Hero Tales

Page: 60

"Tell me now," said Malagis, "and tell me truly, whether there is here so much as a pathway by which Charlemagne may lead his army through the mountains."

The goblin was silent for a moment; a dark cloud rested upon his face, and his look was terrible. But the wizard, in no wise daunted, returned his glance, and in the tones of a master bade him clear up that clouded look, and answer the question he had asked. Then Ashtaroth curbed his anger, and spoke:

"On what errand would the French king cross the Alps?" he asked.
"Seeks he not to harm my friends the Saracens?"

"That is, indeed, his errand," answered Malagis.

"Then, why should I do aught to help him?" asked the goblin. "Why do you call me from my rest, and bid me betray my friends?"

"That is not for thee to ask," said Malagis. "I have called thee as a master calls his slave. Tell me now, and tell me truly, is there here any pass across the mountains into Italy?"

"There is such a pass," answered the goblin gravely; "but it is hidden to eyes like mine. I cannot guide you to it, nor can any of my kind show you how to find it. It is a pathway which only the pure can tread."

"Tell me one thing more," said Malagis. "Tell me one thing, and I will let thee go. How prosper thy friends the Saracens at Rome?"

"They have taken all but the Capitol," was the answer. "They have slain many Christians, and burned many buildings. The pope and the cardinals have fled. If Charlemagne reach not Italy within a month, ill will it fare with his friends."

Then Malagis, satisfied with what he had heard, unwound the spell of his enchantments; and amid a cloud of fire and smoke the goblin flew back into the mountains.

Next the good Turpin came forward, with a crosier in his hand, and a bishop's mitre on his head, and a long white robe thrown over his shoulders, scarcely hiding the steel armor which he wore beneath. He lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed. And the sound of his voice arose among the cliffs, and resounded among the rocks, and was echoed from valley to valley, and re-echoed among the peaks and crags, and carried over the mountain tops, even to the blue sky above. The king and those who stood about him fancied that they heard sweet strains of music issuing from the mountain caves; the most bewitching sounds arose among the rocks and gorges; the air was filled with a heavenly perfume and the songs of birds; and a holy calm settled over mountain and valley, and fell like a blessing upon the earth. Then the Alps no longer seemed obstacles in their way. The steep cliffs, which had been like mighty walls barring their progress, seemed now mere gentle slopes, rising little by little toward heaven, and affording a pleasant and easy highway to the fair fields of Italy beyond.