Hero Tales

Page: 53

Then Beatrice, forcing back her tears, spoke:

"Sir," said she, "what is it thou sayest? The wood of Puelle is in the march of Fromont the chief, and he owes thee a great grudge. He would be too glad to do thee harm. I pray thee do not undertake this hunt. My heart tells me,—I will not hide the truth from thee,—my heart tells me, that if thou goest thither thou shalt never come back alive."

But the duke laughed at her fears; and the more she tried to dissuade him, the more he set his mind on seeing his brother the Lorrainer, and on carrying to him the head of the great wild boar of Puelle. Neither prayers nor tears could turn him from his purpose. All the gold in the world, he said, would not tempt him to give up the adventure.

So on the morrow morning, before the sun had fairly risen, Bego made ready to go. As this was no warlike enterprise, he dressed himself in the richest garb of knightly hero,—with mantle of ermine, and spurs of gold. With him he took three dozen huntsmen, all skilled in the lore of the woods, and ten packs of hunting hounds. He had, also, ten horses loaded with gold and silver and costly presents, and more than a score of squires and serving-men. Tenderly he bade fair Beatrice and his two young sons good-by. Ah, what grief! Never was he to see them more.

Going by way of Orleans, Bego stopped a day with his sister, the lovely Helois. Three days he tarried at Paris, the honored guest of the king and queen. Then pushing on to Valenciennes, which was on the borders of the great forest, he took up lodging with a rich burgher called Berenger the Gray.

"Thou hast many foes in these parts," said the burgher, "and thou wouldst do well to ware of them."

Bego only laughed at the warning. "Didst thou ever know a Gascon to shun danger?" he asked. "I have heard of the famed wild boar of Puelle, and I mean to hunt him in this wood, and slay him. Neither friends nor foes shall hinder me."

On the morrow Berenger led the duke and his party into the wood, and showed them the lair of the beast. Out rushed the monster upon his foes; then swiftly he fled, crashing through brush and brake, keeping well out of the reach of the huntsmen, turning every now and then to rend some too venturesome hound. For fifteen leagues across the country he led the chase. One by one the huntsmen lost sight of him. Toward evening a cold rain came up; and they turned, and rode back toward Valenciennes. They had not seen the duke since noon. They supposed that he had gone back with Berenger. But Bego was still riding through the forest in close pursuit of the wild boar. Only three hounds kept him company.

The boar was well-nigh wearied out, and the duke knew that he could not go much farther. He rode up close behind him; and the fierce animal, his mouth foaming with rage, turned furiously upon him. But the duke, with a well-aimed thrust of his sword, pierced the great beast through his heart.