Page: 52Bitter feuds had there been between the family of Bego and that of Fromont of Bordeaux. Long time had these quarrels continued, and on both sides much blood had been spilled. But now there had been peace between them for ten years and more, and the old hatred was being forgotten.
One day Bego sat in his lordly castle at Belin; and beside him was his wife, the fair Beatrice. In all France there was not a happier man. From the windows the duke looked out upon his broad lands and the rich farms of his tenants. As far as a bird could fly in a day, all was his; and his vassals and serving-men were numbered by the tens of thousands. "What more," thought Bego, "could the heart of man wish or pray for?"
His two young sons came bounding into the hall,—Gerin, the elder born, fair-haired and tall, brave and gentle as his father; and Hernaudin, the younger, a child of six summers, his mother's pet, and the joy of the household. With them were six other lads, sons of noblemen; and all together laughed and played, and had their boyish pleasure.
When the duke saw them, he remembered his own boyhood days and the companions who had shared his sports, and he sighed. The fair Beatrice heard him, and she said, "My lord, what ails you, that you are so thoughtful to-day? Why should a rich duke like you sigh and seem sad? Great plenty of gold and silver have you in your coffers; you have enough of the vair and the gray, of hawks on their perches, of mules and palfreys and war steeds; you have overcome all your foes, and none dare rise up against you. All within six days' journey are your vassals. What more would you desire to make you happy?"
"Sweet lady," answered Bego, "you have spoken truly. I am rich, as the world goes; but my wealth is not happiness. True wealth is not of money, of the vair and the gray, of mules, or of horses. It is of kinsfolk and friends. The heart of a man is worth more than all the gold of a country. Had it not been for my friends, I would have been put to shame long ago. The king has given me this fief, far from my boyhood's home, where I see but few of my old comrades and helpers. I have not seen my brother Garin, the Lorrainer, these seven years, and my heart yearns to behold him. Now, methinks, I will go to him, and I will see his son, the child Girbert, whom I have never seen."
The Lady Beatrice said not a word, but the tears began to well up sadly in her eyes.
"In the wood of Puelle," said Bego, after a pause, "there is said to be a wild boar, the largest and fiercest ever seen. He outruns the fleetest horses. No man can slay him. Methinks, that if it please God, and I live, I will hunt in that wood, and I will carry the head of the great beast to my brother the Lorrainer."