castle were awakened by a
great clamour, and they found that the giant had arrived with the
two young men. Swiftly Owen put on his armour and went forth to
meet the giant, and the lion followed at his heels. And when the
great beast beheld the hard blows which the giant dealt his
master he flew at his throat, and much trouble had the monster in
beating him off.
'Truly,' said the giant, 'I should find no difficulty in fighting
thee, if it were not for that lion.' When he heard that Owen felt
shame that he could not overcome the giant with his own sword, so
he took the lion and shut him up in one of the towers of the
castle, and returned to the fight. But from the sound of the
blows the lion knew that the combat was going ill for Owen, so he
climbed up till he reached the top of the tower, where there was
a door on to the roof, and from the tower he sprang on to the
walls, and from the walls to the ground. Then with a loud roar he
leaped upon the giant, who fell dead under the blow of his paw.
Now the gloom of the castle was turned into rejoicing, and the
earl begged Owen to stay with him till he could make him a feast,
but the knight said he had other work to do, and rode back to the
place where he had left Luned, and the lion followed at his
heels. When he came there he saw a great fire kindled, and two
youths leading out the maiden to cast her upon the pile.
'Stop!' he cried, dashing up to them. 'What charge have you
'She boasted that no man in the world was equal to Owen,' said
they, 'and we shut her in a cave, and agreed that none should
deliver her but Owen himself, and that if he did not come by a
certain day she should die. And now the time has past and there
is no sign of him.'
'In truth he is a good knight, and had he but known that the maid
was in peril he would have come to save her,' said Owen; 'but
accept me in his stead, I entreat you.'
'We will,' replied they, and the fight began.
The youths fought well and pressed hard on Owen, and when the
lion saw that he came to help his master. But the youths made a
sign for the fight to stop, and said:
'Chieftain, it was agreed we should give battle to thee alone,
and it is harder for us to contend with yonder beast than with
Then Owen shut up the lion in the cave where the maiden had been
in prison, and blocked up the front with stones. But the fight
with the giant had sorely tried him, and the youths fought well,
and pressed him harder than before. And when the lion saw that he
gave a loud roar, and burst through the stones, and sprang upon
the youths and slew them. And so Luned was delivered at the last.
Then the maiden rode back with Owen to the lands of the lady of
the fountain. And he took the lady with him to Arthur's court,
where they lived happily till they died.
From the 'Mabinogion.'
The Four Gifts
In the old land of Brittany, once called Cornwall, there lived a
woman named Barbaik Bourhis, who spent all her days in looking
after her farm with the help of her niece Tephany. Early and
late the two might be seen in the fields or in the dairy, milking
cows, making butter, feeding fowls; working hard themselves and
taking care that others worked too. Perhaps it might have been
better for Barbaik if she had left herself a little time to rest
and to think about other things, for soon she grew to love money
for its own sake, and only gave herself and Tephany the food and
clothes they absolutely needed. And as for poor people she
positively hated them, and declared that such lazy creatures had
no business in the world.
Well, this being the sort of person Barbaik was, it is easy to
guess at her anger when one day she found Tephany talking outside
the cowhouse to young Denis, who was nothing more than a day
labourer from the village of Plover. Seizing her niece by the
arm, she pulled her sharply away, exclaiming:
'Are you not ashamed, girl, to waste your time over a man who is
as poor as a rat, when there are a dozen more who would be only
too happy to buy you rings of silver, if you would let them?'
'Denis is a good workman, as you know very well,' answered
Tephany, red with anger, 'and he puts by money too, and soon he
will be able to take a farm for himself.'
'Nonsense,' cried Barbaik, 'he will never save enough for a farm
till he is a hundred. I would sooner see you in your grave than
the wife of a man who carries his whole fortune on his back.'
'What does fortune matter when one is young and strong?' asked
Tephany, but her aunt, amazed at such words, would hardly let her
'What does fortune matter?' repeated Barbaik, in a shocked voice.
'Is it possible that you are really so foolish as to despise
money? If this is what you learn from Denis, I forbid you to
speak to him, and I will have him turned out of the farm if he
dares to show his face here again. Now go and wash the clothes
and spread them out to dry.'
Tephany did not dare to disobey, but with a heavy heart went down
the path to the river.
'She is harder than these rocks,' said the girl to herself, 'yes,
a thousand times harder. For the rain at least can at last wear
away the stone, but you might cry for ever, and she would never
care. Talking to Denis is the only pleasure I have, and if I am
not to see him I may as well enter a convent.'
Thinking these thoughts she reached the bank, and began to unfold
the large packet of linen that had to be washed. The tap of a
stick made her look up, and standing before her she saw a little
old woman, whose face was strange to her.
'You would like to sit down and rest, granny?' asked Tephany,
pushing aside her bundle.
'When the sky is all the roof you have, you rest where you will,'
replied the old woman in trembling tones.
'Are you so lonely, then?' inquired Tephany, full of pity. 'Have
you no friends who would welcome you into their houses?'
The old woman shook her head.
'They all died long, long ago,' she answered, 'and the only
friends I have are strangers with kind hearts.'
The girl did not speak for a moment, then held out the small loaf
and some bacon intended for her dinner.
'Take this,' she said; 'to-day at any rate you shall dine well,'
and the old woman took it, gazing at Tephany the while.
'Those who help others deserve to be helped,' she answered; 'your
eyes are still red because that miser Barbaik has forbidden you
to speak to the young man from Plover. But cheer up, you are a
good girl, and I will give you something that will enable you to
see him once every day.'
'You?' cried Tephany, stupefied at discovering that the beggar
knew all about her affairs, but the old woman did not hear her.
'Take this long copper pin,' she went on, 'and every time you
stick it in your dress Mother Bourhis will be obliged to leave
the house in order to go and count her cabbages. As long as the
pin is in your dress you will be free, and your aunt will not
come back until you have put it in its case again.' Then,
rising, she nodded to Tephany and vanished.
The girl stood where she was, as still as a stone. If it had not
been for the pin in her hands she would have thought she was
dreaming. But by that token she knew it was no common old woman
who had given it to her, but a fairy, wise in telling what would
happen in the days to come. Then suddenly Tephany's eyes fell on
the clothes, and to make up for lost time she began to wash them
with great vigour.
Next evening, at the moment when Denis was accustomed to wait for
her in the shadow of the cowhouse, Tephany stuck the pin in her
dress, and at the very same instant Barbaik took up her sabots or
wooden shoes and went through the orchard and past to the fields,
to the plot where the cabbages grew. With a heart as light as
her footsteps, the girl ran from the house, and spent her evening
happily with Denis. And so it was for many days after that.
Then, at last, Tephany began to notice something, and the
something made her very sad.
At first, Denis seemed to find the hours that they were together
fly as quickly as she did, but when he had taught her all the
songs he knew, and told her all the plans he had made for growing
rich and a great man, he had nothing more to say to her, for he,
like a great many other people, was fond of talking himself, but
not of listening to any one else. Sometimes, indeed, he never
came at all, and the next evening he would tell Tephany that he
had been forced to go into the town on business, but though she
never reproached him she was not deceived and saw plainly that he
no longer cared for her as he used to do.
Day by day her heart grew heavier and her cheeks paler, and one
evening, when she had waited for him in vain, she put her water-
pot on her shoulder and went slowly down to the spring. On the
path in front of her stood the fairy who had given her the pin,
and as she glanced at Tephany she gave a little mischievous laugh
'Why, my pretty maiden hardly looks happier than she did before,
in spite of meeting her lover whenever she pleases.'
'He has grown tired of me,' answered Tephany in a trembling
voice, 'and he makes excuses to stay away. Ah! granny dear, it
is not enough to be able to see him, I must be able to amuse him
and to keep him with me. He is so clever, you know. Help me to
be clever too.'
'Is that what you want?' cried the old woman. 'Well, take this
feather and stick it in your hair, and you will be as wise as
Blushing with pleasure Tephany went home and stuck the feather
into the blue ribbon which girls always wear in that part of the
country. In a moment she heard Denis whistling gaily, and as her
aunt was safely counting her cabbages, she hurried out to meet
him. The young man was struck dumb by her talk. There was
nothing that she did not seem to know, and as for songs she not
only could sing those from every part of Brittany, but could
compose them herself. Was this really the quiet girl who had been
so anxious to learn all he could teach her, or was it somebody
else? Perhaps she had gone suddenly mad, and there was an evil
spirit inside her. But in any case, night after night he came
back, only to find her growing wiser and wiser. Soon the
neighbours whispered their surprise among themselves, for Tephany
had not been able to resist the pleasure of putting the feather
in her hair for some of the people who despised her for her poor
clothes, and many were the jokes she made about them. Of course
they heard of her jests, and shook their heads saying:
'She is an ill-natured little cat, and the man that marries her
will find that it is she who will hold the reins and drive the
It was not long before Denis began to agree with them, and as he
always liked to be master wherever he went, he became afraid of
Tephany's sharp tongue, and instead of laughing as before when
she made fun of other people he grew red and uncomfortable,
thinking that his turn would come next.
So matters went on till one evening Denis told Tephany that he
really could not stay a moment, as he had promised to go to a
dance that was to be held in the next village.
Tephany's face fell; she had worked hard all day, and had been
counting on a quiet hour with Denis. She did her best to
persuade him to remain with her, but he would not listen, and at
last she grew angry.
'Oh, I know why you are so anxious not to miss the dance,' she
said; 'it is because Aziliez of Pennenru will be there.'
Now Aziliez was the loveliest girl for miles round, and she and
Denis had known each other from childhood.
'Oh yes, Aziliez will be there,' answered Denis, who was quite
pleased to see her jealous, 'and naturally one would go a long
way to watch her dance.'
'Go then!' cried Tephany, and entering the house she slammed the
door behind her.
Lonely and miserable she sat down by the fire and stared into the
red embers. Then, flinging the feather from her hair, she put
her head on her hands, and sobbed passionately.
'What is the use of being clever when it is beauty that men want?
That is what I ought to have asked for. But it is too late,
Denis will never come back.'
'Since you wish it so much you shall have beauty,' said a voice
at her side, and looking round she beheld the old woman leaning
on her stick.
'Fasten this necklace round your neck, and as long as you wear it
you will be the most beautiful woman in the world,' continued the
fairy. With a little shriek of joy Tephany took the necklace,
and snapping the clasp ran to the mirror which hung in the
corner. Ah, this time she was not afraid of Aziliez or of any
other girl, for surely none could be as fair and white as she.
And with the sight of her face a thought came to her, and putting
on hastily her best dress and her buckled shoes she hurried off
to the dance.
On the way she met a beautiful carriage with a young man seated
'What a lovely maiden!' he exclaimed, as Tephany approached.
'Why, there is not a girl in my own country that can be compared
to her. She, and no other, shall be my bride.'
The carriage was large and barred the narrow road, so Tephany was
forced, much against her will, to remain where she was. But she
looked the young man full in the face as she answered:
'Go your way, noble lord, and let me go mine. I am only a poor
peasant girl, accustomed to milk, and make hay and spin.'
'Peasant you may be, but I will make you a great lady,' said he,
taking her hand and trying to lead her to the carriage.
'I don't want to be a great lady, I only want to be the wife of
Denis,' she replied, throwing off his hand and running to the
ditch which divided the road from the cornfield, where he hoped
to hide. Unluckily the young man guessed what she was doing, and
signed to his attendants, who seized her and put her in the
coach. The door was banged, and the horses whipped up into a
At the end of an hour they arrived at a splendid castle, and
Tephany, who would not move, was lifted out and carried into the
hall, while a priest was sent for to perform the marriage
ceremony. The young man tried to win a smile from her by telling
of all the beautiful things she should have as his wife, but
Tephany did not listen to him, and looked about to see if there
was any means by which she could escape. It did not seem easy.
The three great doors were closely barred, and the one through
which she had entered shut with a spring, but her feather was
still in her hair, and by its aid she detected a crack in the
wooden panelling, through which a streak of light could be dimly
seen. Touching the copper pin which fastened her dress, the girl
sent every one in the hall to count the cabbages, while she
herself passed through the little door, not knowing whither she
By this time night had fallen, and Tephany was very tired.
Thankfully she found herself at the gate of a convent, and asked
if she might stay there till morning. But the portress answered
roughly that it was no place for beggars, and bade her begone, so
the poor girl dragged herself slowly along the road, till a light
and the bark of a dog told her that she was near a farm.
In front of the house was a group of people; two or three women
and the sons of the farmer. When their mother heard Tephany's
request to be given a bed the good wife's heart softened, and she
was just going to invite her inside, when the young men, whose
heads were turned by the girl's beauty, began to quarrel as to
which should do most for her. From words they came to blows, and
the women, frightened at the disturbance, pelted Tephany with
insulting names. She quickly ran down the nearest path, hoping to
escape them in the darkness of the trees, but in an instant she
heard their footsteps behind her. Wild with fear her legs
trembled under her, when suddenly she bethought herself of her
necklace. With a violent effort she burst the clasp and flung it
round the neck of a pig which was grunting in a ditch, and as she
did so she heard the footsteps cease from pursuing her and run
after the pig, for her charm had vanished.
On she went, scarcely knowing where she was going, till she found
herself, to her surprise and joy, close to her aunt's house. For
several days she felt so tired and unhappy that she could hardly
get through her work, and to make matters worse Denis scarcely
ever came near her.
'He was too busy,' he said, 'and really it was only rich people
who could afford to waste time in talking.'
As the days went on Tephany grew paler and paler, till everybody
noticed it except her aunt. The water-pot was almost too heavy
for her now, but morning and evening she carried it to the
spring, though the effort to lift it to her shoulder was often
too much for her.
'How could I have been so foolish,' she whispered to herself,
when she went down as usual at sunset. 'It was not freedom to
see Denis that I should have asked for, for he was soon weary of
me, nor a quick tongue, for he was afraid of it, nor beauty, for
that brought me nothing but trouble, but riches which make life
easy both for oneself and others. Ah! if I only dared to beg
this gift from the fairy, I should be wiser than before and know
how to choose better.'
'Be satisfied,' said the voice of the old woman, who seemed to be
standing unseen at Tephany's elbow. 'If you look in your right-
hand pocket when you go home you will find a small box. Rub your
eyes with the ointment it contains, and you will see that you
yourself contain a priceless treasure.'
Tephany did not in the least understand what she meant, but ran
back to the farm as fast as she could, and began to fumble
joyfully in her right-hand pocket. Sure enough, there was the
little box with the precious ointment. She was in the act of
rubbing her eyes with it when Barbaik Bourhis entered the room.
Ever since she had been obliged to leave her work and pass her
time, she did not know why, in counting cabbages, everything had
gone wrong, and she could not get a labourer to stay with her
because of her bad temper. When, therefore, she saw her niece
standing quietly before her mirror, Barbaik broke out:
'So this is what you do when I am out in the fields! Ah! it is
no wonder if the farm is ruined. Are you not ashamed, girl, to
Tephany tried to stammer some excuse, but her aunt was half mad
with rage, and a box on the ears was her only answer. At this
Tephany, hurt, bewildered and excited, could control herself no
longer, and turning away burst into tears. But what was her
surprise when she saw that each tear-drop was a round and shining
pearl. Barbaik, who also beheld this marvel, uttered a cry of
astonishment, and threw herself on her knees to pick them up from
She was still gathering them when the door opened and in came
'Pearls! Are they really pearls?' he asked, falling on his knees
also, and looking up at Tephany he perceived others still more
beautiful rolling down the girl's cheeks.
'Take care not to let any of the neighbours hear of it, Denis,'
said Barbaik. 'Of course you shall have your share, but nobody
else shall get a single one. Cry on, my dear, cry on,' she
continued to Tephany. It is for your good as well as ours,' and
she held out her apron to catch them, and Denis his hat.
But Tephany could hardly bear any more. She felt half choked at
the sight of their greediness, and wanted to rush from the hall,
and though Barbaik caught her arm to prevent this, and said all
sorts of tender words which she thought would make the girl weep
the more, Tephany with a violent effort forced back her tears,
and wiped her eyes.
'Is she finished already?' cried Barbaik, in a tone of
disappointment. 'Oh, try again, my dear. Do you think it would
do any good to beat her a little?' she added to Denis, who shook
'That is enough for the first time. I will go into the town and
find out the value of each pearl.'
'Then I will go with you,' said Barbaik, who never trusted anyone
and was afraid of being cheated. So the two went out, leaving
Tephany behind them.
She sat quite still on her chair, her hands clasped tightly
together, as if she was forcing something back. At last she
raised her eyes, which had been fixed on the ground, and beheld
the fairy standing in a dark corner by the hearth, observing her
with a mocking look. The girl trembled and jumped up, then,
taking the feather, the pin, and the box, she held them out to
the old woman.
'Here they are, all of them,' she cried; 'they belong to you. Let
me never see them again, but I have learned the lesson that they
taught me. Others may have riches, beauty and wit, but as for me
I desire nothing but to be the poor peasant girl I always was,
working hard for those she loves.'
'Yes, you have learned your lesson,' answered the fairy, 'and now
you shall lead a peaceful life and marry the man you love. For
after all it was not yourself you thought of but him.'
Never again did Tephany see the old woman, but she forgave Denis
for selling her tears, and in time he grew to be a good husband,
who did his own share of work.
From 'Le Foyer Breton,' par E. Souvestre.
The Groac'h of the Isle of Lok
In old times, when all kinds of wonderful things happened in
Brittany, there lived in the village of Lanillis, a young man
named Houarn Pogamm and a girl called Bellah Postik. They were
cousins, and as their mothers were great friends, and constantly
in and out of each other's houses, they had often been laid in
the same cradle, and had played and fought over their games.
'When they are grown up they will marry,' said the mothers; but
just as every one was beginning to think of wedding bells, the
two mothers died, and the cousins, who had no money, went as
servants in the same house. This was better than being parted,
of course, but not so good as having a little cottage of their
own, where they could do as they liked, and soon they might have
been heard bewailing to each other the hardness of their lots.
'If we could only manage to buy a cow and get a pig to fatten,'
grumbled Houarn, 'I would rent a bit of ground from the master,
and then we could be married.'
'Yes,' answered Bellah, with a deep sigh; 'but we live in such
hard times, and at the last fair the price of pigs had risen
'We shall have long to wait, that is quite clear,' replied
Houarn, turning away to his work.
Whenever they met they repeated their grievances, and at length
Houarn's patience was exhausted, and one morning he came to
Bellah and told her that he was going away to seek his fortune.
The girl was very unhappy as she listened to this, and felt sorry
that she had not tried to make the best of things. She implored
Houarn not to leave her, but he would listen to nothing.
'The birds,' he said, 'continue flying until they reach a field
of corn, and the bees do not stop unless they find the honey-
giving flowers, and why should a man have less sense than they?
Like them, I shall seek till I get what I want--that is, money to
buy a cow and a pig to fatten. And if you love me, Bellah, you
won't attempt to hinder a plan which will hasten our marriage.'
The girl saw it was useless to say more, so she answered sadly:
'Well, go then, since you must. But first I will divide with you
all that my parents left me,' and going to her room, she opened a
small chest, and took from it a bell, a knife, and a little
'This bell,' she said, 'can be heard at any distance, however
far, but it only rings to warn us that our friends are in great
danger. The knife frees all it touches from the spells that have
been laid on them; while the stick will carry you wherever you
want to go. I will give you the knife to guard you against the
enchantments of wizards, and the bell to tell me of your perils.
The stick I shall keep for myself, so that I can fly to you if
ever you have need of me.'
Then they cried for a little on each other's necks, and Houarn
started for the mountains.
But in those days, as in these, beggars abounded, and through
every village he passed they followed Houarn in crowds, mistaking
him for a gentleman, because there were no holes in his clothes.
'There is no fortune to be made here,' he thought to himself; 'it
is a place for spending, and not earning. I see I must go
further,' and he walked on to Pont-aven, a pretty little town
built on the bank of a river.
He was sitting on a bench outside an inn, when he heard two men
who were loading their mules talking about the Groac'h of the
island of Lok.
'What is a Groac'h?' asked he. 'I have never come across one.'
And the men answered that it was the name given to the fairy that
dwelt in the lake, and that she was rich--oh! richer than all the
kings in the world put together. Many had gone to the island to
try and get possession of her treasures, but no one had ever come
As he listened Houarn's mind was made up.
'I will go, and return too,' he said to the muleteers. They
stared at him in astonishment, and besought him not to be so mad
and to throw away his life in such a foolish manner; but he only
laughed, and answered that if they could tell him of any other
way in which to procure a cow and a pig to fatten, he would think
no more about it. But the men did not know how this was to be
done, and, shaking their heads over his obstinacy, left him to
So Houarn went down to the sea, and found a boatman who engaged
to take him to the isle of Lok.
The island was large, and lying almost across it was a lake, with
a narrow opening to the sea. Houarn paid the boatman and sent
him away, and then proceeded to walk round the lake. At one end
he perceived a small skiff, painted blue and shaped like a swan,
lying under a clump of yellow broom. As far as he could see, the
swan's head was tucked under its wing, and Houarn, who had never
beheld a boat of the sort, went quickly towards it and stepped
in, so as to examine it the better. But no sooner was he on
board than the swan woke suddenly up; his head emerged from under
his wing, his feet began to move in the water, and in another
moment they were in the middle of the lake.
As soon as the young man had recovered from his surprise, he
prepared to jump into the lake and swim to shore. But the bird
had guessed his intentions, and plunged beneath the water,
carrying Houarn with him to the palace of the Groac'h.
Now, unless you have been under the sea and beheld all the
wonders that lie there, you can never have an idea what the
Groac'h's palace was like. It was all made of shells, blue and
green and pink and lilac and white, shading into each other till
you could not tell where one colour ended and the other began.
The staircases were of crystal, and every separate stair sang
like a woodland bird as you put your foot on it. Round the
palace were great gardens full of all the plants that grow in the
sea, with diamonds for flowers.
In a large hall the Groac'h was lying on a couch of gold. The
pink and white of her face reminded you of the shells of her
palace, while her long black hair was intertwined with strings of
coral, and her dress of green silk seemed formed out of the sea.
At the sight of her Houarn stopped, dazzled by her beauty.
'Come in,' said the Groac'h, rising to her feet. 'Strangers and
handsome youths are always welcome here. Do not be shy, but tell
me how you found your way, and what you want.'
'My name is Houarn,' he answered, 'Lanillis is my home, and I am
trying to earn enough money to buy a little cow and a pig to
'Well, you can easily get that,' replied she; 'it is nothing to
worry about. Come in and enjoy yourself.' And she beckoned him
to follow her into a second hall whose floors and walls were
formed of pearls, while down the sides there were tables laden
with fruit and wines of all kinds; and as he ate and drank, the
Groac'h talked to him and told him how the treasures he saw came
from shipwrecked vessels, and were brought to her palace by a
magic current of water.
'I do not wonder,' exclaimed Houarn, who now felt quite at home--
'I do not wonder that the people on the earth have so much to say
'The rich are always envied.'
'For myself,' he added, with a laugh, 'I only ask for the half of
'You can have it, if you will, Houarn,' answered the fairy.
'What do you mean?' cried he.
'My husband, Korandon, is dead,' she replied, 'and if you wish
it, I will marry you.'
The young man gazed at her in surprise. Could any one so rich
and so beautiful really wish to be his wife? He looked at her
again, and Bellah was forgotten as he answered:
'A man would be mad indeed to refuse such an offer. I can only
accept it with joy.'
'Then the sooner it is done the better,' said the Groac'h, and
gave orders to her servants. After that was finished, she begged
Houarn to accompany her to a fish-pond at the bottom of the
'Come lawyer, come miller, come tailor, come singer!' cried she,
holding out a net of steel; and at each summons a fish appeared
and jumped into the net. When it was full she went into a large
kitchen and threw them all into a golden pot; but above the
bubbling of the water Houarn seemed to hear the whispering of
'Who is it whispering in the golden pot, Groac'h?' he inquired at
'It is nothing but the noise of the wood sparkling,' she
answered; but it did not sound the least like that to Houarn.
'There it is again,' he said, after a short pause.
'The water is getting hot, and it makes the fish jump,' she
replied; but soon the noise grew louder and like cries.
'What is it?' asked Houarn, beginning to feel uncomfortable.
'Just the crickets on the hearth,' said she, and broke into a
song which drowned the cries from the pot.
But though Houarn held his peace, he was not as happy as before.
Something seemed to have gone wrong, and then he suddenly
'Is it possible I can have forgotten her so soon? What a wretch
I am!' he thought to himself; and he remained apart and watched
the Groac'h while she emptied the fish into a plate, and bade him
eat his dinner while she fetched wine from her cellar in a cave.
Houarn sat down and took out the knife which Bellah had given
him, but as soon as the blade touched the fish the enchantment
ceased, and four men stood before him.
'Houarn, save us, we entreat you, and save yourself too!'
murmured they, not daring to raise their voices.
'Why, it must have been you who were crying out in the pot just
now!' exclaimed Houarn.
'Yes, it was us,' they answered. 'Like you, we came to the isle
of Lok to seek our fortunes, and like you we consented to marry
the Groac'h, and no sooner was the ceremony over than she turned
us into fishes, as she had done to all our forerunners, who are
in the fish-pond still, where you will shortly join them.'
On hearing this Houarn leaped into the air, as if he already felt
himself frizzling in the golden pot. He rushed to the door,
hoping to escape that way; but the Groac'h, who had heard
everything, met him on the threshold. Instantly she threw the
steel net over his head, and the eyes of a little green frog
peeped through the meshes.
'You shall go and play with the rest,' she said, carrying him off
to the fish-pond.
It was at this very moment that Bellah, who was skimming the milk
in the farm dairy, heard the fairy bell tinkle violently.
At the sound she grew pale, for she knew it meant that Houarn was
in danger; and, hastily, changing the rough dress she wore for
her work, she left the farm with the magic stick in her hand.
Her knees were trembling under her, but she ran as fast as she
could to the cross roads, where she drove her stick into the
ground, murmuring as she did so a verse her mother had taught
Little staff of apple-tree, Over the earth and over the sea,
Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,
and immediately the stick became a smart little horse, with a
rosette at each ear and a feather on his forehead. He stood
quite still while Bellah scrambled up, then he started off, his
pace growing quicker and quicker, till at length the girl could
hardly see the trees and houses as they flashed past. But, rapid
as the pace was, it was not rapid enough for Bellah, who stooped
'The swallow is less swift than the wind, the wind is less swift
than the lightning. But you, my horse, if you love me, must be
swifter than them all, for there is a part of my heart that
suffers --the best part of my heart that is in danger.'
And the horse heard her, and galloped like a straw carried along
by a tempest till they reached the foot of a rock called the Leap
of the Deer. There he stopped, for no horse or mule that ever
was born could climb that rock, and Bellah knew it, so she began
to sing again:
Horse of Leon, given to me, Over the earth and over the sea,
Up in the air be guide to me, Everywhere to wander free,
and when she had finished, the horse's fore legs grew shorter and
spread into wings, his hind legs became claws, feathers sprouted
all over his body, and she sat on the back of a great bird, which
bore her to the summit of the rock. Here she found a nest made
of clay and lined with dried moss, and in the centre a tiny man,
black and wrinkled, who gave a cry of surprise at the sight of
'Ah! you are the pretty girl who was to come and save me!'
'To save you!' repeated Bellah. 'But who are you, my little
'I am the husband of the Groac'h of the isle of Lok, and it is
owing to her that I am here.'
'But what are you doing in this nest?'
'I am sitting on six eggs of stone, and I shall not be set free
till they are hatched.'
On hearing this Bellah began to laugh.
'Poor little cock!' she said, 'and how am I to deliver you?'
'By delivering Houarn, who is in the power of the Groac'h.'
'Ah! tell me how I can manage that, and if I have to walk round
the whole of Brittany on my bended knees I will do it!'
'Well, first you must dress yourself as a young man, and then go
and seek the Groac'h. When you have found her you must contrive
to get hold of the net of steel that hangs from her waist, and
shut her up in it for ever.'
'But where am I to find a young man's clothes?' asked she.
'I will show you,' he replied, and as he spoke he pulled out
three of his red hairs and blew them away, muttering something
the while. In the twinkling of an eye the four hairs changed into
four tailors, of whom the first carried a cabbage, the second a
pair of scissors, the third a needle, and the fourth an iron.
Without waiting for orders, they sat down in the nest and,
crossing their legs comfortably, began to prepare the suit of
clothes for Bellah.
With one of the leaves of the cabbage they made her a coat, and
another served for a waistcoat; but it took two for the wide
breeches which were then in fashion. The hat was cut from the
heart of the cabbage, and a pair of shoes from the thick stem.
And when Bellah had put them all on you would have taken her for
a gentleman dressed in green velvet, lined with white satin.
She thanked the little men gratefully, and after a few more
instructions, jumped on the back of her great bird, and was borne
away to the isle of Lok. Once there, she bade him transform
himself back into a stick, and with it in her hand she stepped
into the blue boat, which conducted her to the palace of shells.
The Groac'h seemed overjoyed to see her, and told her that never
before had she beheld such a handsome young man. Very soon she
led her visitor into the great hall, where wine and fruit were
always waiting, and on the table lay the magic knife, left there
by Houarn. Unseen by the Groac'h, Bellah hid it in a pocket of
her green coat, and then followed her hostess into the garden,
and to the pond which contained the fish, their sides shining
with a thousand different colours.
'Oh! what beautiful, beautiful creatures!' said she. 'I'm sure I
should never be tired of watching them.' And she sat down on the
bank, with her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, her
eyes fixed on the fishes as they flashed past.
'Would you not like to stay here always?' asked the Groac'h; and
Bellah answered that she desired nothing better.
'Then you have only to marry me,' said the Groac'h. 'Oh! don't
say no, for I have fallen deeply in love with you.'
'Well, I won't say "No,"' replied Bellah, with a laugh, 'but you
must promise first to let me catch one of those lovely fish in
'It is not so easy as it looks,' rejoined the Groac'h, smiling,
'but take it, and try your luck.'
Bellah took the net which the Groac'h held out, and, turning
rapidly, flung it over the witch's head.
'Become in body what you are in soul!' cried she, and in an
instant the lovely fairy of the sea was a toad, horrible to look
upon. She struggled hard to tear the net asunder, but it was no
use. Bellah only drew it the tighter, and, flinging the sorceress
into a pit, she rolled a great stone across the mouth, and left
As she drew near the pond she saw a great procession of fishes
advancing to meet her, crying in hoarse tones:
'This is our lord and master, who has saved us from the net of
steel and the pot of gold!'
'And who will restore you to your proper shapes,' said Bellah,
drawing the knife from her pocket. But just as she was going to
touch the foremost fish, her eyes fell on a green frog on his
knees beside her, his little paws crossed over his little heart.
Bellah felt as if fingers were tightening round her throat, but
she managed to cry:
'Is this you, my Houarn? Is this you?'
'It is I,' croaked the little frog; and as the knife touched him
he was a man again, and, springing up, he clasped her in his
'But we must not forget the others,' she said at last, and began
to transform the fishes to their proper shapes. There were so
many of them that it took quite a long time. Just as she had
finished there arrived the little dwarf from the Deer's Leap in a
car drawn by six cockchafers, which once had been the six stone
'Here I am!' he exclaimed. 'You have broken the spell that held
me, and now come and get your reward,' and, dismounting from his
chariot, he led them down into the caves filled with gold and
jewels, and bade Bellah and Houarn take as much as they wanted.
When their pockets were full, Bellah ordered her stick to become
a winged carriage, large enough to bear them and the men they had
rescued back to Lanillis.
There they were married the next day, but instead of setting up
housekeeping with the little cow and pig to fatten that they had
so long wished for, they were able to buy lands for miles round
for themselves, and gave each man who had been delivered from the
Groac'h a small farm, where he lived happily to the end of his
From 'Le Foyer Breton,' par E. Souvestre.
The Escape of the Mouse
Manawyddan the prince and his friend Pryderi were wanderers, for
the brother of Manawyddan had been slain, and his throne taken
from him. Very sorrowful was Manawyddan, but Pryderi was stout of
heart, and bade him be of good cheer, as he knew a way out of his
'And what may that be?' asked Manawyddan.
'It is that thou marry my mother Rhiannon and become lord of the
fair lands that I will give her for dowry. Never did any lady
have more wit than she, and in her youth none was more lovely;
even yet she is good to look upon.'
'Thou art the best friend that ever a man had,' said Manawyddan.
'Let us go now to seek Rhiannon, and the lands where she dwells.'
Then they set forth, but the news of their coming ran swifter
still, and Rhiannon and Kieva, wife of Pryderi, made haste to
prepare a feast for them. And Manawyddan found that Pryderi had
spoken the truth concerning his mother, and asked if she would
take him for her husband. Right gladly did she consent, and
without delay they were married, and rode away to the hunt,
Rhiannon and Manawyddan, Kieva and Pryderi, and they would not be
parted from each other by night or by day, so great was the love
One day, when they were returned, they were sitting out in a
green place, and suddenly the crash of thunder struck loudly on
their ears, and a wall of mist fell between them, so that they
were hidden one from the other. Trembling they sat till the
darkness fled and the light shone again upon them, but in the
place where they were wont to see cattle, and herds, and
dwellings, they beheld neither house nor beast, nor man nor
smoke; neither was any one remaining in the green place save
these four only.
'Whither have they gone, and my host also?' cried Manawyddan, and
they searched the hall, and there was no man, and the castle, and
there was none, and in the dwellings that were left was nothing
save wild beasts. For a year these four fed on the meat that
Manawyddan and Pryderi killed out hunting, and the honey of the
bees that sucked the mountain heather. For a time they desired
nothing more, but when the next year began they grew weary.
'We cannot spend our lives thus,' said Manawyddan at last, 'let
us go into England and learn some trade by which we may live.' So
they left Wales, and went to Hereford, and there they made
saddles, while Manawyddan fashioned blue enamel ornaments to put
on their trappings. And so greatly did the townsfolk love these
saddles, that no others were bought throughout the whole of
Hereford, till the saddlers banded together and resolved to slay
Manawyddan and his companions.
When Pryderi heard of it, he was very wroth, and wished to stay
and fight. But the counsels of Manawyddan prevailed, and they
moved by night to another city.
'What craft shall we follow?' asked Pryderi.
'We will make shields,' answered Manawyddan.
'But do we know anything of that craft?' answered Pryderi.
'We will try it,' said Manawyddan, and they began to make
shields, and fashioned them after the shape of the shields they
had seen; and these likewise they enamelled. And so greatly did
they prosper that no man in the town bought a shield except they
had made it, till at length the shield-makers banded together as
the saddlers had done, and resolved to slay them. But of this
they had warning, and by night betook themselves to another town.
'Let us take to making shoes,' said Manawyddan, 'for there are
not any among the shoemakers bold enough to fight us.'