Hero Tales

Page: 58

And then the sixth fairy, the youngest and the most beautiful of all, who was none other than Morgan le Fay, the Queen of Avalon, caught up the child, and danced about the room in rapturous joy. And, in tones more musical than mortals often hear, she sang a sweet lullaby, a song of fairyland and of the island vale of Avalon, where the souls of heroes dwell.

And, when she had finished singing, Morgan le Fay crowned the babe with a wreath of laurel and gold, and lighted a fairy torch that she held in her hand. "This torch," said she, "is the measure of thy earthly days; and it shall not cease to burn until thou hast visited me in Avalon, and sat at table with King Arthur and the heroes who dwell there in that eternal summer-land."

Then the fairies gave the babe gently back into his mother's arms, and they strewed the floor of the chamber with many a rich gem and lovely flower; the odor of roses and the sweetest perfumes filled the air, and the music of angels' voices was heard above; and the fairies vanished in a burst of sunbeams, and were seen no more. And when the queen's maidens came soon afterward into the chamber, they found the child smiling in his mother's arms. But she was cold and lifeless: her spirit had flown away to fairyland.


It was near the time of the solemn festival of Easter,—the time when Nature seems to rise from the grave, and the Earth puts on anew her garb of youth and beauty. King Charlemagne was at St. Omer; for there the good Archbishop Turpin was making ready to celebrate the great feast with more than ordinary grandeur. Thither, too, had come the members of the king's household, and a great number of lords and ladies, the noblest in France.

Scarcely had the good archbishop pronounced a blessing upon the devout multitude assembled at the Easter service, when two messengers came in hot haste, and demanded to speak with the king. They had come from Rome, and they bore letters from Pope Leo. Sad was the news which these letters brought, but it was news which would fire the heart of every Christian knight. The Saracens had landed in Italy, and had taken Rome by assault. "The pope and the cardinals and the legates have fled," said the letters; "the churches are torn down; the holy relics are lost; and the Christians are put to the sword. Wherefore the Holy Father charges you as a Christian king to march at once to the help of the Church."

It needed no word of Charlemagne to arouse the ardor of his warriors.
Every other undertaking must be laid aside, so long as Rome and the
Church were in danger. And the heralds proclaimed that on the morrow,
at break of day, the army would move southward toward Italy.

The morning after Easter dawned, and the great army waited for the signal to march. The bugles sounded, and the long line of steel-clad knights and warriors began to move. Charlemagne rode in the front ranks, ready, like a true knight, to brave every difficulty, and to be the first in every post of danger. Never did a better king wear spur.