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Title: The Crystal Palace and Other Legends
Author: Stebbins, Charles Maurice, Frary, Marie H. (Marie Henriette)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LEGENDS***


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[Illustration]


THE CRYSTAL PALACE
AND OTHER LEGENDS

Retold by

MARIE H. FRARY

and

CHARLES M. STEBBINS

With Illustrations by Herbert E. Martini



Stebbins and Company
New York
Publishers

Copyright, 1909
by
Stebbins and Company



PREFACE


Legends have a fascination for all classes of people, but they possess
a peculiar charm for children. They constitute, in fact, a form of
literature particularly fitting to the mental world of the child.
In them fact and fancy are happily blended. Around the bare facts
of recorded or unrecorded history, are woven the poetic ideals of a
romantic people.

Nothing could be more worth a child’s reading than a story of the past
that conveys not only an idea of the everyday life of real people,
but represents them also as striving after ideals in various forms of
beauty.

No influence is greater than the moral force of beauty. In the present
volume the purpose of the writers has been to present only such
legends as reveal simplicity, strength, and beauty. These qualities
make their inevitable appeal to the child fancy.

The subject matter of the book has been graded for children of eight
or ten years. It is, therefore, well suited for use as a supplementary
reader in the fourth or fifth grade.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                         PAGE

    THE CRYSTAL PALACE                      7

    THE ANGEL PAGE                         13

    THE GNOME’S ROAD                       21

    THE LORELEI                            26

    THE SUNKEN CITY                        31

    THE BIRD OF PARADISE                   39

    THE BELL OF ATRI                       48

    THE POT OF HOT PORRIDGE                53

    THE SILVER BELL                        57

    THE TWO BAKER BOYS                     66

    THE EMPEROR’S WOOING                   70

    THE MAGIC RING                         76

    CHARLEMAGNE’S GENEROSITY               83

    THE SILVER BRIDGE                      89

    THE PET RAVEN                          93

    THE NIGHT OF THE STOLEN TREASURE      101

    THE WATER SPRITES                     106

    THE GIANT MAIDEN                      109

    THE SWAN KNIGHT                       113



THE CRYSTAL PALACE


Many, many years ago there lived in the village of Zurdorf, a queer
little old woman. She was a very kind old lady and a good nurse. Often
she was called upon to care for the boys and girls of the village.

They quite enjoyed being ill because she knew so many interesting
stories. She told them of great knights and ladies, of castles and
fairies, of the wood nymphs and the water sprites; but best of all was
the story of old Father Rhine.

One night as she sat knitting, a knock came at the cottage door. She
opened it and there stood a strange man, carrying a lantern of curious
pattern. He did not speak, but motioned to her to follow him.

The night was dark, and the rain was pouring down in torrents. Great
pools were found in the streets. Aunt Margot, as the children called
the old lady, hesitated to follow the stranger. It was not, however,
because she was afraid of the storm, but because the man was a stranger.

He motioned to her again. She saw that his face was kindly, and so
decided to follow him. Down the dark street they passed, splashing
through the deep pools of water.

Suddenly the water became deeper, and began to eddy about Margot’s
ankles. She became frightened and was about to turn and flee.

“I can go no farther,” she shouted; “what manner of man art thou, and
whither wouldst thou lead me?”

The old man did not answer, but caught Margot in his arms and plunged
into the river Rhine. It had risen from its banks, and its eddying
waters had frightened Margot.

Down, down, through cold green waters they sank. It seemed to Margot
as if she were going down forever. She closed her eyes and ceased to
struggle.

At last they seemed to have passed out of the water, and Margot opened
her eyes. She found herself in a wonderful crystal palace. Precious
stones glittered all about her. The ornaments were of silver and gold.
As soon as she had recovered from her wonder, she was led into an
immense chamber. Here on a bed of crystal, with silken coverings, lay a
beautiful golden haired nymph, who was ill.

“I have brought you here,” said the old man, “to care for my beautiful
wife. Nurse her tenderly back to health, and you shall never regret it.”

The lovely nymph was so good to look upon that old Margot took great
delight in caring for her. She tended her so gently and so faithfully
that the golden haired lady improved rapidly. She was soon quite well.

In soft whispers she told the old nurse that her husband was a mighty
water spirit. Mortals called him Father Rhine. She had lived on the
earth and was the only daughter of the Lord of Rheidt.

One day when she was at a village dance, there appeared before her
a strange man. He was clad in foamy green. He asked her to tread a
measure with him. Round and round they whirled until they reached the
water edge. Suddenly he plunged with her into the stream, and brought
her to the crystal palace, where he made her his happy wife.

“And now, kind nurse, we must soon part,” said the beautiful lady.
“When Father Rhine offers to reward you, accept from him only your
usual fee, no matter how much he urges you to take more. He loves
honesty, but loathes greed.”

Just then Father Rhine appeared. Seeing his beloved wife quite well
again, the river god beckoned to the nurse to follow him. He led her
through many halls of the great castle. Finally they came to his
treasure chamber. Here all around lay great heaps of gold, silver, and
precious stones.

The water god was very grateful to the good nurse for saving his
wife; so he bade her help herself. The old woman gazed upon the
jewels longingly. How well she could use them to help the poor! She
remembered, however, what the beautiful golden haired lady had told
her. So she selected only a small fee such as she always received. The
mysterious man urged her to take more, but she firmly refused.

Then the great water god took her by the hand and led her through a
long dark corridor. Suddenly she found herself again in the cold water
of the Rhine. Slowly he rose with her through the dark flood. Up and up
they went until she found herself, dripping but safe, on the shore near
her own house. As he beckoned adieu to her, Father Rhine flung a whole
handful of gold into her lap. Then he plunged into the river again and
was gone.

Ever since that time the little people of the village have loved to
hear of the wonders of the crystal palace beneath the flood. So the
good nurse tells it over and over again. And she never forgets to show
the handful of gold which, she says, is the same Father Rhine gave her.



THE ANGEL PAGE


A handsome lad once sought a brave and noble knight, asking leave to
serve him as page. The knight was greatly charmed by the graceful
manners of the young lad, and was pleased with his unusual request. He
granted the lad’s prayer, and never once did he have cause to regret it.

The little page did every duty with great cheerfulness and skill. He
was so devoted to his master that he was able to foresee almost every
wish. It was not long before he had won his master’s love, and the two
became constant comrades.

The years passed swiftly by. The knight had never before been so happy,
and never so successful. Everything seemed to turn out just as he
wished it. Nothing had gone wrong since the day that the little page
had entered his gate.

One day as the two were riding along the banks of the Rhine, they
noticed a band of robbers coming toward them. These men had often
sought to harm the good knight. The band was so large that it was easy
to see that the brave knight could make no headway against them. There
seemed to be no way of escape.

“Would to God,” cried the brave man, “that you were safe within my
castle walls, my faithful little page! We are lost, my lad, but we must
sell our lives as dearly as possible. Let us die like heroes. Do you
get behind me, my page, and, if possible, I bid you flee.”

“My dear master,” replied the little page, “follow me. I will show you
a way to escape. Follow me.”

The page put spurs to his horse and galloped along the river bank.
Suddenly he turned the unwilling steed directly into the rushing
stream.

“Rash boy, come back!” called the knight, dashing forward with the hope
of overtaking the daring page. “Better die fighting bravely than perish
miserably in the river. Come back, my page, come back!”

“Have no fear, my dear master, but follow me,” still cried the little
page.

The sound of his voice rose so confidently above the noise of the wind
and waves that the knight obeyed, hardly knowing what he was doing. A
few minutes later the horses had found a firm footing in the river.
Guided by the faithful little page, the knight safely forded the
stream. He reached the farther shore just as his enemies came down to
the water’s edge.

The angry robbers urged their steeds into the deep water, but no trace
of ford could be found and they were forced to give up the pursuit.

The knight’s love for the little page was greatly increased after this,
and the little page, too, seemed to love his master more and more. He
was only happy when in his master’s presence or when doing some errand
for him.

A short time after this happy escape from death the knight’s beautiful
wife became suddenly ill. The knight loved her as he loved his own
life, and was in great sorrow for fear that she might die.

Many wise doctors were called to her bedside, but they could do
nothing. They declared that there was only one thing that would cure
her--the milk of a lioness. That could not be obtained because there
were no lions in the country.

The rumor of this strange remedy spread rapidly through the castle. It
came to the ears of the faithful little page. He at once sprang to his
feet and rushed out of the hall. An hour later, before any change had
taken place in the lady’s condition, the page returned to the castle.

He went directly to the bedside of his mistress and sat down, flushed
and panting. But in his hand he bore a cup full of the milk of a
lioness, which was given to the patient at once. In a few moments the
color crept back into the lady’s pale cheeks. A new light came into
her eyes and she sank into a sweet sleep. When she awoke she was fully
cured. All her strength had come back, and she was very happy.

Then the good knight went to seek the little page. He poured out to him
his thanks. He could not say enough to express what he felt for his
faithful servant. He wished to know all about it.

“Tell me, my sweet, faithful page,” he urged, “how you were able to get
this remedy, which all my wealth could not procure.”

“My noble master,” replied the page, “I knew that a lioness was lying
with her cubs in an Arabian den, and so I--”

“Arabia!” exclaimed the knight, interrupting the page, “Arabia! Did
you find your way there and back in one short hour?”

“Yes, my dear master,” replied the little page, “that is the truth.”
And he fixed his beautiful, truthful eyes on his master’s pale,
wondering face.

“My lad, who are you then?” suddenly asked the knight, a nameless fear
gnawing at his heart. “Who are you? Speak; tell me everything.”

“Master, my noble master, ask not who I am nor whence I came,” cried
the little page, sinking down at the knight’s feet, and raising his
beseeching hands. “Do not ask me. Let me remain by your side, my good
master. Remember that no harm has come to you since I have been in your
service.”

“My page, stop this pleading and tell me what I ask. Who are you?”
continued the knight, paying no attention to the little page’s
beseeching look.

“A spirit, O my master, a spirit of light, who for you and yours left
a home in the realms above. But now I must leave you, my master.
Farewell; farewell.”

“Lad, lad, my sweet lad, leave me not. Stay with me still,” cried the
knight. “Ask what reward you please, but do not forsake me. Remain, my
faithful little page, for I cannot live without you.”

“You have asked me what I am and whence I came, and have mentioned a
reward. The charm, my dear master, is broken, and now I must leave you.
In return for the things that I have done for you so cheerfully and so
lovingly, I ask you to place a silver bell in the midst of the forest.
Its tinkling sound may guide many weary travelers and help them to find
their way home. Dedicate the bell to God and to his angelic host, O
master; and now receive my last farewell.”

The little page suddenly vanished. No one saw him leave the hall nor
pass through the castle gates, and no trace of him was ever found. The
angel page had faded from mortal sight and returned to his home above.
He had gone back to live with spirits as good and faithful and pure as
himself.

The knight at once had the silver bell placed in the forest. But he
could not forget his faithful page. He sought for him everywhere, and
when at evening the silver tones of the little bell rang out in the
quiet air they seemed to him like the words of an angel, and filled his
heart with restless desire.

The noble knight seemed to lose all interest in life. His strength
began to fail; his step grew slow and feeble; and one day when the
shades of night were falling and the first tinkle of the little bell
came to his ear, he softly murmured “My page, my faithful little page”;
and he went to live with the spirit he had learned to love so well.

[Illustration]



THE GNOME’S ROAD


On the high hill above the Rhine still stand the ruins of an old
Castle. Here Kuno Von Sayne once lived. Kuno was a very proud young man
for he was a member of a very noble family.

He had fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of the surly old
Lord of Faulkenstein. At last he succeeded in winning the love of the
maiden, but of her father he had great fear.

After many months of hoping and fearing, he decided to go to the old
Lord and ask for his daughter’s hand. One beautiful morning he set out
on his mission, to the Castle of Faulkenstein. This Castle was perched
far up on the heights that rose above a small river.

It was a long journey, and he had almost lost his courage when he
reached the place. However, he went at once into the presence of the
Lord of Faulkenstein and boldly made known his wish.

The grim, old Lord looked at him long and closely, then in tones that
were terrible to poor Kuno spoke.

“I will,” he said, “consider the matter if you will promise to do one
thing for me.”

Without waiting to find out what he was to do, Kuno eagerly consented.

“Then,” said the Lord of Faulkenstein, “you may wed my daughter on
condition that you build a convenient road over the jagged rock to the
village. You are to ride up that road on your war horse before sunrise
to-morrow morning.”

Poor Kuno was speechless. Nothing was to be said, for he knew how
impossible was the task. Many months of hard labor would scarcely
accomplish the great work.

Sadly he made his way down the rocks again. He had not been able to
catch even a glimpse of the fair Irmangarde, his beloved, so he sat
down upon a rock in the valley and began to reproach himself for his
stupidity.

Suddenly he was aroused from his thoughts by a small voice calling to
him.

“Kuno, Kuno Von Sayne,” it said.

He looked up and there before him stood the King of the Gnomes.

“Despair not,” said the kindly little man. “Myself and my subjects will
gladly help so good a knight; so away to the inn where you left your
steed. Before sunrise to-morrow morning the road shall be ready.”

At this the King of the Gnomes waved his hand. A great mist rose
and covered the hill and valley with its dense vapor. Thousands of
dwarf-like creatures now sprang out of the ground on all sides. They
began using axes, hammers, and spades with great good will. All night
long Kuno Von Sayne heard the crashing of great forest trees, and the
breaking of stones. Now and then he heard a loud rumble like thunder;
there was a continual clatter and crashing throughout the whole night.
At dawn he came from his room, and was greeted by the inn-keeper.

“A great storm must have raged over the valley last night,” said the
latter. “I was kept awake all the night by the noise.”

Kuno did not pause to listen to the man’s tales, but loudly called
for his horse. He mounted and rode rapidly away to the foot of the
mountain. Far above him loomed the Castle of Faulkenstein. How Kuno’s
heart leaped with joy. There, indeed, was a road leading up to the
Castle. True to his promise, the King of the Gnomes had built a broad,
convenient road through the forest and over the rocks. Kuno galloped
boldly up, exchanging smiles with the kindly dwarfs who peered at him
from behind every rock and tree. From the ramparts of the Castle,
stepped the beautiful Irmangarde.

Kuno dashed over the arched bridge the dwarfs were just finishing and
greeted her gaily. The dwarfs raised a glad shout of triumph. The
Knight of Faulkenstein was awakened by the shout. He looked out, and
there, stretching far out from the Castle, saw the newly built road. He
thought he must still be dreaming, and rubbed his eyes again and again.

When, however, he saw the beaming face of Irmangarde and Kuno, he knew
that he had been outwitted. So as the first sunbeams fell upon the
Castle, lighting up the gladdened heart and blushing cheeks of the
maiden, Kuno claimed her as his bride. The Lord of Faulkenstein was
proud to accept a man who could do such wonderful things as Kuno had
accomplished during the night.



THE LORELEI


Count Ludwig was the only son of the Prince Palatine. He lived with
his father in the castle at Stahleck. The young count had heard many
marvelous tales of the beautiful Lorelei and he determined to go in
search of her.

One evening he stole from his father’s castle to sail down the
Rhine. He hoped to catch a glimpse of the Siren Lorelei. The stars
were twinkling softly overhead, and the bark slowly drifted down the
river. Darker and darker grew the waters as the bed of the Rhine grew
narrower. But the young count did not notice this. His eyes were fixed
on the rocks far above, where he hoped to see the beautiful nymph.

Suddenly he saw a shimmer of white drapery and golden hair. At the same
time he heard the faint, sweet sound of an alluring song. As he drew
nearer, the melody became more distinct. The moonbeams fell upon the
maiden and seemed to make her even more beautiful. She bent over the
rocky ledge and beckoned him to draw nearer.

The count and boatman were spellbound by the vision above them, and
they paid no heed to the vessel. Suddenly the boat struck against the
rocks and went to pieces. The men struggled against the swift current,
and all escaped except the young count. Him the Lorelei took down
to her magic palace below the river to be her lover forever. Many
different stories about the young count’s fate were related by the men
who escaped.

The Prince Palatine was deeply grieved over his only son’s death. He
blamed the beautiful Lorelei and longed for revenge. Finally he sent
for one of his greatest warriors.

“You are to capture this wicked creature who has caused so much woe,”
he said. “Take a band of armed men and post them at once all around
the rock, so that the nymph cannot escape.”

The great warrior did as he was commanded. At the head of a band of
armed men he climbed noiselessly up the moonlit cliff and presented
himself before the charming Lorelei. There she sat, as usual, combing
her golden hair and crooning her matchless song. The men hemmed her in
on all sides. They left no mode of escape except by the steep descent
to the river.

“We command you to surrender,” said the captain of the band.

The nymph made no reply, but gracefully waved her white hands. The grim
old warriors suddenly felt as if rooted to the spot. They could neither
move nor speak.

There they stood motionless with dilated eyes fixed upon the Lorelei.
They saw her remove all of her jewels and drop them one by one into
the Rhine beneath her feet. Then she whirled about in a mystic spell,
chanting her magic tunes. They could understand nothing of it except
now and then a word about white-maned steeds and pearl shell chariots.

When the song and dance were ended, the waters of the Rhine began to
seethe and bubble. Higher and higher they rose, until they reached the
top of the cliff.

The petrified warriors felt the cold tide surge about their feet.
Suddenly they saw a great white-crested wave rolling rapidly toward
them. In its green depths they beheld a chariot drawn by white-maned
steeds. Into this car the Lorelei sprang and quickly vanished over the
edge of the cliff into the river.

In a few moments the angry waters had sunk to their usual level. The
brave warriors discovered that they could move once more. They rubbed
their eyes and looked about them. No trace of the sudden rise except
the water drops along the face of the cliff could be seen. These shone
in the moonlight like diamonds.

The Lorelei has never since then appeared on the cliff. But boatmen
have often heard the faint sweet echo of her alluring song, wafted
toward them on the summer breeze at midnight. It is said that she
remains in her beautiful palace and gardens below the green Rhine,
enjoying the companionship of her earthly lover.



THE SUNKEN CITY


There was once, we are told, a fine tract of land where now roll the
waves of the Zuyder Zee. On the very spot where now the fishermen
anchor their boats and fish, there stood a beautiful city. It was
protected from the sea by great dykes.

The name of the city was Stavoren, and the people who lived there were
very wealthy. Some of them were so wealthy that they laid their great
halls with floors of gold and silver. But in spite of their wealth they
were selfish, thoughtless, and hard hearted. For the poor people they
cared nothing.

The richest person among them was a maiden lady. She had palaces,
farms, ships and counting-houses--everything that one could desire. But
she thought of nothing except how she might increase her store. With
this in mind she one day summoned the captain of her largest vessel.

When he came she bade him sail away to procure a cargo of the most
precious things of earth, and to return within the year. Not knowing
exactly what she wished, the captain questioned her, but she simply
repeated her order and sent him away at once.

The captain set sail from Stavoren without knowing where he was going.
After leaving the harbor he called his officers together and asked
their advice. Each had a different opinion as to what were the most
precious things of earth.

The captain was plunged into greater doubt than ever. He thought over
the question for many long hours, smoking his pipe and scratching his
head. At last he said to himself that nothing could be more precious
than wheat, which is the staff of life.

Accordingly he purchased a cargo of grain, and returned happily to
his native town, arriving long before the year had passed. The haughty
lady had in the meantime told all her friends that her vessel had gone
in search of the most precious thing of earth. She would not tell her
closest friend what that most precious thing might be. So everybody was
very curious.

When one day her captain appeared suddenly before her and told her that
he had brought a cargo of wheat, her pride vanished. She flew into a
terrible rage and commanded that every kernel be cast into the sea at
once. The captain was shocked at this order and plead with her to allow
him to give the wheat to the poor. She repeated her command.

“I will come down to the port myself,” she said, “to make sure that
every kernel is cast into the sea.”

The captain made his way sadly back to his vessel. As he did so he met
several beggars by the way and told them that a cargo of wheat was to
be cast into the sea. By the time the lady reached the dock the poor
had gathered there from all parts of the city, hoping to secure some of
the grain.

When the lady approached, many imploring hands were extended toward
her, but all was in vain. Angry and proud, she made the sailors cast
all the wheat into the sea. The captain, powerless to prevent this
sinful waste, looked on in quiet rage. When the last kernel had
disappeared beneath the water he turned to his haughty mistress.

“As surely as there is a God above us,” he exclaimed, “you will be
punished for this sin. The time will come when you, the wealthiest
person in Stavoren, will long for a few handfuls of this wasted wheat.”

The lady listened to his words in haughty silence. When he had
finished, she took a costly ring from her delicate hand and cast it
into the sea.

“When this ring comes back to me,” she said, “I will believe what you
say and fear that I may come to want.”

A few hours afterward the lady’s cook was preparing dinner for her. He
was opening a large fish which had just been brought from the sea, when
to his surprise his eyes fell upon the costly ring. He immediately sent
it to his proud mistress. When she recognized it she turned very pale.

Shortly afterward there came a report that one of her counting-houses
had been ruined, and another report of disaster came that same evening.
All her counting-houses were ruined. Her fleet had been destroyed at
sea; her palaces were burning; and her farms were laid waste by storms.

In a few hours everything that she had possessed was stripped from her.
The palace in which she lived burned down during the night, and she
barely escaped with her life.

Now she was desolate, indeed! The rich people of the city cared nothing
for her now that her money was all gone. The poor people whom she
had treated with contempt allowed her to die of hunger and cold in a
miserable shed.

The city of Stavoren did not profit by the sad end of the haughty lady.
The rich people continued to enjoy life and to neglect the poor. It did
not matter to them what happened to their wretched fellow creatures.
They, like the haughty lady, were truly selfish.

As time went on the sand began to increase in the port, so that it
was soon impossible for ships to come to anchor. It grew worse and
worse. The waves washed the sand up until a great sand-bar rose above
the waters and all further commerce was stopped. It was not very long
before the sand bank was covered with little green blades. The people
gazed upon it in surprise.

“It is the Lady’s Sand,” they declared. “For it is the wheat that she
had cast into the sea that is growing there.”

The wheat grew very rapidly, but bore no fruit. It did not matter to
the rich even if traffic had ceased. They did not suffer. The poor,
however, were greatly distressed, for they now had nothing to do. They
besought help from the rich, but their prayers fell upon deaf ears.

Not long afterward a little leak was discovered in the dyke which
protected the city. Through this the sea water crept into the city
reservoir, spoiling all the drinking water.

The rich people only laughed, saying that they would drink champagne,
since water was not to be had. But what were the poor to do? They
crowded around the gates of the rich, imploring a sup of beer, but were
rudely driven away.

“It would be a good thing,” said the rich, “if these wretched
creatures should actually die. Of what use are they to themselves or to
any one else?”

The rich of Stavoren had had their last chance to do good. That very
same night when the revelers had returned to sleep, the sea broke down
the weakened dykes. Bursting in, it covered up the whole town.

Over the spot where Stavoren once stood the waves now glitter in the
bright sun light or plunge and dash when the cold winds come sweeping
in from the sea.

Boatmen come rowing up from the desolate little fishing town which
now bears the name of the ancient city. When the waters are smooth
they rest upon their oars to point out far beneath them the spires and
turrets and palaces of Stavoren.

The streets of the old town as it lies beneath the waves, once so
populous, are deserted. The market place is empty. No sound is to be
heard except when some inquiring fish, swimming through the belfries,
strikes one of the bells with his tail. Then there is heard a sad sound
which seems to be tolling the knell of the sunken city.



THE BIRD OF PARADISE


There once lived in the monastery at Heisterbach a kindly monk, of
great learning and simple manners. He had studied for many years that
he might settle some doubts that troubled him.

He had observed that people grow tired of even the best of things. They
desire to behold new scenes, to hear new music, and to taste new dishes.

“I wonder if it will be so in Heaven,” he said to himself. “Shall we
not grow weary of beauties and joys of Heaven in the endless flow of
ages?”

This question perplexed him sorely; but he was unable to answer it to
his satisfaction. Wearied with the doubt, he decided to put it away
from him if possible. So one beautiful sunny morning in summer he
turned his steps toward the woods that stretched away for miles back of
the monastery.

It was such a morning as makes one glad to be alive. Silvery clouds
were floating like great white ships across the blue sky. The gentle
breeze was playing among the branches of the trees. Flowers were
blooming and birds were singing happily everywhere.

Earth seemed to breathe forth peace and joy for all mankind. Beauty and
blessing were everywhere. Yet, with all this to gladden him, Alfus was
not satisfied. His heart was not at ease.

“Alas!” he sighed, “how all is changed! The rapture with which I first
looked upon this lovely scene, is gone. The beauty with which it once
greeted me is no more. Why must it be so?”

As Alfus was pondering on this thought he wandered on, paying no
attention to the path he was following. Hour after hour passed and
still he walked on, until finally he became weary and decided to rest.
He sat down on a mossy bank and began to look about him.

It was a beautiful spot, and one which he had never visited before,
although he thought he was familiar with every place in the forest. The
trees were tall and leafy. The branches stretched out forming beautiful
arches above him. At his feet were delicate ferns and wild flowers of
many different colors. He heard the drowsy hum of the bee and saw a
beautiful butterfly flitting about from flower to flower.

His admiration was awakened. It seemed as if he saw a new beauty in the
things about him, and he forgot that he was tired. Suddenly there came
to him the song of a bird which seemed to be the sweetest he had ever
heard. He looked and saw the bird perched upon a tree nearby. It seemed
to pour forth its song in one strain of perfect happiness. It seemed
so thrilling and so beautiful that Alfus could not think it earthly.
With intense delight the monk leaned back against the mossy bank,
listening to the strain. The song lasted but a moment and ceased as
suddenly as it had begun. Alfus desired to hear it again. He looked for
the bird, and waited, but it was gone. Around him all was silence. Even
the breeze seemed to have ceased its rustling among the leaves of the
trees. The monk slowly rose and began his way back through the woods to
the monastery.

But how everything seemed to have changed. Could it be that he was in
a part of the woods he had never visited before? He, too, did not seem
to be the same. His steps were now halting and slow, and all his body
seemed feeble and stiff. As he looked at his beard he saw that it was
gray.

He walked on in amazement. The trees seemed to have become much larger
since he had entered the forest. Even the bushes had grown into tall
trees. He wondered if he were dreaming or if he had lost his mind.

[Illustration]

Slowly and painfully he picked his way back through the dense forest,
and after several hours of walking came to the open land. Eagerly he
looked up to the monastery, but that too had changed. It was older and
grayer than before and seemed to have increased in size. A new portion
had been added, and the entrance gate was not the same which had stood
there when he left in the morning. Everything looked older.

What could have happened? He had been gone but a few hours, yet all the
world had changed. It seemed as if he were in another century. Alfus
passed his hand across his eyes as if to clear his sight and anxiously
walked on. As he passed the fountain at the village he saw some women
washing, but they were new to him; yet he had known every man woman and
child for miles around. Whence had these strange faces come?

“Look,” cried one of them as the old man passed by. “This ancient monk
wears the dress of the order, yet his face is new to me; I have never
seen him before. Who can he be?”

To this strange remark Alfus paid no heed. He only hastened on the
faster. He was beginning to doubt his senses. He went directly to the
gate of the monastery. But this was much larger than it had been when
he had left. He rang the bell. The sound was no longer the same. The
silvery peal of the bell he had known had given place to the harsh
clang of a much larger one.

At length there came a young monk to open the door. Alfus was amazed.
It was a stranger--a man whom he had never seen before. He gazed at him
speechless.

“What has happened,” he said. “Why are all things so changed? Where is
Brother Antony? Why does he not open the door as usual?”

“Brother Antony!” exclaimed the monk. “There is no such person here.
I am the porter, and no one but me has opened this door for the last
twenty years.”

For a moment poor Alfus stood on the threshold as if petrified. Then
he beheld two monks slowly passing along the corridor. They, too, were
strangers, but he reached forward and clutched one of them by the gown.

“Brethren,” he cried in agony, “I beseech you speak. Tell me what has
happened. Only a few hours ago I left the monastery for a quiet walk in
the woods, and now when I come back, behold, all is changed. Where is
the Abbot? Where are my companions? Is there no one here who remembers
Alfus?”

“Alfus--Alfus,” repeated one of the monks thoughtfully to himself.
“There has been no one of that name here for a hundred years. There was
once a man by that name in the monastery, but he disappeared long ago.
I remember hearing about him when I was a small lad, but whether the
story is true or not, I cannot tell.

“He went one morning, as was often his custom, to walk in the forest
alone,” the monk went on, “and they never heard from him afterward. The
monks sought for him throughout the forest day after day, but no trace
of him could be found. He seemed to have vanished from the earth. The
Abbot thought that God must have borne him up to Heaven in a chariot of
fire like Elijah. He was a very holy man, indeed. But all this happened
so long ago, that it may be simply a story.”

At these words a sudden light seemed to shine in the face of poor
Alfus. He sank to his knees and clasped his trembling hands as if in
prayer.

“Now I understand, O God, that a thousand years are but as a day in thy
sight. A whole century passed while I held my breath to listen to the
song of the bird--the bird which sings at the gate of Paradise. Forgive
my doubts, O Lord, and grant that I may enter into thy rest.”

As the monks looked at Alfus they saw that a great calm had settled
upon his face. A radiant smile played about his lips. He sank back
gently upon a settle and the wondering monks crowded about him, but to
their astonishment he did not move, and when they looked more closely
they saw that his pure soul had flown away to his Heavenly mansion,
there to enjoy endless ages of unchanging happiness.



THE BELL OF ATRI


In olden times there lived in Italy a kind-hearted king. He was sorry
for any trouble that came to his people, and did all he could to make
them happy. Because of his goodness the people called him Good King
John.

“I wish all of my people to be just,” said the king. “And I wish every
one to be treated justly.”

Not all of his people were as good as King John himself. Many did
wrongs to their neighbors. And the neighbors complained to the good
King.

“I will set up a great bell in the market place,” said the King at
last. “If any one is wronged, let him ring the bell. He shall have
justice.”

So the King had a large bell set up in the market place, where any one
could ring it. Then he appointed a good judge to right the people’s
wrongs.

Many people rang the bell in the years that followed. All received
justice and went away happy. The bell was used so much that the rope
was worn away little by little. At last it became so short that many
people could not reach it. Then some one fastened a piece of grape vine
to the rope.

Now, there lived in Atri an old Knight. In his younger days he had
loved to hunt, and had kept many horses and dogs. Now he could hunt no
more, and so sold all his horses except the one he had liked best.

It happened that the old Knight began to think of nothing but money. He
wished to be very rich.

“What is the use of keeping this one horse?” he asked himself. “He
does nothing but eat and sleep. It costs too much to keep him. I will
turn him out to look after himself.”

So the faithful old horse was turned out into the street. It was in
the dry, hot summer, and there was little grass to be found. The horse
wandered about under the burning sun, getting a bite here and a bite
there.

In his wandering he came finally to the market place. He saw the vine
hanging to the bell rope.

“These leaves,” he thought, “are better than nothing, though they are
withered.”

He began to pull at the withered leaves. The very first pull set the
great bell to ringing loudly. The poor horse was so hungry that he
paid no attention to the ringing. He kept on eating, and the bell rang
louder and louder.

The judge heard the sounds, and wondered who was ringing the bell so
loudly. He put on his robe and hurried to the market place.

He was greatly surprised when he saw who had rung the bell. He felt
sorry for the poor creature, however.

“Even the dumb beast,” he murmured, “shall have justice. This is the
horse of the Knight of Atri.”

A large crowd of people had gathered in a few minutes. They told the
judge the story of the old horse. Their stories, however, did not
agree. The judge, therefore, decided to call the Knight himself.

The heartless old Knight said that the horse was useless to him, and
that he could not take care of him any longer. It cost too much money.

“Did he not always do his duty by you?” asked the judge. “Did he ever
refuse to carry you to the hunt, or to bring you safely home?”

The old Knight had to confess that the horse had always been faithful.

“The law decides, then,” cried the judge, “that you shall provide him
shelter and food as long as he lives.”

At this decision all the people clapped their hands and shouted loudly.

The old Knight ordered his servant to lead the horse back to the
stable. The people followed, cheering, because even a dumb animal could
get justice.

The fame of the bell of Atri spread abroad through all Italy.

To-day people know very little about the other things that Good King
John did. They simply remember him as the king who set up the bell of
justice at Atri.

[Illustration]



THE POT OF HOT PORRIDGE


In the beautiful land of Switzerland is a little town named Zurich. Not
far from here is the larger city of Strasburg. The people of Zurich had
long looked with envy on the larger city and wanted to become a part
of it. At last they decided to send an appeal to the magistrates. This
they did, but the great magistrate of Strasburg bluntly refused the
honor of such a union.

“Zurich is of no importance,” they said, “and besides it is too far
away to be of any help in time of need.”

When the councilors of Zurich heard the Strasburger’s answer, they
were very angry, indeed. They even talked of challenging the great
magistrates.

“No,” said the youngest of the Zurich councilors, “I will make them
eat their words. I pledge you my honor that I shall bring you a
different answer before long.”

The other councilors were glad to be relieved of the matter, so
they agreed and returned leisurely to their dwellings. The youngest
councilor went home in a great hurry. He went at once to the kitchen
and selected the biggest pot there.

“What are you going to do with that?” asked his wife.

“You will see,” he replied. “Fill it with as much oatmeal as it will
contain and cook it as quickly as possible.”

His wife wondered much at this strange command, but she bade her
servants build a roaring fire. This they did and soon the great pot of
oatmeal was cooking. Then such a time as they had stirring the oatmeal
to keep it from burning.

In the meantime, the youngest councilor ran down to the quay and
prepared the swiftest vessel. He collected a number of the best
oarsmen and when all was ready, bade two of them accompany him home.

He sprang breathless into the kitchen. The oatmeal was ready.

“Come boys,” he cried, “lift the vessel from the fire and run down to
the boat with it.”

He followed them closely and saw it placed in the boat. Then, turning
to the men, he exclaimed,

“Now, lads, row with all your might. We are bound to prove to those
stupid old Strasburgers that we are near enough to serve them a hot
supper in case of need.”

Aroused by these words, the youths bent to the oars. The vessel shot
down the Simwat, Aar, and Rhine, leaving town, village, and farms in
its wake. Never did it stop once till it reached the quay at Strasburg.

The councilor sprang ashore and bade the two youths follow with the
huge pot. He strode into the council hall and had them set it before
the assembled magistrates.

“Gentlemen, Zurich sends you a warm answer to your cold refusal,” he
exclaimed.

With open mouths the Strasburgers gazed at the still steaming pot. When
the young Zuricher explained how it got there they laughed heartily.
They were so amused with the wit and promptitude of their neighbors
that they voted at once to grant their request.

The papers for the alliance were signed and sealed. Then the great
magistrates called for spoons and ate every bit of the oatmeal. They
called it excellent, and it proved hot enough to burn more than one
councilor’s mouth.

Ever since then this huge iron pot has been known as the “pot of
alliance.” It has been carefully kept in the town hall of Strasburg,
where it can still be seen.



THE SILVER BELL


In the ancient city of Speyer, there were in olden times two great
bells. Neither one of these was ever rung by human hands, but it is
said that an angel came down from Heaven at night to ring one of these
bells whenever a person died.

One of the bells was of iron. It was rung whenever the soul of a
sinful person took its flight. The other bell was of pure silver. It
had been placed in the tower by a baron. He had erected it with the
understanding that it should never be rung until there came a person
who really loved his fellow men.

When this bell was erected it was muffled by many bands, so that it
could give forth no sound until it had been placed carefully in the
tower.

It was agreed also, that if no person who truly loved his fellow men
should be found within the space of thirty-three years, the bell should
forever remain silent. It was to be a witness against the unkindness of
men.

The thirty-three years were now almost completed, and no one had been
found in the whole country of whom it could be said that he unselfishly
loved his fellows. Many kind deeds had been done; many brave and noble
services had been performed; but when examined closely, there always
seemed to be some selfish motive behind them.

The people of the valley had looked longingly day after day at this
bell, and had hoped and prayed that some one might appear for whom the
bell could be rung. All longed to hear its silver sound. It was said to
give forth the most enchanting music. But the summers and winters came
and went.

The young people who had seen the bell placed in the tower had grown
old. They had waited and waited, and hope began to sink in their
hearts. They began to think that they should never hear the sound of
the silver bell.

An awful pestilence broke out in the land. There was no one who knew
how to save the wretched people. Gloom settled down over the whole
city. It seemed to be threatened with utter destruction.

Again there were deeds of mercy done; again hearts bled with sympathy
for their fellows; again people strove to find out someone who was
truly unselfish in his charity. But upon examination it was found that
people pitied their friends, and neglected their enemies. They wept
for those near them, but were thoughtless of those whom they did not
know. Fathers and mothers were brave to protect their own children, but
careless about the children of other people. So, though there were many
noble deeds done, it was found that they were not the result of a deep
love for mankind in general.

During all this time the iron bell rang almost continually. It rang by
day, and it rang by night, until hope and cheerfulness were gone, and
despair and fear settled down upon every household.

The King of this land was a handsome youth, who had just come to the
throne. He had always had everything that his heart could desire; and
was not trained to bear hardships or to sympathize with the suffering
of others. No one hoped to find comfort in him, or relief from despair.

At night, however, when the city was sunk to its fitful rest, this
young king knelt in prayer for the poor and the wretched, and then rose
to answer his prayer by his own hand. With food and clothes he loaded
his horse and went forth alone through the city, disguised as a peasant.

Night after night he passed through the dark and wretched streets,
carrying his treasures to distribute among the poor. From evening
until daybreak he labored alone to relieve the suffering of his people.
Then as the last shadows fled he returned to his palace gate.

The people at last began to hope that a truly unselfish soul had
appeared. They had, however, very little time to think of this matter
or of the silver bell because of their wretchedness. The thought,
however, that there was some one to care for them was a source of
comfort to many. Joy was awakened in their hearts, and joy brought
strength to them, until at last people returned to forge and field to
perform their usual labors.

The man, however, who had come to them in their need had remained
concealed. No one had found out or even suspected who he was. Many
thought that an angel had come to them. Many others believed that it
was the work of some good soul, and hoped to find out who it was. They
began to believe that the silver bell might yet be rung.

At last they went to the king and besought him to issue a proclamation,
in order that he might find out the person who had bestowed so many
bounties upon them.

“Surely,” they said, “a truly unselfish soul has been among us,
although we know not who he is.”

“My good people,” replied the king, “be contented. Should it not be
enough that God has sent his servant to you in the hour of your need?”

“This king,” they murmured, “in his wealth and power, enjoying the
blessings of youth, has not known what we have suffered, and therefore
cannot appreciate our gratitude. While we were starving in our hovels,
he was sitting in his castle, quaffing wine. We can expect nothing from
him.”

“At least,” clamored others, “let the great bell be rung, for the
thirty-three years are now almost over. We shall never hear its notes
of gladness unless it be rung today.”

“No,” replied the king still, “but if you will, go and pray that the
Lord may send His angel down to ring the bell, if in His perfect
knowledge he sees a being who is worthy of the honor.”

That night many people waited before the church, praying that God in
His goodness might send a spirit from on high to ring the silver bell.

The night slowly passed away, and lo, the sun’s first rays were just
about to come up over the mountains. Suddenly the sun seemed to pause;
the dusk continued. Then there came, as it were, a splendor from the
clouds, the brightness of which rested on the church and its tower.
The waiting multitude all looked up in astonishment. The bell began to
peal. It sent forth its angelic notes--notes such as no human being had
ever heard before. The waiting people were enraptured. It seemed to
them as if all the Heavenly Host were singing for joy.

The song of the bell was of peace and good will toward men. The sounds
echoed and re-echoed among the mountains, and were borne away to the
farthest valleys.

Just as the first light of the sun peeped up over the horizon, the
splendors faded from the tower and in their stead there appeared the
figure of a man clad in light. Across the tower there seemed to be a
row of letters. The people looked up and read: “Behold, the man who
loved truly his fellow men.”

Then everyone fell to his knees, for there stood the figure of their
King. Their hearts died within them, when they remembered how harshly
they had spoken of him: but they rejoiced at the same time to know that
it was he. They all rose up and went in haste to honor him whom they
had scorned of late.

When they reached the palace gate, however, they were not permitted
to enter. The angel who had rung the bell had entered the palace
before them, and had taken away with him the imperial soul that had
unselfishly loved his fellow men.



THE TWO BAKER BOYS


Many, many years ago the people in Germany lived in little towns with
high walls around them. They built walls around their towns because
they had quarrels with other towns. The walls protected them against
their enemies.

Sometimes people kept bee-hives on the high walls. The bees could fly
away into the fields outside and gather honey. There were not many
flowers inside the city to get honey from.

One morning two baker boys were hungry. They had to get up very early.
Some fine rolls had just been taken from the oven. The boys thought it
would be fine to have some rolls and honey.

“Let’s go up on the walls and get some honey out of one of the hives,”
said John.

“But the bees will sting us,” answered James. “Besides the watchman on
the walls might see us. Then we would be in trouble of another kind.”

John, however, persuaded James to go. The two boys stole out of the
shop, and ran across the street.

In a few minutes they were creeping up the stairs that led to the top
of the wall.

There was no watchman to be seen. He had gotten sleepy probably, and
had gone somewhere to rest. But there was a noise coming from somewhere.

The boys listened, but all was quiet again. They made their way quietly
along the wall till they came to the hives.

Then they covered their faces and got ready to rob the bees of their
treasure. John was just lifting the top from one of the hives, when he
heard another strange noise. He dropped the hive hurriedly.

The noise seemed to come from the outside of the wall. The boys looked
over, and saw a small army. It was the people of Linz, who had come to
attack the town.

Both boys were terribly frightened at first. They saw, however, that
something must be done to save the town.

“James,” said John, “you run yonder and ring the bell. I will tumble
the bee-hives down on their heads.”

James did as he was told. John pushed a hive over the wall. It fell
on the leader’s head and went to pieces. The bees were angry at being
disturbed in this way. They flew at the men and stung their hands and
faces, so that they were glad to run away.

Another bee-hive came tumbling down and then another. And the angry
bees put the whole army to flight.

By this time the bell had called the people out to defend the town. But
the army had already departed. The two boys and the bees had saved the
town.

The boys were not punished. Instead the people praised them for their
wise acts. It was decided to erect a monument in their honor.

One of the boys afterwards became mayor of the city. The other was long
known as the most famous baker of his time.



THE EMPEROR’S WOOING


The little town of Caub is very old. Above it in olden days rose
the Castle of Gutenfels. Here many years ago lived Philip, Count of
Faulkenstein and his only sister, Guda. This brother and sister were
orphans, and lived together there happily.

Many suitors had come to seek the hand of the beautiful Guda, but she
was happy in her brother’s love and wished no other. Often Philip urged
her to choose a husband from among the many wooers.

“My dear sister,” he said, “the time may come when I shall have to
leave you. War may break out at any time.”

“I have no desire for any love or protection except yours, my dear
Philip. I have never seen anyone as yet who has made me wish to leave
you.”

Count Philip and Guda used to be a great deal together; where one went
the other went, too. So when the great tournament was held at Cologne
they set out together to see it. The tournament was attended by a large
number of knights. One of them seemed to be greatly attracted by Guda’s
beauty. He had won all the prizes in the contest, and yet remained
unknown to everyone except the bishop.

The manners and conversation of the unknown knight pleased everyone,
and especially the Count of Faulkenstein. So much was he charmed by
the bearing of the victorious knight that he invited him to visit his
castle at Gutenfels. This invitation the knight eagerly accepted.

Philip and Guda welcomed him warmly and were very much delighted with
their new friend. The stranger’s admiration for Guda became more and
more plain; day by day he grew fonder of the beautiful girl.

“I should delight in lingering here forever,” he said at last.

This, however, could not be, for there was a great war in Germany. The
Emperor had died leaving no heir, so there were many who claimed the
right to the throne. Richard of Cornwall had most supporters. Many of
the nobles had declared for him, and were ready to take up arms in his
behalf.

Among those who departed for the war was Philip Faulkenstein. He set
out, leaving behind him his guest, who promised to follow within three
days, to fight by his side.

“Before I go,” he declared, “I must receive a certain message.”

Two days later the message came. In the meantime the knight had won
Guda’s love and her promise to wait for him until his return. So
Guda was left alone in the Castle of Gutenfels. Many hours she spent
thinking about her absent lover and wishing for his return.

At last the war was ended and her brother came back, yet Guda was not
happy. She began to grow anxious, for she had received no tidings from
her knight.

Weeks passed by. The anxious days stole the color from her cheeks. At
last she withdrew to her chamber in sorrow, for she was sure that her
knight was dead. She did not even wish to appear when the new Emperor,
Richard of Cornwall came to visit her brother at the castle.

When the Imperial Guest came he was clad from head to foot in heavy
armor. He refused even to raise his vizor.

“I have come,” he said, “on a personal errand. I have often heard of
the great beauty of your sister Guda and I wish to make her Empress.”

Philip was overjoyed at the prospect of such a happy marriage for his
sister. Joyfully he bore the Emperor’s offer to her.

“Alas, my brother,” she said, “it is impossible for me to accept the
Emperor’s love; mine belongs to another.”

When her reply was carried to the Emperor, he listened calmly, without
the least sign of displeasure.

“May I,” he said, “have the pleasure of beholding the lady? Perhaps I
may be able to win a more favorable answer.”

With vizor still lowered, and speaking in muffled tones, the Emperor
addressed Guda.

“Why, fair lady, do you refuse the suit of your Emperor? Forget your
former lover; he is either dead or faithless.”

“Sire,” she replied, “you do me the greatest honor in the world, yet
can I not accept it. I must remain true to him to whom I have given my
love. He may be dead, but I am sure he is not faithless.”

At this the Emperor threw up his vizor and clasped Guda in his arms.
As she looked into his bright face, she recognized him who had won her
love as a simple knight.

[Illustration]

She no longer refused to listen to his suit. Soon afterward she married
Richard Cornwall and became Empress of Germany.



THE MAGIC RING


Charlemagne was king of France and emperor of Germany. He had married
a beautiful eastern princess, whose name was Frastrada. His love for
her was so great that his only thought was to give her happiness. All
wondered at his devotion, but none suspected the cause.

Frastrada had a wonderful gold ring. On it were inscribed mystic signs.
Frastrada wore the ring continually, and it was this magic talisman
that had worked such a charm.

But the new queen did not long enjoy her power. A great illness
overtook her. During this time she thought often of the magic treasure
and feared it would pass into other hands. So she slipped the ring from
her finger into her mouth and quietly breathed her last.

The Emperor was quite overcome with grief. He refused to have the queen
taken to the cathedral, but stayed constantly by her side.

In vain the councilors and courtiers plead with him. In vain Turpin,
the prime minister, told him that the people had need of him. He
refused to leave the chamber where the queen lay, or to partake of
food. At last he fell asleep at his post.

Turpin felt convinced that the queen possessed some charm, so he stole
noiselessly to her bedside. After some time he found the ring. He
concealed it in his own clothing, and sat down to wait for Charlemagne
to awaken.

Soon the Emperor opened his eyes. He turned from the queen with a
shudder.

“Turpin, my faithful friend!” he cried, as he threw himself in the
arms of the prime minister. “Your presence is like balm to my wounded
heart! You shall remain by my side forever!”

From that time on, Turpin was forced to accompany Charlemagne wherever
he went. The courtiers wondered at Turpin’s influence. Many of them
were quite jealous. As for poor Turpin, he was wearied beyond all
expression. He could find no rest either by night or by day. Vainly he
sought for some plan by which he might rid himself of the troublesome
gem.

At length it happened that Charlemagne and Turpin set out from the
palace of Ingelheim on a journey to the north. They camped one night in
a great forest. While his master lay asleep Turpin left the camp and
wandered out into the moonlight alone. Not once before, since he had
found the ring, had he been free from the Emperor.

His heart swelled with a feeling of relief as he plunged into the
pathless forest. On and on he wandered, trying to think of some way
to rid himself of the troublesome ring. Like Frastrada, he did not
want anyone else to come into possession of it and thus get such an
influence over the Emperor.

After long wandering he found himself at the opening of a beautiful
glade. Before him lay a quiet pool embosomed in the dark woods. The
moonlight flooded the retired spot and shone like silver over the deep
and quiet waters.

Turpin was lost in admiration. He sat down on a stone and feasted his
eyes in silence on the peaceful beauty of the scene. Soon the thought
of the magic ring came to disturb his happiness.

“What shall I do with it?” he groaned.

He drew it from its hiding place in his breast and examined it closely.

“Ah!” he muttered, “what is this I see?”

He noticed by the pale light of the moon that the ring bore something
else beside the strange signs. On it was the image of a tiny swan. He
looked at it in amazement; for he had never seen the swan before.

He started up, then stopped suddenly.

“Why not?” he asked himself. “Those deep and quiet waters would soon
close over and conceal the ring forever.”

A moment later the jewel flashed beneath the rays of the moon. A slight
splash was borne along by the night air. Ever widening ripples broke
the mirror-like surface of the pool. In the distance a snowy swan
appeared sailing with stately calm over the ruffled waters.

Delighted to be rid of the hateful jewel, Turpin now made his way back
to the tent. Charlemagne was awake and greeted him as in the days of
old. The charm was broken.

The morning sun rose bright and clear. The Emperor, however, became
restless. He proposed that they tarry in the spot another day and
hunt in the forest. Turpin agreed, and soon the forest echoes were
awakened by the clangor of the hunting horns.

[Illustration]

A royal stag was started from covert. Closely the huntsmen and hounds
followed it. At last, panting and exhausted, it was brought to bay in a
remote glade,--the very place which Turpin had visited the night before.

Charlemagne had been foremost in the chase all the morning. Now he sat
motionless in his saddle, gazing in spellbound admiration at the sunny
stretch of water. He observed the reflection of the blue sky, and the
swans gliding over its smooth surface.

“Ah! how beautiful!” he exclaimed. “I would fain linger here forever.”

Then he dismounted and threw himself down upon the smooth grass by the
edge of the pool. There he remained in dreamy content all day long.

At last the shadows began to lengthen. The glow of the setting sun was
reflected in the miniature lake. Charlemagne was so enchanted with the
scene that he vowed to build a castle there. The vow was kept, and the
structure that arose was the beginning of Charlemagne’s capital and
favorite city, Aix-la-Chapelle.

When many years had passed, death came to the great Emperor. He was
laid at rest in the cathedral vault, not far from the spot he loved so
well.

Strangers visiting Aix-la-Chapelle are told not to visit the magic pool
by moonlight. At the mystic hour when Turpin dropped the ring into the
quiet waters, the spell recovers all its former powers. Accordingly,
should any one visit it at that time, his longing heart would always
lead him back to the charmed spot, however far away he might be
wandering in the wide world.



CHARLEMAGNE’S GENEROSITY


Charlemagne had had a new palace built for him in a beautiful spot near
the Rhine. When it was completed he went to visit it. The first night
that he slept in the palace, a very strange incident occurred. An angel
came and stood by his bedside.

“Arise,” it seemed to say to him, “arise, go forth and enter secretly
the house of Arnot.”

The Emperor was so astonished at this command that he did not know what
to do. He could scarcely believe that such an order could come from
an angel, so he did not move, but the command was repeated, and then
repeated again.

When the angel commanded him the third time to go and enter secretly
the house of Arnot, he arose, went quietly to his stable, saddled
his horse himself, and rode silently out into the darkness, in the
direction of the home of Arnot, one of his most trusted ministers.

As he was going along the dark way thoughtfully, he heard someone
approaching, and he soon perceived that it was a knight clad in dark
armor. Charlemagne could think of no good mission upon which a man
could be riding at such an hour; so he challenged the man.

“Whither goest thou, and upon what mission at this hour of the night?”
he demanded.

The knight did not answer, but put spurs to his horse and charged upon
the Emperor. Seeing this movement, the Emperor did likewise, and the
two met with a violent shock. Both were unhorsed, and in the hand to
hand conflict which followed, the Emperor got the better of the unknown
knight and brought him to the ground. With his sword at the throat of
the knight he demanded his name.

[Illustration]

“I am Elbegast,” he replied, “a notorious robber knight, and have
committed many a bold deed. Thou art the first that has had power to
overcome me.”

“Arise,” said the Emperor, without telling who he was, “and come with
me. I am on a mission like thine own.”

Without hesitating, the robber knight joined his conqueror.

“I have vowed,” said the Emperor, “not to return home until I have
broken into the house of the Emperor’s most trusted minister.” So
saying, he led the way to the house of Arnot.

Elbegast was not long in gaining entrance. Bidding his companion wait
for him outside, he stole noiselessly into the house.

As he approached the bed room of the minister, the sound of voices
in earnest conversation came to his ears. He listened, and heard the
minister disclose to his wife a plan for the murder of the Emperor on
the following day.

Forgetting the purpose for which he had come to the house, the knight
made his way hastily back to his companion and besought him to go at
once to Charlemagne and inform him of the coming danger.

“I, myself would gladly go to save the Emperor’s life, but I would
surely get into trouble, because of my many evil deeds, and more than
likely the Emperor would not believe me. But whatever I have done,
I hold great admiration for the man who has never been conquered in
battle, and who has always worked for the good of his people.”

Then Charlemagne and Elbegast parted, one returning to his stronghold
in the mountains and the other retracing his steps slowly and
thoughtfully to his palace.

On the morrow the ministers attempted to carry out the plot which
they had formed against the Emperor; but their plans were thwarted.
Charlemagne took all of them into custody and they confessed their
plot against him.

Charlemagne, however, was of a noble and generous nature, and pardoned
all those who had conspired against him. This generosity on his part
made them so ashamed of their plot that they vowed to serve him ever
afterward with all true loyalty. And it is said that every one of them
kept his promise faithfully.

Charlemagne then set his mind upon reforming Elbegast, and sent a
messenger to him, requesting him to come to the palace.

“I, Charlemagne, Emperor of Germany,” his message ran, “would speak
privately with Elbegast, the robber knight, and promise him safe
conduct to and from the castle.”

Elbegast came to the palace in response to the request of Charlemagne,
and was admitted to the private council chamber. Soon a man entered,
clad in armor; and Elbegast recognized the knight who had been his
companion on the adventure to the house of Arnot.

“Elbegast,” said Charlemagne, “you recognize me and yet you do not know
me.”

Then Charlemagne raised his visor, and the knight saw that he was
standing in the presence of the Emperor.

“You have done me,” went on the Emperor, “faithful duty, and I am ever
in need of faithful servants, and offer you a place among my retainers.
A man of your courage and skill is worthy of a place in the Emperor’s
service.”

Elbegast was so moved that he could scarcely speak. Charlemagne was the
only man who had ever been able to disarm him, and he therefore admired
him greatly. More than this, the kindness of the Emperor appealed to
him. Accordingly he willingly forsook his evil way of life and became a
devoted follower of the Emperor.



THE SILVER BRIDGE


There was a spot on the Rhine near the little hamlet of Kempten that
Charlemagne, the great Emperor, always loved. There the sun seemed ever
to shine more brightly than elsewhere; there the air was balmiest; and
there the quiet and peacefulness always calmed his spirit, and filled
it with joy.

To this place he seemed always to come when he was worried with matters
of state. When he returned from a journey or a war, he always paid his
first visit to this lovely spot.

All his life long, this was the favorite spot of the great Emperor. He
loved to see it by daylight, and he loved it by moonlight. Often did he
wander there at night, when all the rest of the world was asleep. The
green hills, the vineclad slopes, and the pleasant glades were more
soothing to him than sleep.

He even desired to be buried in this place, but his people would not
have it so; and the great man was buried in state in the beautiful
cathedral that he had built at Aix-la-Chapelle.

But even after death his spirit longed to visit the spot that had
brought so much peace into his life. It is said that his spirit visits
the place yearly in the late summer time, even to this day.

On the most beautiful moonlight night of all the year, people say,
Charlemagne leaves his tomb in the great cathedral and comes to this
quiet valley of the Rhine. He comes not to do harm, nor simply to rest
and enjoy the place. His purpose is to bless the spot which was such a
blessing to him during his life.

On the nights when Charlemagne’s spirit visits the place, the silvery
moonbeams may be seen to make a fairy bridge across the river. On this
bridge the great monarch’s spirit passes across the Rhine.

[Illustration]

He glides back and forth, bestowing his blessing on everything in
the neighborhood. Every little village, every cottage, every hill
and valley, the vineyards, the shore, and the great peaceful river
itself--all receive his blessing.

Last of all he visits the palace which he built here and called
Ingelheim, or Angel’s Home. From here he returns to his rest again.

The people in this little valley are said to be more prosperous than
those of any other locality along the Rhine. They are also more
happy and more healthy. Their vineyards are always richly laden with
beautiful clusters of grapes.

If at any time their vineyards do not bear, the people know that for
some mysterious reason the spirit of Charlemagne failed to pay the
yearly visit. They look forward, however, to the coming year, knowing
that their harvest will be greater than ever.

The great spirit of the Emperor never fails them two years together.
So century after century Charlemagne has bestowed his blessing on this
country that he loved. On moonlight nights the people along the river
will point out to you the silver bridge on which he passes back and
forth over the river visiting blessing upon everyone.



THE PET RAVEN


Over the gate of the Castle of Stolzenfels is the figure of a Raven.
It has been there for several hundred years. It was placed there in
gratitude for the help a pet raven had rendered the Princess at a time
when she was in great danger.

Othmar and Williswind were brother and sister. Since the death of their
parents they had lived together in the beautiful castle, and had grown
to love each other dearly. They were always together.

The time came when war broke out, and Othmar was called away. His going
grieved Williswind sorely. Now she would have no one but the servants
with her in the great Castle.

“My dear brother,” she exclaimed, “what shall I do without you?”

“Sister mine,” replied Othmar, “I grieve to leave you thus alone, but
you know it is impossible for me to do otherwise.”

Othmar took with him all the able bodied men. Only the old men, women
and children were left at home to protect his sister.

In those days many lawless robber knights roamed through the forests,
doing whatever pleased them. Afraid of these, Williswind ordered that
the Castle gates should be kept closed all the time.

One evening as she sat in the great hall of the Castle with her
servants about her, a trumpet sounded at the gate. The women stopped
their spinning, and the men ceased their polishing of arms and armor.
The Warder entered announcing that there was a pilgrim at the gate
begging for shelter.

“Admit him at once,” said Williswind.

In a few moments the Warder returned, accompanied by the pilgrim.

“Be welcome to our cheer, stranger. Such as we have we give freely,”
said Williswind.

“Thanks, fair lady, for your kindness,” replied the stranger, glancing
about the room.

The pilgrim was clad in worn garments, yet did not seem like a beggar.
At times cruelty and cunning appeared in his face. Secretly he looked
about as if to examine every part of the castle. His strange manner
caused Williswind great uneasiness. The thought came to her that he
might possibly be a robber knight in disguise.

In the morning, however, the pilgrim departed peaceably, and the young
princess felt calm once more. The days passed quietly by and Williswind
began to look forward to her brother’s return. One morning the pilgrim
suddenly returned, but not this time in pilgrims garments. He was clad
in full armor, and came with a large number of followers.

“I come,” he said, “to demand the hand of the Princess Williswind in
marriage, and if she denies me I will take her by force.”

“I beseech you,” replied Williswind, “depart and leave me in peace. I
have love for none but my brother, and desire only to be left here with
my servants to await quietly his return.”

But the evil knight only repeated his demand, saying that he would
return in three days for an answer. If at the end of that time
Williswind did not consent freely, he would take the Castle by force
and carry her away.

What was to be done? Her brother was too far away to come to her aid.
She decided, however, to send a message to him, asking him to come at
once.

Knowing that it would be unsafe for the princess to remain in the
Castle the old Warder persuaded Williswind to set out for a Convent,
which was not many miles away.

[Illustration]

The robber knight, however, had left spies all about the castle and
the princess had not gone very far with her followers, when they were
overtaken by the knight himself.

The servants with Williswind fought bravely, but they were soon
overcome. The bold knight carried Williswind and her maid off to a
lonely tower in the woods.

“Here I shall leave you,” he said; “but I will return in three days to
receive your answer.”

Then he locked the heavy door, and left them alone. The two captives
looked about for means of escape, but they found only thick walls
and heavily barred doors and windows. All about them was nothing but
wilderness, so they could expect aid from no passerby. Escape was
hopeless.

They looked about the tower for food and water, but none was to be
found. The unhappy girls sat and waited anxiously. They looked through
the barred windows. The hours seemed days. Suddenly Williswind gave a
cry of joy.

“Oh, look,” she said, “yonder is my pet raven.”

She whistled to the raven. It recognized her voice and came at once.
She and Othmar had spent many happy hours together, teaching the raven
to do various things. Among other things, it had learned to bring
berries.

The bird at once seemed to understand everything, and went out into
the woods. Soon it returned with a few berries. Back and forth it went
during the whole day, bringing berries to the two hungry girls. The
next day and the day after, it kept them supplied with this kind of
food.

On the third day the robber knight reappeared. He felt sure that
Williswind would by this time be ready to agree to accept him, but his
hope was in vain. The food which the bird had brought had increased
her courage.

“Not for all the wealth of India,” she said, “would I consent to your
proposal.”

Angrily the knight rode away, declaring that he would return again in
three days more. The time passed very slowly in the gloomy tower. In
spite of the raven’s faithful visits, the girls became faint and weak
from hunger.

On the sixth day Williswind was sitting at the window, watching eagerly
for the bird’s return. Suddenly she saw the figure of a knight come
from the thicket. As she looked at him, she saw that it was not the
robber knight; his armor was entirely different. Hope came to her at
once, and she called out loudly and waved her handkerchief through the
bars.

The knight heard the call and turned in the direction of the tower.
Williswind uttered a cry of rapture; it was her brother. In his haste
to reach home as quickly as possible, he had taken this path through
the forest.

Just at this moment the robber knight came riding up. Seeing Othmar he
challenged him to fight. Down across the open space before the tower
the two horses came, and met with a loud clash in the center. Othmar
held his saddle, but the robber knight was stretched upon the ground.

Othmar was not a little surprised when he entered the old Castle to
find that it was his beloved sister who had called to him from the
tower. It was not long before Williswind was safe once more in the
beautiful Castle of Stolzenfels.

Othmar was greatly pleased at the skill with which the raven had
provided for his sister, so he adopted a new Coat-of-Arms, with the
raven as his emblem, and set the little figure above the gate of the
Castle, to tell to all the world the story of the faithful raven.



THE NIGHT OF THE STOLEN TREASURE


Little Hans and his mother were standing down by the Mummelsee. It was
a big round sheet of water, surrounded by rocky slopes. On these grew
dark pine trees, which cast their shadows far out into the water.

The water lay quietly sleeping in its dark bed. The stillness made
little Hans thoughtful, and he crept close to his mother.

“Why is the water so still?” he whispered; “and the fish,--where are
they?”

“Listen,” answered his mother, “and I will tell you a story. There are
no longer any fish in the Mummelsee; they left it many, many years
ago. The place is haunted by Mummel, a great water god, and by his
daughters, the beautiful water sprites.

“Long years ago,” the mother went on, “a man committed a great crime
in order that he might get a rich treasure. In his flight he came to
the Mummelsee. He could not swim across with the bag of treasure! What
should he do? He knew that he would be caught unless he did something
at once.

“‘Ah! I will just drop it into the edge of the lake,’ he said to
himself. ‘The water is dark and no one will be able to find the
Treasure. I will hide myself in the thick bushes, and there I will be
safe also.’

“He crawled into the bushes where they were thickest. But something was
wrong; the bushes seemed like so many hands, that caught hold of him,
and held him fast. He could not move. He struggled and struggled, but
the more he fought against them, the more firmly they held on.

“He gave up the struggle, and lay quiet, looking out upon the dark
water. He saw something that was still more strange. What could it be?
It looked like the form of a giant rising from the water. The face was
sterner than any he had ever seen.”

“What was it, mother?” asked little Hans; “was it a ghost?”

“It was Mummel, the great angry god, who haunts the lake. He had never
allowed his peace to be disturbed in the slightest way. No one could
throw even a pebble into the lake without being punished by him.

“Now he rose out of the water; and seized the frightened man. The
bushes let go their hold on him as if by magic; and, without saying a
word the stern god began to sink down, down into the cold, black water.”

“Oh,” cried Hans, “was the man drowned?”

“No,” answered his mother, “he was not drowned. The great god drew him
down, down to the bottom of the lake, where he has a wonderful palace.
In it there are all kinds of strange creatures.”

“But what does the man do down there? Is he still alive?”

“Yes; Mummel will not let him die; but keeps him, and makes him serve
in the kitchen year after year.”

“And does he not have any rest or any holidays?”

“He does not need rest down there, because he is no longer mortal like
us. But once a year he ceases, for a single night, to serve in the
kitchen. He becomes a mortal again and comes back to earth.

“Every year on the day on which he committed his crime, he puts on
his earthly clothes and comes up. And when he reaches the world, he
suddenly finds himself at the place where he stole the treasure.

[Illustration]

“He hears some one coming, and starts to flee with the treasure on his
back. Each time, he comes to the same spot on Mummelsee, and throws
the sack into the lake. Just as before, too, he tries to hide in the
bushes and is caught and held by them.

“Every year Mummel, angry as before, comes up and drags the man out of
the bushes, and draws him down to his palace again.

“Many people have heard the strange noises in the bushes along the
shore of the lake. Some of them imagine, too, that they have seen a
strange form rising from the waters. They declare that on this night
the lake is greatly disturbed. The wind is loud, and the bushes bend
their heads down to the very water.

“On the night when these strange things happen, people are careful to
avoid the place. Although they like to go there at other times, they
would not wish to be found there on the Night of the Stolen Treasure.”



THE WATER SPRITES


Mummel, the great angry water god, has many beautiful daughters. These
he guards jealously, and will allow no one to see them in their maiden
forms except by the dim moonlight.

These beautiful water nymphs are not at all like their stern father.
They are pure, and gentle and graceful and kind. They never do harm to
anyone, and are not displeased if people come to visit the lake. Indeed
they like to have people come to see them dance upon the water at night.

These lovely creatures would gladly help people if their father did not
guard them so jealously; for they are kind-hearted and generous.

As it is, all they can do for mortals is to entertain them with their
fairy dances on the silvery waters of Mummelsee. On every moonlight
night they can be seen flitting about on the surface of that.

Their fairy forms are so charming that people who see them cannot
help forgetting their daily cares. People come to the lake tired and
careworn in the evening, and go away happy and cheerful.

All night long, till the first streaks of dawn, the fairy nymphs can
be seen, flitting charmingly from wave to wave. Their gowns are light
and flowing like gossamers. Their beautiful golden hair, too, floats
lightly on the gentle breeze.

Once or twice, it is said, daring youths have been drawn by their
beauty, and have ventured into the lake to meet them. Every attempt,
however, has been disastrous. Mummel has caught the intruder and taken
him down to his abode below the lake. There the unhappy youth has had
to act as a servant.

Whenever anyone attempts to come too close to his daughters, too,
Mummel takes away their human shapes at once. He transforms them into
water lilies, and makes them stand with bowed heads along the farther
shore of the lake.

Every morning, too, as soon as the first light of day begins to appear,
the beautiful figures leave their fairy dance upon the lake. Mummel
transforms them into their lily forms and makes them stand in the water
along the shore.

So the beautiful water lilies which are to be seen in Mummelsee are the
lovely water sprites, daughters of Mummel. No one is allowed to pick
one even to this day.



THE GIANT MAIDEN


Many years ago there lived a mighty race of giants. They were as tall
as the hills, and dwelt in great castles as large as mountains. To them
the world was a very small place indeed.

These giants loved the world, however, and all the many beautiful
things in it. The sunshine, the song of birds, the green fields, the
woods, the rivers, and the blue sky were all charming to them.

So it was that they used to walk a great deal. They used to go
everywhere and see everything that was good to see. When they walked,
however, they stepped from hilltop to hilltop. They never went down
into the valleys.

The king of the giants was a great and a good man. He was kind to his
people, and kind to his children, and they all loved and honored him.
One of his children was a beautiful girl. She would soon be a woman,
but she still loved playthings.

Like the rest of the giants, Hilda, the king’s daughter, liked to
go walking out into the world. She often found most interesting
playthings. Sometimes she would bring home a bear, or a baby elephant.

One day Hilda went out for a walk. She had had to stay in the castle
for several days because of the rain. This was a beautiful day,
however, and she walked a long way, even for a giant’s daughter.

The maiden stepped over valley after valley, from hilltop to hilltop,
till she was far away from home. She had never gone so far before. The
country seemed quite different, and it was pleasant, too.

At last she stopped and looked about her to enjoy the scene. Before her
was a wide valley, and in it she saw many curious things. One of them
was a man plowing with horses. She had never seen anything like that
before.

“Oh!” she cried, “what cute playthings they will make! They will be
real live playthings, too. How nice the little creature is that walks
behind! And the thing he is holding; that will make a fine toy. And the
other animals will be such lovely pets. I must have them all.”

Hilda reached down into the valley and picked up the man, the plow, and
the horses, and tucked them away in her apron. Then she went home to
tell her father.

“See what lovely playthings I have found!” she called to him, as she
ran into the great castle.

“My darling child,” said the good King, “these are not playthings. You
must take them back and leave them where you found them. You must never
touch them again. This is a man, and he has a wife and children at
home. They will be very sad if he does not come back to them.

“By and by,” he went on, “the whole world will be owned by little
creatures like this man, and we shall be no more.”

The King’s daughter was very sad when she heard these things. She did
not want to give up such delightful playthings. But she had a kind
heart, and she loved her father. She knew, too, that he understood
things much better than she did. So she put the man, the plow, and the
horses into her apron again, and took them back to the place where she
had found them.

The man was very happy when she set him down in the field again. His
good wife, and his children were there, too; and they rejoiced to see
him again. They feared something had happened to him.

The maiden looked on for a time, wondering about it all. It made her
glad to see how happy the man and his wife and children were. She was
no longer, sorry that she had given up her playthings, and she went
home with a light heart.

[Illustration]



THE SWAN KNIGHT


Elsa was a very beautiful girl. She lived with her father, the Duke
of Brabant. Her father loved her very much, so they lived happily in
their lovely home. But one day Elsa’s father died, leaving her all of
his lands and castles. Then she had no one to care for her, and she was
very unhappy indeed.

The Duke of Brabant had had a trusted friend, Frederick of Telramund.
He undertook the care of Elsa; but he did not guard the lonely maiden
as her father would have wished. Indeed, this man tried to force her to
marry him, that he might obtain all of her wealth.

In vain the lovely Elsa declared she did not love him. In vain she
appealed to his chivalry. He cared nothing for her tears, but cruelly
cast her into a damp prison close by the rushing river. There she must
suffer in loneliness until she would obey the will of Telramund.

At last Elsa sent a long message to Henry I. begging him for aid. He
decided that the matter should be settled in the lists. Elsa should
choose a champion to fight with Frederick of Telramund.

Poor Elsa lost all hope when she heard this decision. She knew full
well that no knight in the neighborhood would dare accept a challenge
from Telramund; for Telramund had fought many times and had never been
defeated. Day after day the herald sought someone to battle for Elsa’s
rights. It was as she had feared, no one answered the call.

Forsaken by all, the orphan girl turned to the helper of the helpless.
Night and day she knelt in her narrow cell and prayed. In her great
grief she struck her breast with the rosary clasped in her little
hands.

The little bell attached to the rosary, gave forth a low tinkling
sound. These silvery tones were very soft and faint. They could
scarcely be heard above the roar of the waters rushing past the tower.
But they floated out through the narrow window into the open air.

The winds of heaven caught up the sounds and whirled them rapidly away.
Farther and farther they traveled, louder and louder they became. At
last it seemed as if all the bells on earth had united to ring forth
one grand deafening peal.

These loud and pleading tones reached even into the far distant temple
on Montsalvat. Here King Parsifal and his train of dauntless knights
kept constant watch over the Holy Grail. The King was greatly alarmed
by the tones. He knew that some poor creature needed aid, and so
hastened into his inner temple.

Within this holy place there stood a beautiful vase, giving forth its
rosy light. On its bright edge the King read the message from heaven.
“Send Lohengrin to defend his future bride, but let her trust him and
never seek to know his origin.” These were the strange words which met
the aged King’s eyes.

The King immediately sent for his son. Lohengrin was a brave young
knight. He had been trained to receive the messages of the Holy Grail
with the most perfect faith. When he heard the words from his father,
he put on his armor, spoke his farewells, and at once prepared to mount
his waiting steed.

Suddenly sweet music fell upon his ear. He had never heard anything
like it on land or sea. Soft, low, and sweet, it rose and fell and
rose again. Then, in the distance, Lohengrin saw a stately swan come
floating toward him. It drew behind it a little skiff. Nearer and
nearer came the stately swan, clearer and sweeter rose the mystic
strain. Both came to a pause close by the shore where the wondering
knight stood.

Lohengrin sprang at once into the skiff. The swan took up its song
again, and soon bore him out of sight.

The day for the tournament had dawned. The last preparations had been
made. Many knights had gathered to view the scene. Yet not one dared to
offer himself as champion for the lovely maiden.

Elsa clung to her prison bars. Tearfully she repeated for the last time
her prayers.

“Send Thou the deliverer, O Lord!” she cried.

All at once her sobs ceased. The far away sounds of music fell
comfortingly upon her ear. She looked out eagerly. There she beheld a
spotless swan floating gently down the stream, skillfully guiding a
little boat. In the boat a knight in full armor lay fast asleep on a
glittering shield.

Just as the swan passed beneath the window where Elsa stood, the
knight awoke. His first glance rested upon her tear-stained face.

“Weep no more, fair maiden!” he cried, springing to his feet. “Fear
naught! I have come to defend you!”

The skiff passed on down the river. The prison door opened, and
Frederick of Telramund appeared to lead Elsa to the lists. A smile of
triumph curled his cruel lips as he heard the herald give the last call
for Elsa’s champion. The sound of the trumpets died away and Frederick
had turned to address Elsa. Suddenly a ringing voice came from the end
of the lists.

“Here am I, the Swan Knight, ready to fight for the rights of the
Princess. I will win her cause or die.”

A cry of admiration arose from the crowd, as they turned toward the
Rhine. There they saw a handsome knight, standing erect in a tiny skiff
drawn by a swan. Spellbound they watched him. He sprang lightly ashore
and sent the swan away. It floated down the river and out of sight,
giving forth its own beautiful, dreamy song.

For a moment Lohengrin knelt at Elsa’s feet, making a solemn vow to
save her. Then he mounted his waiting steed, drew down his visor, and
took his place in the lists.

The struggle began. Breathlessly the knights and ladies watched it.
Nothing could be heard but the clank of steel, the heavy breathing of
the two knights, and the tramp of their horses feet. The dust almost
hid them from view.

Suddenly a terrible blow was heard. The great frame of Frederick of
Telramund was seen to sway for a moment in the saddle, then to fall and
roll in the dust. In a moment Lohengrin had dismounted. He stood with
one foot on Telramund’s breast, ordering him to surrender.

Triumphant cries and joyful trumpets told of the victory. Cheer after
cheer rang through the summer air, as Lohengrin knelt before Elsa once
more. The cries of the knights and ladies were loud and long. They
almost drowned Elsa’s sweet voice as she bade her champion rise and
name his own reward.

Though the low spoken tones had been unheeded by the people, not one
word had been lost by Lohengrin.

“Tempt me not, oh noble lady!” he replied. “Here at your feet where I
would linger forever, I cannot but confess how much I love you, and how
I hope some day to claim your hand.”

The pretty flush on Elsa’s soft cheeks deepened at these words. The
long lashes drooped over the beautiful eyes. Timidly she held out her
hand.

“You saved me, sir knight,” she softly whispered. “I am yours!”

Not a word of this conversation had been heard by the people, for their
shouts had been redoubled as the knight bent low over Elsa’s hand and
pressed it to his lips.

Before night, however, Elsa’s promise to become the knight’s bride had
gone abroad. Preparations for the marriage were begun at once.

Elsa had trembled with fear at the thought of a union with Frederick of
Telramund, yet she did not hesitate in the least to give herself to the
strange knight who had saved her. Nor did she doubt him when he told
her that she must never seek to know either his name or his origin.

These must remain a secret from her and from all the people or they
would have to part forever.

Many knights and ladies attended the marriage ceremony. The young
Lohengrin and his lovely bride lived peacefully and happily for many
years. Their love for each other grew deeper and better as one by one
three beautiful children came to add to their happiness.

But Elsa, though perfectly content with her husband’s unchanging love,
could not but notice that many of her people secretly doubted him.
They tried many times, and in many different ways to discover his name
and origin.

Little by little, she, too, began to wonder. The more she thought of
it, the more she longed to know her husband’s secret. Finally, as she
was seated by him one day, she suddenly turned to him and asked the
forbidden question.

“Elsa! Elsa! Is your faith dead?” cried the Swan Knight in broken
voice. “Can you no longer trust me? I love you so, and now I must leave
you. Our happiness is at an end! But, before I go, your question shall
be answered. Come with me!”

His pale face and despairing glance brought Elsa to her senses. With a
loving cry she flung herself on his breast, begging him to forgive and
forget her question. He sadly shook his head.

“It is too late, Elsa,” he replied, “too late! You have doubted me; and
I must leave you; but before I go you shall know all.”

The knights had gathered in the great banqueting hall near the Rhine.
They started up in surprise when their master suddenly came in their
midst. He led the pale and weeping Elsa gently by the hand.

“Listen, oh, knights,” he began. “The time has come when I must leave
you. Before I go, it is right that you should know that I am Lohengrin,
son of Parsifal, the great king. I was sent hither by the Holy Grail,
to save your princess, Elsa, from Frederick of Telramund. Now the
Holy Vessel calls me and I must go. Ere I depart, I ask you to watch
faithfully over my little ones and to wipe away their mother’s tears.
Farewell!”

Then in the midst of the silence which followed these words, while he
held Elsa in a last fond embrace, the low strains of the sweet music
again came floating down the Rhine. A moment later the swan appeared.

Slowly Lohengrin tore himself away from Elsa’s trembling arms. He
sprang down the steps and into the waiting swan boat. Away it glided to
the strains of sad music, and bore him out of sight forever.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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