Hero Tales

Page: 55

Then, looking around upon the villainous faces of the men who had come to make prisoner of him, he bethought himself for a moment.

"No, no!" he cried. "Never will I yield me to six such rascals. Before I die, I will sell myself full dear. Yesterday six and thirty knights were with me, and master huntsmen, skilled in all the lore of the wood. Noble men were they all; for not one of them but held in fief some town or castle or rich countryside. They will join me ere long."

"He speaks thus, either to excuse himself or to frighten us," said one of the men; and he went boldly forward, and tried to snatch the horn from Bego's neck. The duke raised his fist, and knocked him senseless to the ground.

"Never shall ye take horn from count's neck!" he cried.

Then all set upon him at once, hoping that by their numbers they might overpower him. But Bego drew his sword, and struck valiantly to the right and to the left of him. Three of the villains were slain outright; and the rest took to their heels and fled, glad to escape such fury.

And now all might have been well with Duke Bego. But a churl, armed with a bow, and arrows of steel, was hidden among the trees. When he saw his fellows put to flight, he drew a great steel bolt and aimed it at the duke. Swiftly sped the arrow toward the noble targe: too truly was it aimed. The duke's sword fell from his hands: the master-vein of his heart had been cut in twain. He lifted his hands toward heaven, and prayed:—

"Almighty Father, who always wert and art, have pity on my soul.—Ah, Beatrice! thou sweet, gentle wife, never more shalt thou see me under heaven.—Fair brother Garin of Lorraine, never shall I be with thee to serve thee.—My two noble boys, if I had lived, you should have been the worthiest of knights: now, may Heaven defend you!"

After a while the churl and the three villains came near him, and found him dead. It was no common huntsman whom they had killed, but a good knight,—the loyalest and the best that ever God's sun shone upon. They took the sword and the horn and the good steed; they loaded the boar upon a horse; and all returned to Lens. But they left Bego in the forest, and with him his three dogs, who sat around him, and howled most mournfully, as if they knew they had lost their best friend.

The men carried the great boar into the castle of Lens, and threw it down upon the kitchen hearth. A wonderful beast he was: his sharp, curved tusks stuck out full a foot from his mouth. The serving-men and the squires crowded around to see the huge animal; then, as the news was told through the castle, many fair ladies and knights, and the priests from the chapel, came in to view the sight. Old Duke Fromont heard the uproar, and came in slippers and gown to ask what it all meant.