Hero Tales

Page: 56

"Whence came this boar, this ivory horn, this sword?" he inquired. "This horn never belonged to a mere huntsman. It looks like the wondrous horn that King Charles the Hammer had in the days of my father. There is but one knight now living that can blow it; and he is far away in Gascony. Tell me where you got these things."

Then the forester told him all that had happened in the wood, coloring the story, of course, so as to excuse himself from wrong-doing.

"And left ye the slain man in the wood?" asked the old duke. "A more shameful sin I have never known than to leave him there for the wolves to eat. Go ye back at once, and fetch him hither. To-night he shall be watched in the chapel, and to-morrow he shall be buried with all due honor. Men should have pity of one another."

The body of the noble Duke Bego was brought, and laid upon a table in the great hall. His dogs were still with him, howling pitifully, and licking his face. Knights and noblemen came in to see him.

"A gentle man this was," said they; "for even his dogs loved him."

"Shame on the rascals who slew him!" said others. "No freeman would have touched so noble a knight."

Old Duke Fromont came in. He started back at sight of him who lay there lifeless. Well he knew Duke Bego, by a scar that he himself had given him at the battle of St. Quentin ten years before. He fell fainting into the arms of his knights. Then afterward he upbraided his men for their dastardly deed, and bewailed their wicked folly.

"This is no poaching huntsman whom you have slain," said he, "but a most worthy knight,—the kindest, the best taught, that ever wore spurs. And ye have dragged me this day into such a war that I shall not be out of it so long as I live. I shall see my lands overrun and wasted, my great castles thrown down and destroyed, and my people distressed and slain; and as for myself I shall have to die—and all this for a fault which is none of mine, and for a deed which I have neither wished nor sanctioned."

And the words of Duke Fromont were true. The death of Bego of Belin was fearfully avenged by his brother the Lorrainer and by his young sons Gerin and Hernaud. Never was realm so impoverished as was Fromont's dukedom. The Lorrainers and the Gascons overran and laid waste the whole country. A pilgrim might go six days' journey without finding bread, or meat, or wine. The crucifixes lay prone upon the ground; the grass grew upon the altars; and no man stopped to plead with his neighbor. Where had been fields and houses, and fair towns and lordly castles, now there was naught but woods and underbrush and thorns. And old Duke Fromont, thus ruined through no fault of his own, bewailed his misfortunes, and said to his friends, "I have not land enough to rest upon alive, or to lie upon dead."